heidi gustafson—ore whisperer

heidi gustafson—ore whisperer

By Patricia Belyea

EVERSON WA  Where can you find a creative spark? Spend time with people who are unabashedly passionate about what they do!

Visiting artist Heidi Gustafson at her hideaway cabin near the Canadian border completely invigorated me. Heidi is crazy about iron oxides. She collects this mineral from the ground and spends time—lots of time—getting to know it.

Iron oxide brings color to our world. You might immediately think of rust. Correct! But also think: earthy hues of red, yellow, and brown. Also a few iron oxides, like vivianite, yield blue. These pigments are used to tint paints, make-up, and more.

Heidi pulverizes, by hand, chunks of iron oxide until they are powder. Although she could use a milling machine, Heidi spend hours getting to know her iron oxides by grinding them with one of her many mortar and pestles.

Take a tour around the studio in Heidi’s Nooksack Valley cabin:

Beyond the stones she collects herself, Heidi receives iron oxides from scientists, civil engineers, and rock hounds around the globe.

Heidi’s reveals the magic found in a box of ochres she recently received from the outback of Australia: ”Not every stone wants to become a pigment. Not every pigment wants to become paint. A good few in this case, really wanted to be admired, just held by retinal arms. Ones that did say ‘expose me!’ leap right into the mortar, and there’s a deep pleasure in cracking into them, like yolk or seed.

Heidi, who brings life to stones that are millions of years old, reminds us to be truly present and appreciate something as the simple as the earth beneath our feet!

Highly recommended: To follow Heidi on Instagram +click here

To visit Heidi’s website, Early Futures +click here


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  • marilyn and rich
    Hi Heidi, We saw your article in N.Y. Times. So cool. We have been on the N. side of Whidbey Is. My sis and husband stayed there when getting their house handicap ass. in Seattle. We have found lots of minerals in Co. and Utah on trips. We have collected pigments and enjoy the art by the pueblo Indians in Co. They still use it. Marilyn

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