This project is my response to visiting a local cemetery regularly over a few years. I focussed on the memorial vases, which are a sort of mini-monument in themselves. There are two main themes, firstly practical research with natural pigments through various activities in my own garden (as it clearly wasn’t appropiate the spent flowers at the cemetery), and secondly a sort of pilgrimage from the cemetery to the cement factory.
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. I gathered a variety of deadheads to make a dye:
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.
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 alternative to Mummy Brown, a pigment supposedly made from mummies (corpses). Caput Mortuum is an alchemic term for the worthless residue. There is ambiguity about Caput Mortuum and Mummy Brown pigments. 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. My Deadhead pigment is an addition to this range of colours.
Cemetery to Cement Plant
I made a sort of personal prilgrimmage from the cemetery to the cement plant, tracing the probable source of the cement used for some of the memrorial vases and grave goods.