Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Recyling Pastels Sticks

For several years I've been throwing scraps of pastels into a box on my workbench, knowing some day I would try turning the tiny chips and bits into new sticks. I had purchased a delightfully heavy granite mortar & pestle for the purpose of grinding the pieces into a fine powder.

4 or 5 years ago a friend and fellow pastel artist presented me with three pastel sticks she had made herself at a Santa Fe workshop. They were very lovely colors and I saved them...they seemed so precious. A part of me wondered why anyone would spend time recycling used-up pastels when you can buy thousands of colors in varying hardness/softness grades at the flick of the mouse.

Sunday was the day for me to give it a try. Who knew it would be so much FUN! As is often the case with making something by hand it is an incredible thrill to see the project unfolding magically; whether it is baking, woodworking or music. It is just plain rewarding to have a simple project turn out well.

It is basically; select for color, grind thoroughly, add enough water and not too much, roll into a stick-like form and let dry. More thorough directions can be found here from Richard McKinley.

As far as color goes, I had some control, but the results are serendipitous; not a reasonable way to obtain that mysterious shade of smokey blue you forgot to buy. I was surprised at the cost effectiveness, though. I produced 22 pastels at an average retail value of about $3.50 - after deducting the cost of the mortar & pestle, I'm still about $20 ahead! Artists are always aghast at the price of their supplies. Feels like I made something out of nothing!

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