Deadheading is a gardening technique to extend flowering. Fading flower heads are removed so the plant directs energy into growing more flowers rather than developing its seeds. In  August 2017 Katya Robin gathered the deadheads from her garden* to make a dye called Deadhead Mix.

Although the dye  was a red wine colour, the  different papers became pigmentted variously: pretty murky, greys either verging towards  maroon or green in the same vein as Caput Mortuum.
Caput Mortuum, Latin for dead head, is the name of brownish-violet paint made from iron oxide – rust. It was an ethical alternative to Mummy Brown, a pigment supposedly made from  mummies. Caput Mortuum is an alchemic term for the worthless residue. There is some overlap and  ambiguity about Caput Mortuum and Mummy Brown.  Hematite (rust pigment) was used on funerary linens, so it’s both a precursor and substitute for Mummy Brown. Also there’s little standardisation between paint brands. Deadhead Mix is another addition to this palette.

*Agapanthus, Anemone japonica, Anthemis Mrs Buxton, Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’, Bronze Fennel, Calendula Indian Prince, Cistus x Pulverulentus Sunset, Cosmos, Dahlias, Helianthus Gullick’s Variety, Lamium Silver Beacon, Lavender, Leucanthemum, Osteospermum Pale Face, Penstemon Raven, Petunia Black Velvet, Petunia Cherry Cola, Ridolfa Goldspray, Sedum Purple Emperor, Sisrynchum, Sunflower Black Magic, Variegated Pelargoniums (Mrs Pollock, Vancouver Centennial), Verbena Bonariensis, etc.

Collecting the deadheads to make the dye.

Black flowers and discarded memorial vases.


Dye made from headheads.

Soaking discs of watercolour paper in the dye.

The Output – the various papers tooks up the dye variously.

Watercolours made using Caput Mortuum pigment.