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From the Weirdo Toolbox : Earth Art by Laura Zepeda

Laura Zepeda is an inspirational earth artist in that she has completely invented her own tools, supplies and techniques using roughly crushed earth and minerals to make “paintings” that literally glow like a gemstone. Here is her description of this interesting process….


I have no idea what I’m doing but a thousand ways to do it: I’m equal parts Artist and Mad Scientist. I’m making this up as I go along. I am not only creating art, but also the tools and materials I use to make it. I’ve spent sixteen years collecting and preparing colorful mineral samples to use as a rough pigment for highly textured paintings on canvas with surprising natural color, made using a variety of acrylic gel mediums. It is unlike any other art medium I’ve used: its unusual challenges have led to the invention of strange tools and equipment, mostly from an oddball assortment of found objects, repurposed household items, and packaging scraps that could qualify me for an episode of Hoarders. Brushes are of limited use: fine grains of mineral sand will ruin the bristles, so I got creative. Obsessed, really: I’m fully aware of how strange it is.

Is that a pot of soup on the stove? Better ask: maybe I’m boiling some beach sand. Is she casting a spell? Why is there sparkly dust everywhere? I’m just using my granite mortar and pestle to grind mica, and sifting it with water, a baby medicine dropper, and a wire strainer to separate different size grains of my favorite glittery mineral.

And then there’s the Weirdo Toolbox. There are no commercially available tools that fit my needs, so invention is an integral part of my creative process, and it’s so delightfully odd and quirky, but it works. There is a pure, childish joy in fusing random elements to create a perfect specialty tool. Who knew a plastic collar stay glued to a popsicle stick could make a person so happy? My magnetic studio space is a work of art by itself: my brightest earthen pigments in little plastic containers, arranged by color on a wire brochure display rack turned on its side. I’ve also created a magnetic “easel palette” to secure a small painting as well as tools, pigments, and mediums on a portable workspace. If I need a tool that hasn’t been invented yet, the Weirdo Toolbox will deliver.




All this auxiliary activity can feel like a distraction from the actual artwork, but it also puts me in a constant state of creative problem-solving. It’s like keeping the water running so the pipes don’t freeze. Even in the painting process there is a lot of drying time to fill. I’ve learned a lot of patience from this kooky experiment. Crushing rocks can be very cathartic, a meditative process that helps me slow down my approach to art. Primarily small, intimate “snapshots” of the natural world, these rough Nature-hued artworks are largely free of the emotional apparitions that populate my sketchbook. This contemplative artistic practice is the calm eye of my storm; the peace after I have endured it.

Laura Z can be reached via email at [email protected]; To learn more, visit her on Facebook at, or follow her new blog, The Weirdo Toolbox, at

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