Experiments in Paint

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to meet with the traditional craftsperson-extraordinaire, Jarrod StoneDahl, and receive feedback regarding the designs and painting techniques of my wooden bowls. He shared great insights about traditional Swedish wooden bowls and one that I’d like to share is about color.

Traditional Swedish bowls were painted with a variety of colors, but a commonly used color unique to Sweden is falun red. This iron oxide-based pigment was historically derived from various copper mines in Sweden and named after the famous mines of Falun, in Dalarna, Sweden. It’s the same striking color that decorates many Swedish cottages and barns alike.

Before meeting with Jarrod I had only used premixed milk paint on my bowls. Milk paint is an incredibly durable and non-toxic mixture of pigment, lime and the milk protein, casein. The casein makes the paint absorb into porous surfaces like wood, and the lime makes it soluble in water. It’s excellent for woodenware because it is completely food safe. One of the drawbacks however is that the lime in traditional milk paint creates a relatively opaque and dull hue, limiting most of the color pallet to pastels and inhibiting efforts to highlight the wood’s grain.

I wanted to get closer to traditional colors and create paints that were also semi-transparent. I purchased falun red pigment from Earth Pigments and experimented by creating egg tempera paint as well as boiled linseed oil paint. Although egg tempera was not typically used on bowls in Sweden, it is a traditional method used for painting wooden surfaces. Linseed oil and pigment was commonly used to treat woodenware in Sweden. I was curious to compare the two techniques. Below are the results!

#1: Egg Tempera

  • 1 Egg yoke : 1 Tablespoon of water (shaken in a closed container)

  • 2 Tspn falun red pigment

This mixture dried quickly and was relatively opaque.

#2: Egg Tempera – slightly diluted with water

  • 1 Egg yoke : 1 Tbsp of water (shaken in a closed container)

  • 2 Tspn of falun red pigment

  • 1 Tbsp of water mixed in after the emulsion was made

This mixture was easier to paint onto the wood but not any more transparent.

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#3: Boiled Linseed Oil – with primer

Layer 1:

  • Allback boiled organic linseed oil

Layer 2:

  • 2 Tbsp of Allback boiled organic linseed oil

  • 1 Tspn of falun red pigment

For the first layer I painted on a primer coat of just boiled linseed oil. For the second coat, I painted on a mixture of boiled linseed oil and falun red pigment. This was one of my favorite results because it is the most transparent and the wood grain really shines through. 

#4: Boiled Linseed Oil – without primer

  • 2 Tbsp of Allback boiled organic linseed oil

  • 1 Tspn of falun red pigment

I painted on just one layer that was a mixture of boiled linseed oil and falun red pigment. The result is darker and slightly more opaque than the bowl with primer.