Happy houses part III

The only drawback of this project was the bent paper. For lack of proper storage in my studio, I keep printing paper rolled up - and it seems this large sheet of black paper has been rolled up for quite some time. Working with such sheets is not impossible, but it does present one with certain issues, especially while working with small lino fragments. This tend to get messy, slipping of and sliding around, so I must take into consideration acquiring a nice cabinet, preferably open for easy access, such as those HERE.

See more on the "Happy houses" linocut project: 
part I
part II
introduction - "City tracks in the mud" project



Olfactive workshops

For the Feast of Love at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj I have prepared a series of olfactive workshops, for people to smell and guess several ingredients used by old apothecaries in Transylvania. Some are delicious spices, exotic and expensive during the Early Modern period, while others are harsh and rather odorous, like the Valerian root. Inspired by such ingredients and by the story of Amortentia, the most powerful love potion in Harry Potter that smelled different to each person, visitors are invited to invent their own recipes. The winners shall receive small bottles with the ingredients of the actual Elixir of Love sold in hand-painted jars by the apothecaries of old.


Lard and the old apothecary shops of Transylvania

Axungia porci [lard] is very important for apothecaries as it is used in large quantities for pomades and unguents. One should buy lard before Christmas, in the months of November and December, when it is best and cheapest. The butcher’s opinion must be taken into consideration. It is best to buy large fat pigs or pigs fed with corn, since their fat is hard. Other lards are softer and never solidify, unlike lard from pigs fed with corn. In summer it melts and turns into oil and is thus unsuitable for preparing unguents.”
 Tobias Maucksch (1752-1802) thus advised his son Johann Martin in 1793 in his famous INSTRUCTIO that describes the functioning of the "Golden Stag" pharmacy from Târgu Mureş.
Details of the signatures of apothecary jars for the preservation of lard

The History of Pharmacy Collection of Cluj-Napoca, part of the National History Museum of Transylvania, includes four jars made of faience and porcelain for the preservation of lard. They are inscribed AXUNGIA PORCI, sometimes in shortened forms. Three of the jars are dated to the nineteenth century and one to the eighteenth century and they had been used in Saint George’s pharmacy from Cluj-Napoca (where we are now), the Engel pharmacy from Iaşi and the pharmacy of the Misericordians from Oradea [Ordo Sancti Joannis de Deo]. 
This FOCUS group is the mini-exhibition for the month of March 2016 at the collection in Unirii Square 28, in the heart of Cluj-Napoca. For details of other temporary exhibition, tickets, timetable, see the blog in Romanian HERE.
For the Romanian version of this article, see the official blog of the collection HERE
Exhibit of the month section at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca



I've been watching the TV show "Lie to me" again, with the entire discussion of universal expressions and micro-expression of emotions, so that made me think of the numerous facial-inspired works on Etsy. Faces and face parts, by extension masks and face-hiding implements, have always been and still are visually fascinating. Here is my latest Etsy Treasury featuring works that makes reference to this facial cultural obsession.
And I do recommend the series, Tim Roth rocks :)


Happy houses part II

The project continued with a bit of a new approach - black paper, unusual (for me) blueish tones, and a (usual) playful mindset. The Happy Houses have been set free, the house numbers have started a revolution, and the flowery scenery has been interpreted as urban macrame. I have started with new elements to "fill in" the tiny linos and have concluded that stars are a bit kitchy anyway, numbers recycled from the calendar project funny, and the leafs - universal. And that tiny linos tend to break, the row of houses being, after cleaning, in 4 parts already...



New linocut project: happy houses

This project started with a new V-gauge blade that I bought - a very small one for fine detail. I there started carving a row of tiny houses. The details were fine, but the structure proved a bit fragile, as after two cleanings it broke and now I use two fragments. The print itself was rather small and lost in monochrome ink, so the project evolved to a decorated frame-like print and then I added color. Applied by hand on each house and mixed at times, it added to the result. The first, simple print were called "city tracks in the mud", as they resembled tracks left by bird feet in the mud, but the new one is called "happy houses".
Here are these Happy Houses of mine, in different color variants and with details. For updates feel free to check my Facebook page HERE.


The Feast of Love

The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca is preparing a new edition of their Feast of Love annual event, for February 27th. This year it is connected to the temporary exhibition Harry Potter and the real history of pharmacy and is entitled "Love through smell". There will be interactive workshops (smelling and guessing more than 20 apothecary ingredients), a contest (inventing one's own love potion recipe) with prices (small bottles with the ingredients of the actual Love Potion sold in the pharmacies of Transylvania during the eighteenth century), and surprises for coffee-lovers! Read more about the event in Romanian HERE.
Heart-shaped medallion with Cornucopia from the eighteenth-century painting in the Officina

The ingredients of the original Love Potion


Mini prints on Etsy

Printmaking in itself is prone to detail and minute effects, thus mini prints seem natural to the medium. All types of printmaking techniques can be used on small formats, though I believe dry point is the finest. Nevertheless, this treasury includes many more types, such as linocut, collography, woodblock printing, even digital printing. As for the subject matter, small, delicate things are obviously favored: feathers, small animals and plants, architectural details (windows), but one can also find portraits and abstract compositions.
Here is a collection of my favorite mini prints on Etsy. Enjoy!


