REANIMATE: The Witch
To use: first take a pair of gloves- many people will have touched this. Spin the device and bend down to look through the gaps. Keep your eyes focused on one point, and you’ll see!
The graceful underwater flight of the long-extinct great auk can be seen on this Victorian animation device- the zoetrope. Constructed from reclaimed wood, each of the twelve frames of the animation are painted with handmade oak gall ink on recycled paper. A precursor to film, the first appearance of the device in the mid-18th century parallels the disappearance of the greak auk, last sighted in 1844.
The last extinction in the British Isles, no one alive has ever truly seen a great auk in motion. Standing nearly 3ft tall, they were flightless and fearless around humans, for whom they were easy prey. Our relationship with the great auk was one of great cruelty; it was common practice that they were burned alive for fuel, or plucked of their feathers, fully conscious, and left to die. Their increasing rarity only intensified the lust of museums and private collectors, whose scramble to own skins and eggs for themselves spurred their demise.
The fate of the last great auk in Britain was decided by three fishermen. For three days they kept it alive, and bound, until they found themselves at the mercy of a terrible storm. Suspecting the bird of conjuring the storm, they branded it a witch, and beat it to death with a stick. None were seen here again.
The only remaining colony, in Iceland, was slaughtered in the name of preservation– by museums. The very last great auks in the world were a pair, found incubating their egg. It was smashed with a boot. They were strangled.
Recent research confirms that humans were entirely responsible for the loss of this species.
Extinctions are now occurring with alarming frequency, leading scientists to believe we are sleepwalking into Earth’s sixth mass extinction. As habitats are destroyed, and overfishing, hunting, and climate change ravage wildlife worldwide, we are dismantling our own life support system. It was once assumed that we did not have the power to wipe out an entire species, let alone the whole web of biodiversity on which all life depends. It is time to face the truth.
Also sold separately:
The Witch, mounted and framed £600 (unframed £500)
Made with responsibly foraged and otherwise wasted ingredients, and bottled in glass recovered from a Victorian landfill. Natural inks are often ephemeral and always in flux, unfolding their surprises over time and as they influence each other.
You are invited to play– see how they change and harmonise in unexpected ways. (Please use gloves and dispose of in the bin provided- they are compostable!)
1. Black-grey: Iron gall ink
Made by reacting iron with the gallotannic acids patiently extracted from oak galls– a natural phenomena caused by the oak tree’s response to parasitic wasp larvae– this ink has been used for thousands of years. It is permanent and lightfast, darkening by oxidation to a bewitching black within days of being applied, and bonding to natural fibers. Once ubiquitous, many of our most precious documents, poems, and sketches owe their existence to this ink, and to the curious relationship between human ingenuity, the life cycle of a tiny wasp and the protective forces of a mighty tree.
*This ink will keep for a long time, and if it becomes mouldy, you can simply remove the mould- it actually improves the colour! It will write beautifully with a dip pen, but clog a fountain pen over time.
2. Red-brown: Avocado Chocolate
3. Red: Bloodstone
4. Red-pink: Avocado Pink
You can get blood from a stone! A treasure from trash, these seductive colours appear like magic from avocado stones, skins, and soda ash (aka washing powder).
5. Green: Copper (seafoam)
6. Brown-green: Copper (earth)
7. Blue-green: Copper (jewel)
8. Light blue: Copper (creamy turquoise)
Copper, salt and vinegar react to produce alluring blues and greens. This is known as verdigris, a historical pigment and a capricious colour, in a constant dance with the ambient environment. The ink separates and can be shaken back together before use, or separated into a translucent green and a gorgeous, thick turquoise. Each of these colours were made with UK pennies from before 1992, when they were almost pure copper. Each of these inks were created from the same handful of coins, 5 and 6 with distilled vinegar, 7 with white wine vinegar, and 8 containing a luscious paste collected from batches of both).
*Toxic if ingested, so handle with care and dispose of responsibly.
9. Yellow: Sunburst yellow
This long-life ink is made from the notoriously strong-staining spice, turmeric. Soluble in alcohol, it forms a golden liquid that brushes on bright yellow and develops a warm hue as it dries.
10. Yellow: Lightbulb
11. Yellow-brown: Golden Onion
Usually discarded as waste, onion skins contain quercetin, the plant pigment responsible for these luminous yellows. Alum has been added to enhance the colour.
12. Light brown: Warm Tan
Black tea, an unassuming ingredient found in nearly every British household, contains tannins that act as a natural dye, and can be layered to create subtle golden shades through to deep browns.
13. Pink-purple: Blackthorn Blush
14. Blue: Sloe Shift
This is a living colour, shifting in response to light, time and pH levels. The pigment comes from anthocyanins, which means this hot pink cools to purple, blue, then finally a soft grey on acid-free paper, but remains pink on pH neutral surfaces. 13 is prepared with citrus to counteract the blueing, and can be brightened further with a simple squeeze of lemon over the ink, whether wet or dry.
15. Blue-purple: Blue Shift
16. Blue: Tidal Blue
These halochromic inks are made from gently steeped butterfly pea flowers. Full of anthocyanin pigments, they are exquisitely sensitive to pH, natural indicators that can display a spectrum from blue to red. Citric acid (lemon) has been added to 15, and the liquid is a glorious purple, turning blue on the paper; watching paint dry has never been so transfixing. Experiment with different surfaces, such as wood and untreated fibres, that will allow the purple to sing.
30-40ml vintage corked bottle: £18
Set of 3: £50
Set of 4: £60
Some inks are also available, or can be pre-ordered, in 35ml recycled jars: £15
*Shake before use. For drawing and writing with dip pens and brushes, not suitable for fountain pens. Fruit and flower inks fade, and are best kept refrigerated and out of sunlight. Wild colours can not be fully tethered and this is part of their mystique.