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Grinding pure blue pigment from Azurite

azurite pigment

Grinding Azurite

This time last year, I bought a small lump of azurite from the Lapidary shop in Burslem, Staffordshire. I made a start at grinding it up in a pestle and mortar but since I didn’t need it at the time, saved the last stage of fine grinding to a powder with a glass slab and muller till later – ie now.

I am working on a triptych (see previous post) where I would like the two standing angels to be painted in a heavenly sky blue so it’s been back to the grindstone to extract this gorgeous colour.

Azurite rock

Lump of pure Azurite, approx 2cm cube

Aidan Hart, demonstrated how to grind Azurite during class last year which I filmed. You can watch the process over here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-FHvAxwg9w.  It is an amatuer video so not very good quality, but it captures the process.

Breaking up azurite

First crunch of azurite

This was last years work, crunching up the rock with a small hammer. It’s surprisingly enjoyable as you see the blue emerge.

I bought a slab and muller from Patricia Lovett at her Gilding and Traditional Illumination Skills workshop some years ago. It really has come into its own now as I still have malachite, haematite and chrysocolla to grind up.

slab and muller with azurite

Use a glass slab and muller to grind up the pigment

I placed about a tablespoon of pre-ground up pigment on to the slab and added just enough water to make a paste then ground it up, clockwise and anti clockwise, scraping the pigment back into the middle until the paste glides smoothly under the muller.

Azurite paste and water

 Mixing with a little water makes the paste

Ray Kitten burmilla

Ray offering a helping paw

mopping up the azurite paste

Mopping up every last bit of paste with a palette knife and mop brush

blue azurite in the wash

A variety of blues emerging as you wash or levigate the pigment

particles in the bottom of the jug

Large particles give a deeper blue

pigment drying in the sun

Drying out the azurite pigment in the sun

pigment in dry form

Pigments at last! Samples show mine on the left and the darker pigment of a pre-bought pigment on the right.

This took the best part of a morning but I’ve made enough pigment to easily last me a year or longer. Next post will hopefully show some of this azurite in use on my triptych.

Thanks for reading,


5 Responses to “Grinding pure blue pigment from Azurite”

  1. Sister Benedict

    Thanks Ronnie. Such a lot of patient work and time goes into a real icon.
    I think I have seen a muller in this house once, but not knowing what it was.
    Either your muller is large or your cat is small!
    Love & prayers from Sister Benedict

  2. gaypogue

    Ronnie, this posting is so spot-on for me. I just ordered a muller and glass. I had watched Aidan’s demo, but seeing your up-close photos helps.

    Thank you so much for posting all this. You and Aidan are my official long-distance teachers. Now to acquire some Azurite. . . . . . .

    Hugs to Ray.

  3. ronniecruwys

    Thats great to hear Gay! I was going to separate the lighter and darker shades but it got too fiddly so I ground it all up as far as I could, kept draining off the water and letting the pigment mix dry out in the sun on plate,s then it brushed off easily into a jar when dry. All the best! 🙂

  4. marcella spreadbury

    Thanks Ronnie, I’m enjoying a Prosopon course in Lettlebert in a 14th century church Love Marcella

    Sent from my iPad



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