Art & Innovation Research Project Report
Phase 2 - Levander
For the second phase of the Art & Innovation Project I have chosen to work with the essential oils (lavender and rosemary) produced by Norfolk Lavender, Heacham. I have long been interested in creating multisensory sculptures and this is the reason why I have chosen to research these products. I am also interested in the healing and therapeutic powers of the essential oil.
Essential oils from medicinal and aromatic plants have been used for various purposes since antiquity. This included embalming, healing, perfumes and also in incense burning during spiritual rituals.
Rosemary herb leaves
Distilling the oil
The fragrance of lavender is contained in its oil, which the plant produces and stores in tiny glands at the base of each floret.
The amount and quality of the oil depends on the particular type of lavender and the weather in the season. In order to make perfumery products the oil must be separated from the plant material and this is done by steam distillation.
The stills are loaded to capacity by hand with lavender flowers using pitchforks. Steam generated in the boiler is then passed through the still for about half an hour. The heat of the steam causes the oil in the flowers to vaporize and the oil vapour travels with the steam into the next part of the process which is the condenser.
In the condenser the steam and oil vapour is cooled until it condenses back into liquid. The mixed liquid of water and the oil from the lavender flowers flows into the separator where the oil which floats on water rises to the top and we are able to tap the oil of.
I have approached the research from the same angle as I have done in the Phase One with the woad pigment – brainstorming and practical experiments. For the Phase Two I have used my existing knowledge of materials and combined them with the essential oils. Following the mixing I have created a series of simple shaped objects.
By infusing the essential oil I have discovered the following. Firstly the rosemary oil seems to be longer lasting than the lavender oil. I have found that both of the oils can be infused with many different materials such as wood, plaster, clay, air dying clay, cement, plant fibre/ leaves, wax and and variety of plant and animal fibres. I have established that the plaster along with the cement and wood last the least time and fading out gradully within 2 months. The wax last a bit longer depending on quantity of the essential oil.
Plaster + lavender oil
Bees wax + rosemarey oil
After infusing the materials with the oil I have been keeping records for each material to monitor the longevity of the essence.
Pine wood, Iron + lavender oil
Dry cement + lavender oil
Red clay + lavender oil
Wool dyed in weld + rosemary oil
Woad fibre + lavender oil
Air drying clay + rosemary oil
The best materials for longevity and also the absorbtion of the oil proved to be the animal and plant fbres. So far the essence has lasted for 3 months and it’s still very strong. I have therefore decided to use the fibres to be the carrier of the essence which will be either the building part of the object or the fibre will be concealed within the object in such a way so it can be re-infused whenever necessary.
There are many different fibres. I am especially interested in the ramie – nettle fibres, seacell – seaweed fibres and wood fibres. For my project I will use variety of fibres chosen acording to their association in the symbolic table I have devised through my research.
As I only sourced these recently I would like to continue to experiment with them. I will infuse each of them with different essential oil and monitor the longevity and how it varies using different fibres infused with variety of essential oils(namely lavender, sage, rosemary, myrrh and frankinsence).
I have also begun to experiment with how each of the fibres take up natural dyes(woad and weld so far). I have recently learned how to spin fibres and would like to combine different fibres using this process.
As a part of my project I would also like to try to mould and solidify the fibres into sculptural shapes will try to achieve this by using starch and varieties of fabric stiffeners and wax and resin..
The practical as well as theoretical research I have carried out during both of the phase of the InCrops – Art and Innovation project has also played a big part in developing my new work – The Language (working title).
I believe my ideas have also been inspired and influenced by my involvement and interaction with the World Art collection at the Sainsbury Centre as well as my participation in the Culture of the Countryside project.
Interacting and working with the Sainsbury Centre collections, especially the handling collection has had a great impact on my work. The aspect of handling of sculptures and exploring them through our senses is I believe very important in order to truly understand the objects. I am especially interested in ones relationship with an object such as amulets.
Ritual and amuletic meaningful objects/sculpture have always been of a great interest and inspiration to me. I have first encountered the above objects few years ago – when I visited Skara Brae – Neolithic settlement in Orkney Islands, Scotland. Recently I have rediscovered them when I visited National Museum of Scotland. Their use and meaning remains to be a mystery but most of the theories point to them serving as objects used in rituals or as amulets.
My aim is to create an installation of 12 sculptures that can be explored through most human senses and which are balanced not only geometrically but also conceptually. In order to achieve that through my research I have devised a table that brings together many aspects of life, matter and spirituality. These will be multisensory and multi textured simple shaped but very detailed and carefully crafted and complex objects, constructed along the principles of sacred geometry.
Number 12 is considered to be the number of perfection. This is because it is the result of the number 4 being multiplied by number 3.
Number 3 - three levels of the Universe – Mind, Body and Soul, three parts of time – Past, Present and Future, three parts of human existence - Birth, Life and Death
Number 4 - four elements, four cardinal points, four corners of Earth, four parts of the day, four seasons
Number 12 – twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the day, twelve signs of Zodiac, there were twelve apostles
Sacred geometry involves sacred universal patterns used in the design of everything in our reality, most often seen in sacred architecture and sacred art. The basic belief is that geometry and mathematical ratios, harmonics and proportion are also found in music, light, and cosmology. This value system is seen as widespread even in prehistory, a cultural universal of the human condition.
It is considered foundational to building sacred structures such as temples, mosques, megaliths, monuments and churches; sacred spaces such as altars, temenoi and tabernacles; meeting places such as sacred groves, village greens and holy wells and the creation of religious art, iconography and using "divine" proportions.
Sacred geometry may be understood as a worldview of pattern recognition, a complex system of religious symbols and structures involving space, time and form. According to this view the basic patterns of existence are perceived as sacred. By studying the nature of these patterns, forms and relationships and their connections, insight may be gained into the mysteries - the laws and lore of the Universe.
Platonic solids are to encompass everything within the known universe. Despite being named after the Greek philosopher Plato, there is plenty evidence that these shapes – said to encompass the 4 classic elements earth, air, fire and water, together with the elusive 5th element – had been discovered at least thousand years before his time. These shapes are regular polyhedrons, they are multisided, and three dimensional figures whose points or corners touch the side of an orb. The platonic solids may not first appear as particularly secret or sacred, however their discovery was of a profound importance in our understanding of how universe works, and the beauty of their regular shapes is a great influence on sacred geometry and architecture.
The series of objects I designed will be created by using a variety (mostly natural and raw materials) combined on the basis of their cultural and symbolic meanings. Below are some of the materials I have already selected and sourced.
To summarize, taking part in both of the phases of the InCrops Art and Innovation project, has been a very interesting and revealing experience for me. I have really enjoyed the experimenting process and often found it has taken me in directions which had I not participated in I would have never gone to. It has opened my eyes to many new materials and processes and the way they can be used creatively. It has inspired and enriched my practice on many different levels.
I am very excited about my current project - The Language, that has been enriched and formed by my research and which I anticipate to complete in the next few months