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Tradition, Colour, Contemporisation and transfer

Khenye Gager and Emi Fujisawa used Natural paints and innovative thinking in order to create a new cross-stitch design and an emerging (‘awakening’) ‘Green Man’

Words Martin Clark Photography Martin Clark & Emi Fujisawa

The ‘Green Village’ project is supported by the EU’s ‘Development of Innovation’ programme and it’s so appropriate that our nine country partnership (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom plus Kenya as a ‘third party country’), is still able to make ‘new’ discoveries in terms of sustainable rural development. 9 I Green Village


One such discovery happened during August and September this year (2012) – and was so simple and startling that it led to an immediate transfer of ideas across Central Europe from Romania to Slovakia.

The story is one of tradition, colour and contemporisation, all set against a desperate need for expression, the winning over of our youthful generation and rejuvenation of villages spiraling into neglect, decay and abandonment.

Over the summer of

2012 the Work Packages ‘Exchange of Skills & Knowledge’ and ‘Learning by Doing’ brought together just the right combination of knowledge, foresight and innovative thinking in the village of Meziad and the town of Alba Iulia in Romania. Limeburners, foresters, fashion designers, textile artists and print specialists all had an input in capturing the beauty and skill of our ancestors’ woven and crossedstitched creations in an exciting new way that succeeded also in giving a strong environmental message.

We begin the story with colour; Romania’s Apuseni mountains are famed for tradition, beauty and gold. The gold brought the Roman Emperor Trajan (Traian in Romania) invading across the Danube (the first and only Emperor to do that) in AD 104 and his conquering of Dacia (what became Romania) resulted in so much looted gold that he gave Roman citizens a huge break from taxes. The gold villages and towns of Abrud, Zlatna and Rosia Montana are extremely faded now and have great social and environmental barriers to overcome following wholesale closure of the mines after the collapse of the communist regime. We went to Zlatna (the name is from the Slavonic word for ‘gold’) to capture some earthy colours from the mined and battered landscape of the Ampoiţa river valley.

The small town of Zlatna was a centre for gold mining. Now it’s damaged and decaying but we found some great natural earth pigments there.

We gathered a range of ochres but most startling was the red soil from the valley sides between Zlatna and Almašu Mare. We saved this soil and gathered berries of elderberry ( Sambucus nigra) in anticipation of creating some vibrant natural colour. We boiled the berries and ground the red soil to give pigment and awaited our meeting with Demetriou and Silvia, limeburners from Meziad. Our plan was to mix natural pigments with lime and create some art. 10 I Green Village

In the backyard of


their farm, our experiments began with the mixing of slaked lime ( Calcium hydroxide )

with red and purple pigments – we experimented also with walnut leaves (Juglans regia) and the stems and roots of Greater Celendine ( Chelidonium majus ). The red soil from Zlatna gave a beautiful pale red-brown but the purple berry juice gave a startling and vibrant green (we had expected mauve or lilac). Four young ladies from a fashion, art and design background, Sarah Cohlson, Emi Fujisawa, Lua Vollard and Chantelle Matthews began work to use the colours to decorate the outside wall of the stable. It was Sarah’s idea to use a traditional Romanian cross-stitch design as the template. The pattern that emerged was breathtaking in its visual impact and in such a simple way it brought the endeavor of our stitching and weaving ancestors back to life. Lua experimented with copper sulphate blue, the elderberry green and onion skin yellow plus the use of patterned rubber rollers (a common wallpaper effect method across Central and Eastern Europe) to give different yet complementary results.

The link to traditional textiles was also made through imitating the ‘cross-stitches’ using potato-cut printing blocks (most UK school children learn how to do this!)