Jewelry boxes

Last weekend at the studio was dedicated to another small project - making jewelry boxes. Using cardboard oval-shaped boxes I glued stripe linocuts I had, of the "city tracks in the mud" series, then painted the visible sides with saffron yellow. The edge of the lid was painting lighter, for a bit of contrast, and another linocut fragment was applied to the center of the lid. After drying I varnished the boxes for extra protection against wearing. Here they are:

Ana-Maria Gruia - original linocut jewelry box

Ana-Maria Gruia - original linocut jewelry box

Ana-Maria Gruia - original linocut jewelry box

Ana-Maria Gruia - original art jewelry boxes

Ana-Maria Gruia - original linocut jewelry box
 For more works and applied art projects feel free to visit my Etsy shop and/or my website.


Objectualizing cameras

Many a photographer (and not only them) are so passionate about their work that they end up worshiping the tools of their trade, i.e. cameras. I think this is rather a cute conceptual switch, seeing how pieces of equipment meant to focus on certain aspects of reality become themselves the focus. Cameras are being photographed (perfect inversion!), painted, turned into ceramic sculptures, jewelry items, and the topic of various artistic techniques of representation including embroidery, linocut, graffiti, engravings and many more.
My latest Etsy treasury tackles precisely this fashion of having photographic cameras as subject of art and crafts. They are not only pas-par-totum symbols of a trade and a revolutionary way of recording/capturing reality, but became the focus of artistic inspiration and vision.



Eating mummies for health in Transylvania

  Pulvis Mumiae was a must-have for all European pharmacies from the 12th until the 19th century. It was believed to prolong life and heal all disease. As a rare and exotic panacea, it was sometimes sold for as much as its weight in gold. The powder was either ingested or used externally, in creams.
It seems that it all started from a confusion, during the Crusades. Mûm initially designated the natural asphalt from the Dead Sea area, used in local pharmacopoeia. The Europeans thought that asphalt was used in mummification, so that the term and the presumed healing properties were transferred upon the mummified bodies. In fact, it seemed logical: through a lost art the ancient Egyptians could prevent natural decay and, even more, they wanted to be resurrected in the mummified bodies – the peak of medicine and pharmacy!
Commerce thus flourished, new jobs were created such as mummy vendor, mummy powder started to be counterfeit from recent bodies mummified through rapid processes, and the looting of Egyptian tombs increased. The government had to intervene in an attempt to stop the black market of mummy-related items and artifacts.
The use of mummy powder for healing only stopped in the end of the 19th century, along the wide acceptance of the theory of germs and the use of microscopes.
The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca includes an eighteenth-century case with mummy powder, together with the "authenticity" note stating the product to the Pulvis Mumiae Verae (real mummy powder). It was once sold in a pharmacy in Baia Mare, present-day Maramures. The ingredient in mention for example in seventeenth-century pharmacy inventories in Transylvania, such as the princely one in Alba Iulia.
See the full story in Romanian HERE.


Murano glass jewelry made in Cluj

Beautiful and skilfully made Murano glass jewelry items are made in Cluj-Napoca in the small studio of Iza and Andreea. Their lamp work earrings, necklaces, beads, pendants, finger rings and other types of jewelry items are made using the original Murano glass imported from Italy and are completely handmade. I have selected a couple of pendants with intricate effects of transparency, color, and shape.
Feel free to check out their Facebook page and discover more of their work. You can find them under various names: Glass Drops, Murano  Glass Jewelry, or the re-branded Murano workshop.

The girls in their studio


Large linocut: apothecary jars

As I said I am constantly inspired by work - as museographer at the History of Pharmacy Collection. The largest part of the collection consists, naturally, of old jars and bottles, painted, with inscriptions and signatures in Latin, sometimes with the symbols of the respective pharmacies. I thus proceeded in making this over-sized linocut (40 x 65 cm). Rendering the signatures in reverse was a bit tricky, but I am not unhappy with the result. And the ink variations were left to suggest the age and wear of the historical artifacts in question. See more images of the work in progress on Facebook.



Apothecary uses of cuttlefish bone (OSSAE SEPIAE)

This is the internal shell of the mollusk of the Sepiidae family, a hard but brittle structure that helps the cuttlefish navigate (used for buoyancy control). Over time, cuttlefish bones had several uses: goldsmiths used them to cast items made of precious metal (as the bone is temperature resistant but can be carved easily) or in the making of polishing powder. It was also an old pharmaceutical ingredient, employed both in the Mediterranean and in Asia, in Chinese medicine. The Romans also used cuttlefish bones for cosmetic treatments, believing that the ashes obtained from burning the bone removed freckles and other skin imperfections.

Powdered cuttlefish bone was a common ingredient of tooth powders and cleaning solutions, employed as an abrasive, mechanical agent. Most modern dentifrices contained cuttlefish bone powder. It was sometimes used as calcium supplement, as absorbent and coagulant (to stop bleeding), or as antacid.

The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca includes two pharmaceutical jars, both dated to the nineteenth century, for cuttlefish bone powder. The first is a wooden jar with the painted signature PULV. OSSIUM SEPIAE, once used in a pharmacy from Baia Mare, while the second is a glass vial with polished stopper, from the old St. George’s Pharmacy in Cluj – where the museum is now hosted – with the signature PULV. OSSAE SEPIAE.

See the Romanian version HERE.