Creator Community – Stoneworks Mill

Welcome to the newest aspect of my blog, where I bring attention to fellow makers who share my passion for small business, conservation, preserving the handcrafted and creativity.

Meet Kelli Fowler, Owner of Stoneworks Mill in Northern VA

How Would You Describe Your Process?

The process I use to create artisanal art supplies always starts with nature.  I find something that would make a nice paint. I see a color that I find inspiring.  Often I see a landscape and think of the colors of paint I would want to have in my palette to create that scene.

In terms of my paints, my most popular item, I always start with dry pigments.  Some of these pigments are purchased, some are created with rocks and clays I have purchased, and some are from items I have foraged by myself.

The pigments get mixed with my medium.  That medium is composed of hand-ground gum Arabic, the sap of the Acacia tree.  That sap allows the pigment to stay bound to the paper.  I grind it up and mix it with distilled water to create a solution.  The medium also contains raw honey from local beekeepers.  This works as a humectant and helps to keep the paints from shattering and falling apart.  I also add some high quality vegetable glycerin to my paints to help them with rewetting and dispersing in water on the paper. 

After the mixture of the pigments and medium is combined it is placed on a large slat of primed glass.  It is then mulled with a glass muller. The muller helps to evenly distribute the pigment throughout the medium.  The muller is also primed to avoid the paint just slipping and sliding between it and the glass.

Once the pigment and medium are properly integrated into a lovely suspension I place this mixture in small pans and allow them to dry.  The paint shrinks as it dries, so I do multiple pours into each pan to make sure they are full and lovely.  I then add a low-profile magnet to the bottom of the pan and a label to the side of the pan.  I use labels, instead of writing on the pans, so that artists can remove the labels and reuse the pan with other colors of paints if they wish to do so.

What’s your favorite thing about what you do?

I suppose my favorite part of what I do is foraging.  I enjoy the hunt and exploration.  I love finding iron oxide.  My favorite place I ever went was a Chesapeake Bay beach where I collected 50 lbs of bog iron. It makes a VERY pretty yellow pigment!

If you could go anywhere to forage, where would you go?

I would go to Australia!  I would love to see what I could find there.  I am not sure I would be allowed to bring back much, but they have the most amazingly beautiful minerals there!

How does transformation play a part in your process?

Honestly, transformation is the entire identity of my process. I take things that have intrinsic beauty and combine them with other natural elements to make something brand new.  The best part is that artists take what I have made and then transform that into amazing works of art, all while transforming their thoughts and feelings into something visual.  It is a very rewarding process!


How do you build community with your business?

I have spent a few years helping to build the online community of artists and makers involved in handmade watercolors.  I have done giveaways with other makers of paint, sketchbooks, palettes and paintbrushes.  I also feature artists monthly on my social media and website.  I like to promote other businesses and maker. I especially enjoy connect people that I think would really benefit from getting to know one another. 

Follow Kelli on Social Media!