Making Lye is based on a re-enactment we did in London.” Holmwood recalls. “Lye was used for soap, and is made by pouring water through wood ash. We were making it to show how people did laundry; however, lye was also used in making pigments.” In depicting this ritual, Holmwood draws from both the chemical and creative traditions of her craft. The composition, subject, and ephemeral tones of this piece can be compared to Barbizon painters such as Jean-François Millet, whose canvases championed the modest life of the countryside, and the value of nature and labour. Holmwood’s classical scene harks back to a time when life seemed a lot less complicated; its simple, unassuming beauty derived from the time-honoured virtue of taking pride in one’s work.

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