John Cogley, the owner of DANIEL SMITH, recently went to Australia to present his beautiful watercolors to artists at the many retail stores that now carry DANIEL SMITH Watercolors, and to meet the many artists who love painting with his watercolors! While in Australia, he visited the location where the serpentine mineral is obtained for Serpentine Genuine, one of his PrimaTek Watercolors which are made from minerals, here is what John had to say about his trip:
The exposed hillside mine with serpentine mineral, Tasmania.
What were you doing in Australia?
“I went to Australia to explain how I make paint and then have artists’ put paint to paper to see the paints in action. While I can explain certain characteristics of my paint, such as granulation, the best way for the artist to understand it is to “see” and “feel” the paint characteristics in action.”
An excavator on top of serpentine mineral.
Why did you decide to go to the region to see where serpentine is mined?
“Just like artists, I have a curious nature. Over the years I have spoken to Bruce, my mineralogist, about mines, but I had never visited a serpentine mine. I have been to mines all over the world and find them and the miners that work in them fascinating. Miners have such a great knowledge of the earth and a passion that is contagious.”
Where is the serpentine mine you visited?
“The mine was located near Zeehan in the heart of Tasmania’s mineral belt on the Tasmanian West Coast.” [Note: Tasmania is an Australian Island State, and the most southern part of Australia.]
What was the weather and the terrain like?
“We started off from Hobart on a very wet and cloudy day. The day became wetter by the hour until we were about one hour from Queenstown upon which it began to pour and didn’t stop until early the next day. The nights are very dark along the mountain roads we took and we missed some of the beautiful landscapes only to be recognized on our drive back from the mines to Hobart.”
Who are the people with you in the photo?
“Mike and Eleanor are the owners of the mines and two of about five people that remain in this once active town–now a ghost town.”
How long have they been there?
“They have been there quite a while. The town population was once 1,300 people and now has about 5. There are train tracks and switching stations without trains – they were driven away when the mine closed. Eleanor has a museum where she puts items she finds around her home and the old (ghost) town. These dolls, toy cars and toys can be seen – all items from past inhabitants.”
Do they mine just for serpentine, or are there other minerals that are mined there too?
“They mine serpentine for the most part. Green serpentine with beautiful purple stichtite intrusions.”
Was it hard to get to the mine?
“Yes, it would tear apart most of the modern vehicles today. It was fascinating to watch Mike’s unique method of parking when he got out of the vehicle to open the gates. Mike would embed the front wheels of his truck deep into the ruts, try that with a non-military vehicle.”
Surface mine or underground?
What was it like to be at the mine?
“Awesome. The serpentine mine is a large slab-vein that Mike follows. Mike uses excavators to uncover the debris left after dynamiting, which exposes the mineral. Some of the boulders weigh 1000’s of pounds. It was so interesting to be surrounded by a sea of green mineral. It’s also worth noting that the primary industry for minerals is jewelry. Not all pieces are suitable due to their content of byproduct which isn’t conducive for the appearance of the mineral in this application. DANIEL SMITH, due to their Prima-tek paint making process, is able to utilize the pieces that other industries discard. Oftentimes we find our product alongside the road or on the edges of the mine itself.”
At the mine, what sizes of serpentine did you see?
“Washing machine size down to the size of dime. The size is dictated by the weight the vehicles can bring out, not by the size that can potentially be created in the mining process.”
Was the mineral mixed with other minerals or mostly pure serpentine?
“Serpentine is or can be mixed with stichtite or said to be stichtite on green serpentine. The stichtite gives the reddish cast.”
Did you pick up any of the serpentine mineral and look at it, what was that like?
“It looked very green. Some of the material was so dark it looked almost black.”
Did you show Mike and Eleanor a tube of Serpentine Genuine Watercolor?
“Yes, I did. I wanted them to see the beauty that is created from that mineral. They then showed me the carved pieces that they created from the serpentine.”
Did you show them what serpentine mineral looks like as paint?
“Yes, they thought it was very interesting that I create a paint from it.”
Did you take some serpentine back with you to DANIEL SMITH?
“Yes, several pieces.”
Any final thoughts about your visit to the mine that you would like to share with artists?
“It is a great feeling to challenge one’s self. Going to new places or trying new things, and this one was truly an Indiana Jones worthy adventure.”
Submitted by DANIEL SMITH