This Spring, I was lucky enough to work with a landscape architect, Anna Rhodes, on a garden design at Radicepura Garden Festival in Sicily. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to create ceramics in response to a concept and landscape design. The competition was to design a garden on the theme of Production and our design was a celebration of the pigment carmine which is derived from a beetle farmed on the pads of prickly pears in Mediterranean climates. From my perspective this was a great project as it allowed me to explore a particular colour, its associated meaning and history of production. It was my first experience of creating ceramics for outdoor space, and is something I would love to do more of in the future!
Carmine Catcher celebrates colour produced from an unusual natural production - an ancient practice of farming cochineal beetles which feed exclusively on the pads of prickly pear. This garden expresses the value of a colour: Carmine Red.
The availability of carmine as a commodity contributed to ancestral desires for bold colour, historically the colour signified power and successfully sought attention. Civilisations have been aware of cochineal’s colourful secret for centuries – it was used in South America from at least the second century BC and became intrinsic to the Aztec and Inca empires. The use of carmine in this garden is designed to stop people in their tracks and reignite our desire for a colour within today’s social media culture.
The gardens structure invites the visitor to walk through rows of Prickly Pear, reminiscent of an agricultural grain, beneath hanging fabric inspired by traditional and modern dyeing processes and alongside shallow vessels glazed to represent the valuable ground product and varying shades of dye. Ceramic features bring to mind the absence of water within this arid space and its value as a resource.
The colours derived from carmine range from deep crimson reds and purples to light pink and oranges. I developed a range of glazes to demonstrate this, including clouded areas that resemble the appearance of the bugs on the cactus pads where they are farmed.
Many thanks to Anna Rhodes for involving me in the project and to Radicepura for running the competition. The festival at Radicepura runs for the whole summer and features some incredible gardens from young designers, alongside established architects and garden designers such as Andy Sturgeon.