Saffron: A start

Saffron: A Start

Last year I attended a lecture about the super exotic spice saffron, given by Sally Francis of the Norfolk Saffron Company. It was completely captivating, from its history, its botany, the worldwide trade, the complex picking and drying procedures and its many and often bizarre uses.

Thanks to Sally, the saffron industry in the East of England is alive and well.

Over the last year I have been sporadically researching and thinking about it all. I now have a big file of documents and a couple of sketchbooks full of ideas. In January I was ready to work on a book project which explores some of these fascinating facts and fictions. If Covid had not come along I would have been finishing it now but I have had to postpone the main body of the work until next year. The extra time I have should mean a better end result .. I am hoping so anyway.

I had made some initial sketches and occasionally made various trial prints and as before with the Colour of Birds book I started looking at the glorious colours of saffron.  Doing the colour studies helps to start me thinking about possibilities and prints etc etc. So here are a few prelim sketches from an actual flower from last Autumn.



And then a booklet I have just completed. It was a simple project to explore the colours a bit more, look at shapes and use my little proofing press to print and overprint a single wooden block to achieve a mix of soft colours in each block.
I added a few of the words specific to the Saffron business which are, in themselves, fascinating, bound that with a simple Japanese stab binding and made a folder to contain it in. Good practice for binding. My greatest achievement with all this was in keeping the back and margins of all the prints clean!


There are 10 colour blocks interleaved with Japanese paper which have cut outs of the shapes relating to the colours.


I made some paper to use as endpaper and an interleaving sheet using the S shape.. (see below)




The last colour is a brilliant yellow with an added “S” shape.  The “S” is the form of the beautiful saffron buns from Sweden. The St Lucia “Lussekatter” saffron buns made traditionally in December. The shape is the curl of a cat’s tail.
I will definitely make some this year.


Should you want some saffron you will have to wait until Sally’s new season, later this year but its so worth waiting for. The quality is very high and the colour of the threads just glorious.  I have cooked buns and various risottos and the flavour and colour the saffron brings is quite unique.


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  1. Gabrielle Richardson

    Hi Val

    How wonderful, what a beautiful result.
    I wish I could say I had been as productive.
    Let’s hope this madness is over soon.
    Love Gay x

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