It has been a long, hard winter. Unexpected events stopped me dead in my tracks; birth, death, unfinished business, loose ends. In early August I returned to the US for what I believed to be a month, with every intention of returning to the Priorat by the grape harvest. Unexpected events kept me there until December, four long months of being away from home. Needless to say, it took some doing to stabilize. And in attempts to pick up the thread of this project, I stumbled on an idea that took re-energized me.
The olive harvest had begun as early as the end of October, so I felt sure we had missed any opportunity not only for oil but for color experiments as well. Quite the contrary. Our first weekend back we scrambled to pick the necessary 300 kilos the mill requires in order to press your own oil. We came in at 280 kilos, and were able to get 47 liters of our own C'an Do organic unfiltered oil, a real treat. And we left olives on the trees. These became the test ground for jumping back in to the Colores del Priorat project.
I gathered olives not only from the trees but those that had fallen to the ground. Their plumb black flesh promised a color of some sort. We have a variety of olives, mostly aberquina, DOP Siurana. But scattered in amongst those trees are a few that produce a large olive. And it was these that intrigued me.
I was sure the oily deep purple flesh would yield a beautiful color.Using a variety of silks, bathed in an alum bath overnight, I filled a glass jar with boiling water and crushed olives, and placed the silks to soak for 24 hours. Depending on the olive variety, I extracted a variety of colors, from a deep coral to a rich rose.
Now, to add a bit of spice in to the mix, I had read about a Vietnamese natural dye technique that piqued my interest, an ash after bath. Every morning I clean out our fireplace, dumping the nights ashes in the compost bin. However, I decided to put the ashes in a bucket of water, and experiment with this idea, using my olive soaked silks.
The roses and purples of the olive bath turned instantly green in the ash bath! It was not what I expected, but the alchemical magic was breathtaking. Within fifteen minutes I had an array of subtle colors, all derived from the olive.
With the ash after bath I have found a host of greys that are rich in their subtlety. Like glorious complimentary greys, when partnered with their original hue, I am building a library of tones and shades only nature can create.
Stay tuned as I begin the new year delving further in to the rich subtleties of natures color. It is January, but there is a trove to be had. I am gathering colors to present at the 2014 Tast Amb Llops, a celebration of Priorat wines. The rosemary is in bloom in January, the birds are arriving for mating season, and nature never fails us with her treasures.