Sarah, Lua, Silvia (limeburner),Chantelle & Emi with Monica Oprean, Director of Romanian ‘Green Village’ partner the Satul Verde Association and their innovative creation with a sound base of tradition. 11 I Green Village


In order to fully understand the sustainability and low carbon footprint of the lime and natural pigment paints, the team took part in a traditional Romanian-style limeburning. The process featured earlier in ‘Green Village’ as part of the ‘Sustainable Building’ action in the United Kingdom, when Demetriou, ilvia, Dafin, Anna & Andrea came to build a kiln (cuptor) and burn lime for another transfer of appropriate technology action.

All by horse & cart, local stone & local wood fuel, intense heat and a sustainable high quality product – the process of Romanian limeburning

The limeburning activity in Meziad is a family and village-scale business – it is probably little changed since the days of Emperor Trajan. For ‘Green Village’ the critical factor is that the limestone is burnt using renewable wood fuel rather than oil, coal or electricity (as in the industrial-scale process). The process involved burning/’cooking’ limestone at over 800 degrees centigrade for up to three days in a pre-built cuptor. The process involves the lining of the tubular cuptor with limestone and the building of a dome which is then further filled over the top. The completed matrix is up to 8 tonnes of carefully placed stone which is subjected to intense heat to drive off CO2 and turn Calcium Carbonate to Calcium Oxide (which is then slaked to make Calcium Hydroxide). The process is dealt with in more detail in another Green Village news story. 12 I Green Village


This is not the end of the story, ‘Development of Innovation’ projects are all about proving transferability from one EU state to another. Excited by their discoveries, the next stop was Budapest then Slovakia to see if we could replicate some results. Martin Clark (Director of Grampus) and Emi Fujiwawa (Chelsea College) were joined by Khenye Gauger (Chelsea College) and they worked to use Romanian lime with pigments from the area surrounding the southern Slovakian village of Ipel’ský Sokole.

In Budapest a visit to the Kodály Memorial Museum was inspiring for the access it gave to textile ideas and the Art Deco style architecture with ‘Green Men’.

Beautiful textiles, vibrant colours and ‘Green Men’ – inspirational elements in Budapest

Elderberries were in rather short supply – they are used in this region of Slovakia to make ‘parlinka’ – a strong local alcoholic spirit, so we gathered the purple black fruits from another common Sambucus species, s.racemosa.

Inspired by the EU Grundtvig Learning Partnership ‘Awakening the Green Man’ (which links to ‘Green Village’ through the ‘Learning by Doing’ actions), the team designed a ‘Green Man’ on paper and set-off to transfer it to the wall of a clay built “Pannonian Plain longhouse’ .

As hoped, the purple-black berries gave a rich green when mixed with the slaked lime and walnut husks, Greater Celen-

dine and purple plums gave strong yellows and browns for later experiments (in Slovenia). The ‘Green Man’ face with the oak leaves growing from the nose and mouth and forming eyebrows is a Pagan Medieval symbol adopted by the church and later a favourite of the ‘Art-Deco’ movement. It’s meaning is ambiguous but ideas revolve around forest spirits, wood Gods, breathing life into trees and sustainable use of forests products. Capturing the image of the ‘Green Man’ using locally made sustainable paints is for ‘Green village’ a matter of giving clear messages the green man on squared paper. about sustainable rural development. 13 I Green Village


Martin Clark, Emi Fujisawa and Khenye Gager, Grampus Heritage and Chelsea College UAL come together to transfer simple but effective ideas in art, design, rural development and inter-generational learning between European states

Footnote: in the design, the position on the wall is dictated by the water-tap (see centre of the mouth). Water is a major issue in Europe; Romania, Slovakia and Hungary have suffered the hottest and driest summer for over 80 years after a severe and snowy winter. Climate change is a challenge for all of Europe’s citizens and the work of the ‘Green village’ project will always consider the importance of life-giving water.

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Tradition, Colour, Contemporisation and Transfer  

This article is about our experiment in Romania with mixing natural pigments with lime to create some art.

Tradition, Colour, Contemporisation and Transfer  

This article is about our experiment in Romania with mixing natural pigments with lime to create some art.