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At Celtic Sustainables here in Cardigan, we love to hear about how people all over the UK are using the products we sell.
We were thrilled to catch up with Donna from “Sea of Grass” who told us about the natural art supplies she makes and sells from our new range of Coloured Earth Pigments.
Where did your inspiration come from to make such products like the natural beeswax crayons and watercolour paints?
I’ve had an interest in ecology and sustainably since before I had children. When I became a mother, I wanted my children to have safe, natural and inspiring materials for their creativity and I began exploring natural paint pigments. I have been making all my life, before I had children I made and sold paper and then worked alongside my ex-partner in a stone masonry/stone carving business. I was painting and selling cards and prints a few years ago, customers loved the vibrancy and colours of the paints I was using and had made myself. I made up lots of jars of paint using used mini jam jars from a local cafe and Sea of Grass came into being. The Sea of Grass was an area on the plains of the Ukraine many millennia ago, where Asian, European and Celtic came together. I was born into the cultural melting pot of Singapore, with Scottish, Romany and Italian ancestry and I wanted a name that was natural and inclusive, as the materials come from all corners of the earth.
What do you like about the coloured earth pigments? How did you hear about Celtic Sustainables?
I discovered Celtic Sustainables through a friend who had renovated his house and was using sustainable building products. I contacted Anthony about your new range of pigments and had a very helpful and enthusiastic response. The range of colours is beautiful and inspiring, the pigments are reasonably priced, and I was really impressed with the care that had gone into sourcing and packaging the pigments. I love the earth colours, I personally prefer the qualities of natural earth pigments, but green sustainable chemistry has created some gorgeous vibrant colours that are often a little easier to work with.
Do you find the pigments versatile?
So versatile! The coloured earth pigments form the basis of my whole product range, both the paints and crayons, and I’m currently working on a range of soft pastels, oil paints and printing inks. In terms of making I love the simplicity of the Beeswax Crayons, the process is really satisfying and the wax is melted, so on a cold day I am warm over the stove. I do love to use my watercolours.
No two batches of paints or crayons are the same, each pigment behaves very differently when making, different quantities are needed for each colour, you have to feel your way, it’s not prescriptive and that can be challenging. Even different batches of the same colour pigment respond differently.
Is sustainability a priority in your business frame?
Sustainability is a huge priority and I continually look at ways to achieve this through supplier transparency, recyclability, biodegradability, fair trade, small businesses and low impact materials, it’s a work in progress.
How do you find working with natural materials?
It’s exciting to be a small part of what someone described as the 'power and goodness of the micro economy'.... And I have lots more ideas for handmade products from quality natural materials found globally and made using simple craft processes and sustainable technologies. The artist’s sketchbook is made using bark that is harvested once a year to allow regrowth and pounded to make this unique fair-trade material. To produce a continuous sheet of fabric, it is often handstitched at source. The two materials are bound together with waxed eco hemp twine and all the materials are from responsible sources. I work on natural art papers and use my own range of handmade natural watercolours – made from earth pigments and plant dye – and inks. For me, making my own materials is an essential part of the creative process.
You can find Donna’s products at www.seaofgrass.co.uk including individual water colour paints and limited edition water colours. We also love following Donna on Instagram to keep up with new products and to watch the process of her making the products.
Since prehistoric times, we humans have used natural and mineral pigments to decorate our walls, bodies and possessions. Whether as a means of expression or as a record of events, we have utilised the natural colours of nature to adorn the walls of caves and castles alike. Prehistoric cave paintings, rich lime washes, glorious frescos, beautiful oil paintings, refreshing watercolours and inspired egg tempera icons, all have one thing in common, pigments. Without pigments there would be no lasting colour. – Coloured Earth Pigments