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Mount Etna’s volcanic ash is a tragedy, when it covers thoroughly fields and towns. It is good for fertilize the land, yes. But when it is too much it can burn and destroy the harvest. Houses and streets are all covered in dark dust, made of micro glass crystals, which can damage throat and lungs. The only solution, for the people who live at the foot of Mt.Etna and see such phenomena every year, is to collect the ash and throw it away. Where? In landfills, brick quarries, or … . Or give it to the craftsmen’s shops. Sicilian artists are more and more getting used to this new use of the dark ash.

Etna’s ash, a new  resource

Mount Etna’s ash has recently been recognized as a resource for local economy. Our blog had already told about this, some time ago. This ash is good for many different uses. You can make tiles, bricks, objects, souvenirs. You can even make special bottles that perfectly keep the temperature of the liquid you put inside!

The use of volcanic ash as a versatile material could not only recreate the economy, favour new jobs and new companies, but also solve in a single step the problem of how to recycle it. The collection of so many bags, from cities and towns, will have a specific purpose now. While in northern Europe many companies have already learned to process basaltic ash, in Sicily the first steps are now taking place. But they will be important for the future.

art painting with ash02
drawing in the ash on a house’s terrace

Ash art and how to make it

Creating art objects with ash and lava stone is nothing new in the Etna area. In the past, ashtrays, ornaments, photo frames, saucers made of lapilli or ash were sold. Sometimes at natural, sometimes painted too. Today the ability to create real paintings is also developing.

The volcanic ash of Etna, in fact, can be worked with specific glues, spread on the canvases and painted, once dry, in many ways. Or it can be mixed with other materials to give reflection or texture to some very specific images of a painting. Some craftsmen are rediscovering themselves as painters, in this sense.

To create paintings with volcanic ash you need:

a canvas or a wood panel
dry and sifted ash
vinyl glue
finely ground terracotta elements (tiles, bricks)
tightly woven strainer
soft bristle brush

A pencil drawing will be drawn on the panel or canvas, then its contours (or the spaces to be coloured inside) will be covered with vinyl glue mixed with water. With the sieve sprinkle the parts treated with glue with sifted ash. Spread well with the soft bristle brush. Let it dry for a few hours (preferably overnight), then repeat the operation: glue, ash, wait for it to dry. The last layer of ash can be spread together with the ground terracotta so to give more colour. Or, once dry, you can colour it yourself with acrylic colours or vinyls. Spray can also be used for colouring.

Finally, there are those who do not need tools to create ash paintings, but only … their own finger. They are the many inhabitants of the Etna area who now make wonderful drawings directly on the terraces of their house. Among the many who then put their masterpieces on Facebook we point out, because they deserve it, the drawings of Delia Zappalà, Daniela Marino, Giusy Trovato and in particular Angelika Antonella Finocchio (the portrait you see in the photo above).

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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