Making Paints for Iris!
I am getting many inquiries about my Iris Painter’s Palette and the paints that are in it. I shall get to that, but first I have a little story to tell.
I remember getting my first list of vocabulary words in elementary school. That week the words seemed to show up everywhere: in conversation, in books I read, wherever I went. I walked into the classroom, gobsmacked, and shared the news with my teacher. Each week brought new lists and new coincidences. Decades later, my life is still filled with this magic. The synchronous deluge doesn’t just happen with words – it happens with so many things, including our falling into the world of geology and paint.
One cold winter, Peg and Awl was set up at the Chelsea Holiday Market in New York City for a week. After so long in our makeshift shop, I was set free to stretch my legs in the cold, wet, snowy streets of Manhattan. I typed ‘art store’ into Maps and found Kremer Pigments. When I opened the door, it felt like I had traveled back in time. As I stared at the bags of pigments, the connection between them and the paints I so loved hit me like a thunderbolt. I muttered some incomprehensible thing to the shelves and shelves of coloured dust. The pigments that made the paint came from the earth under my feet: malachite, azurite, epidote, garnet. I had fallen into a world of pure magic!
Fast forward to so-called ‘adulthood,’ and like the vocabulary words that were everywhere, the Family Kent were suddenly, literally, swimming in natural history relics that could be transformed into paint! In a river in Vermont, we found rocks embedded with garnet. In Pennsylvania we met a retired science teacher who bought a cabin precisely because of its location atop ochre mines (he gave us red and yellow ochre in a variety of forms). We sifted through the sand at Calvert Cliffs (whilst swimming in the Chesapeake Bay) and found shark teeth, biominerals, and ancient coral. Gobsmacked, over and over again.
At Peg and Awl, we have bags of treasures to crush and mix and play.
I feel our jumping into this world is not complete without that story, because understanding where these colours come from was what brought this epic journey into the realm of magic.
There are invisible things all over, and it’s not until we’re able to focus (through direction or discovery) on what has been heretofore concealed, can we see the words and the materials we use every day.
So now, the colours in my palette:• Magnetite
• Noir Mineral*
• Iron Oxide Red
• Burnt Iron Oxide
• Ombre Nature*
• Cote de Azur Violet
• Ocre Havane*
• Ocre Jaune*
*these are from France, from 40+ years ago, via Belgium. This entire paint adventure includes in insane number of rabbit holes, just look at this: Ochre Quarry in France, via Atlas Obscura.
If you are up for the challenge of making your own paints, you need some tools to begin. If you wish to circumnavigate the making, I will provide a list below with some glorious paint makers! Like most “that looks easy enough!” processes it is rather complex and expensive to begin. But if you are up for the challenge, it is oh so fun!
I started with the following tools:1. a muller
2. palette knives
3. tempered glass palette
4. mortar and pestle (I have loads from flea markets)
6. kremer’s premade medium
7. palette (our Iris!)
9. glass jars (I bought some from Kremer and also use saved spice jars!)
Paintmakers• Kremer, obviously, in NYC and Germany.
• Case for Making – CFM paints are creamy and delicious and their website is full of beautiful accessories from other makers whose goods they stock. Alexis and crew also introduce the world to artists and workshops and just so. much. magic.
• Greenleaf & Blueberry – G+B paints are unbelievably prepared. If you try to make paints, you will see the challenge in putting paint into a palette neatly, and without cracks. These guys are the masters at this! Their paint, too, is glorious. And Jess’s newsletters are of the few that I read from beginning to end.
• Beam Paints – Anong is the daughter of paint makers and artists in Canada. Her stories, process and ingenuity are ever-so inspiring. Anong makes countless sustainable palettes and presentations for her paints. She shared with me the ancient Egyptian Paint Palette that inspired our Iris!
• Early Futures (pigment shop) – I found Heidi via instagram and following her journeys is another epic adventure, and her pigments and the stories that accompany them are a complete treasure to transform!
Other Resources• The Kremer Pigmente Recipe Book – beautifully photographed and so informative!
• Illustoria Magazine – I love this magazine and this month is the Color Issue!