Material

Manna

By

Made in

Biodegradable 245 Composite 103 Fair Trade 12 Fibre 69 Glaze 17 Paint 20 Pigment 50 Plant-based 178 Recyclable 128 Recycled 130 Textile 97 Vegan 95 Ash 6 Clay 19

Manna
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Photos: Domenico Mangano, Robert Goodman

The Cut, The Graft, The Castle

In 2022 the artists Domenico Mangano & Marieke van Rooy created a series of ceramic sculptures which were combined with the traditional and local material manna, a harsh from ash trees in the Sicilian mountains. This project was realised for the solo exhibition 'Il taglio, l'Innesto, il Castello' (in English 'The Cut, The Graft, The Castle') at the Civic Museum of Castelbuono in Sicily, Italy.

Manna is the sap released from the incision of the ash tree, a precious raw material linked to the history of the Sicilian territory of the Madonie. Manna is extracted only and exclusively in this area following traditional engraving techniques and handed down in peasant families from father to son. Traditionally used both in the gastronomic as cosmetic field, manna has become one of the popular cultural symbols of Castelbuono, the capital of Madonie.

For this project, Domenico and Marieke mixed manna with clay, as well with the covering glaze. This unprecedented action offered the possibility to metaphorically 'graft' two elements - manna and clay - as people would do to create a fusion of two different components in agronomic practice. For everyone, but especially for farmers, it is an extraordinary invention that allows you to transform the inorganic into organic. Grafting was interesting for them because it is simultaneously an imitation, as well an experimentation of nature. In its symbolic, environmental, and artistic nature, grafting allows creating a series of imaginary elements; to 'graft' fantastic species and anthropomorphic objects, animals and persons.

The final objective of this poetic and artistic operation was to achieve a unitary design that links local history, nature and territory. The operation was carried out by a series of workshops and a participatory exhibition which interacted with the community of Castelbuono.

The project is inspired by the process of medieval alchemy. Alchemy is something that transmutes the imagination. Symbols, allegories and ancient alchemic sources are boundless topics that are perceived only through an intuitive mastery to recognise the hidden contents of reality.

Making process

Domenico and Marieke received the raw manna from the local Madonie Consortium. The raw and unrefined manna was used in its natural state with its own impurities such as bark fragments and insects.

They experimented with three different cooking methods, aiming to understand the best way to work the sap: in a bain-marie, caramelised in an electric oven, burned with a wood fire. In a bain-marie the manna remained dense and gelatinous; in the electric oven, it caramelised and solidified into flakes; while the wood oven melted and finally carbonised the sap. They used both the flakes from the electric oven and the residues of carbonised manna. The solid flakes of manna obtained in the electric oven were then dissolved in water, acquiring a brown colour, while the carbonised fragments from the wood oven were ground with a mortar and finally filtered with various types of sieves until becoming a very fine powder. The processed raw material was transformed into a sort of pigment, diluted with water, and mixed with ash and clay, in order to be used as a covering glaze. You can choose to use this cold glaze as an engobe or fire the ceramics in an archaic wood-fired kiln.

Text submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank. For information about reproducing (a part of) this text, please contact the maker.

Future Materials Encounter

Future Materials Encounters are a series of workshops and conversations around the materials of the Future Materials Bank. Each event in the series focuses on a specific material, staging a conversation between the maker and the audience.

Ingredients

ash, clay, manna

Credits

Museo Civico di Castelbuono, Consorzio Manna Madonita, Italian Ministry of Culture/ PAC, European Ceramic Work Centre (Oisterwijk) (EKWC)