Researching for Early Futures with Heidi Gustafson

Researching for Early Futures with Heidi Gustafson

Artists around the world are digging into the science and history behind earth pigments and natural art. One such artist is Heidi Gustafson, founder of Early Futures, an artistic research site with a current focus on ochre, iron oxides, land pigments, and subtle earth activism. 

"Heidi Gustafson is an artist and ochre worker based in rainy, volcanic Cascade foothills of rural northern Washington," her site states. "Her intuitive and highly collaborative ochre and iron research projects include work with scientists, anthropologists, linguists, indigenous practitioners, citizen foragers, healers, artists and places around the planet" (source). Early Futures houses research, documentation of Heidi's visually stunning studio, a hub for workshops and talks, and even Heidi's own curated pigment sets and posters available for sale. 

The Ochre Sanctuary is also included under the Early Futures umbrella: "Ochre Sanctuary is an evolving, living place that serves to protect and care for ochre, ie. iron-based earth and pigment wisdom. It’s currently based in tiny cabin in far north Cascade foothills of Nooksack territory, Washington, USA," explains their site.

"Counsel of ochres includes hundreds of rocks and dusts, across the color spectrum, gathered and offered by citizens around the planet, including spiritual and cultural ochres such as kokowai from Aotearoa (New Zealand) and meaningful planetary ochres like GOE (Great Oxidation Event ) 2 billion+ years old goethite or wastewater vivianite from Taiwanese industrial plants.

Areas of focus

  • Ochres from common, endangered, exhausted, sacred or other significant landscapes.
  • Pigments, clays, soil, mud, sandstones and minerals of hematite, goethite, limonite, magnetite, maghemite, siderite, vivianite and other iron-rich minerals.
  • Iron-based material from eroding or endangered regions, toxic waste sites, including banned countries and controversial regions.
  • Ochres used and made by non-human beings including microbes, elephants and vultures.
  • The study of ochre terms across languages.
  • Ochre behavior, use, spiritual significance and futures.
  • Support indigenous ochre knowledge, use and ancestral or ceremonial practices.
  • Cross-cultural collaboration and connection through ochre and land exchange" (source).

Visit to learn more about Heidi's incredible work. We're so grateful for all she does to study, catalog, and protect these beautiful pigments!

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