International Colour Day, 2014

Today is International Colour Day – nicely chosen to coincide with the Equinox.  Around this date, “night and day are equally long which symbolically juxtaposing the complementary nature of dark and light, of shadow and illumination, that are expressed in all human cultures“, Colour Group GB

pencil shards

To celebrate, here are some of my photos where I think colour speaks for itself. I know, I know, white isn’t a colour but I view it as utterly magnanimous because instead of absorbing or snatching wavelengths, it reflects and shares them straight back again thus becoming the most pure, peaceful and generous ‘colour’ in my mind…

White Peace

White Peace

Beautiful, Elegant Green

Beautiful, Elegant Green

Warning, Agressive Red

Warning, Agressive Red

Endlessly Creative Blue

Endlessly Creative Blue

Ray of Yellow Hope

Ray of Yellow Hope

For more colour inspiration have a look at the  Dulux Colour Awards 2014 which is run in partnership with The Guardian – definitely worth a look.

What colour are you feeling like today and how will you celebrate today, March 21st 2014, International Colour Day? 

St.Andrew’s Day and the Winner is…

It’s St.Andrew’s Day and as promised I will announce the winner of the gift pack competition, well two winners actually because my ice cold sleepy fingers pulled two names from the hat this morning.

Saltire and Union flag

I am delighted to tell you that Claire from Make Me a Frock and Sandra from The Colour of Ideas have both won their chosen gift pack. Thank you to everyone who entered and for all the ‘likes’ on my new Facebook page.

And talking of Facebook, have you ever wondered why Facebook’s page is blue? Reporter Jose Antonio Vargas asked founder Mark Zuckerberg that very question and Zuckerberg  explained he suffers from  a red-green colour blindness and that “blue is the richest colour for me — I can see all of blue.”

That’s a good practical reason to choose blue but colour perception is also based on memory of a colour. Consider how you felt as a child when your teacher marked big red crosses on wrong answers (I have real issues using red, perhaps I had rather a lot of wrong answers…) or how  you feel when you watch a red fire engine career towards a dangerous fire. Then think about a clear blue sky and you can understand why blue is such a cherished calm colour and red may stir an alert reaction in us. Of course many other factors play a role in colour perception including the colour’s wavelength and the process our brains go through to decode the wavelength into colour (red being the longest and most difficult wavelength to decode, which probably contributes to our increased heart rate when surrounded by red). life ring

Blue sky, blue sea, red and urgent looking life ring
But back to blue and I would like to wish everyone across Britain and beyond a happy St.Andrew’s Day from a beautiful clear and very cold day here in Edinburgh where there are many Creative Events taking place – I am looking forward to Karine Polwart’s concert at Queens Hall tonight, especially listening to her song, Cover Your Eyes which I first heard while watching the shocking documentary, You’ve Been Trumped a film I mentioned in Sand, Grasses and a Golf Resort.
Have a great weekend and everyone is welcome to drop in to a Christmas Open Studio Event at Red Leaf Studio, Boness this Sunday 12:00 – 4:30pm, it would be great to see you!
gull and blue sky

Connected, Globally, Locally and by the World’s Favourite Colour, Blue

I’ve been unplugged. Computer off, no blogging, no commenting, no texting. Effectively, I have been back in time. I’ve even tried to use cash rather than cards and it has been interesting. It was a conscious decision, a choice I made.

Why, you may well ask?

Unison pastel, hand rolled in Northumberland National Park

I was worried about the number of small shops closing down, shops who can’t compete with the internet. So I set myself a challenge of buying all my Christmas presents from a shop/fair/market/gallery rather than on line and only buying presents which are made in Britain. And guess what? Its easy and extremely enjoyable.

I love the internet, but its ease of use can sometimes let me forget what’s on my doorstep. I have some fantastic cyber friends – a journalist, Caitlin Broadside blog, Sandra, an artist  The Colour of Ideas, Elizabeth, a colour consultant EB Color Consultants, Betsy a jeweller betsy bensen jewellery , Claire, a poet and seamstress Make Me a Frock  all unbelievably talented people who genuinely inspire me whom I would never have met without the internet. However, I don’t want to forget about my friends around the block, none of which are bloggers – apart from Kellie at Food to Glow who writes a staggeringly informative and delicious food blog.

The internet also brings me work. I’ve just finished some photographic work for AGI magazine to illustrate an article on ultramarine written by art historian Alexandra Loske, an interesting academic who I connected with in cyberspace. I think I just want to make sure both worlds, cyber and tangible and more equally weighted.

And now to colour. I guess you know that the worlds favourite colour is blue?

It’s hardly a surprise considering three quarters of our planet is covered in sea and we look up to a seemingly endless blue sky (occasionally). From this perhaps we can deduce that we like familiarity. But familiarity is not what you get on the internet. For me, its the constantly new, unseen, unfamiliar images and snips of pristine information that draw my attention. That’s all good and I am quite sure we are all super- informed beings but I just want to make sure I don’t loose track of familiar things, local places, local friends, my micro world that needs supported more than the web machine which seems to generate its own immense energy. I needed to spend more time in the familiar world and its been a nice coincidence that I have been working with that wonderfully familiar colour blue.
I have also decided to take part in my first ever Craft Fair. I will have a stand at Market Tree Events Fair this Saturday 10th November in Cafe Camino just next to John Lewis. I am really looking forward to meeting the people who buy my designs as I never normally get the chance to meet them in person.
So here’s to staying connected in our parallel worlds, local and global both working successfully and all connected by the worlds favourite colour, blue.

Borrowing Themes From The Catwalk

Just in case you thought I had abandoned ship, (I was just distracted by the Olympics and  The International Edinburgh Festival) I thought I would share my photographs from the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the de Young Museum, San Francisco taken in July.

As I am not a fashion writer, I will not attempt to elaborate on the various themes and ideas behind Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs over the decades apart from to say that he is highly influenced by his grandmother whom he idolised and her collection of cloths. His designs celebrate the female form, sometimes with humorous undertones but always in ways to project inherent powers and strengths he sees in women.

As we all know, interior trends are deeply entwined with fashion trends and while looking at Gaultier’s mannequins  (which incidentally and quite unnervingly start speaking when you approach them) I enjoyed visualising potential interior projects with the colours, forms and themes Gaultier uses in his spectacular designs.

I am thinking Nautical boathouse fused with the 2012 trend for lace detailing – something Scottish lace mill MYB Textiles has been at the forefront of.

And the opulent and dominant boudoir interior…

and the current paint trend for David Oliver’s metallic mix of gold and silver for which he coined the term ‘gilver’. Celebrating the ‘hedonistic exuberance of the 1920’s ….associated with drama, power and wealth…but equally it can be simple, understated and quietly bewitching’,  David Oliver from Paint & Paper, A Master Class in Colour and Light.

with a nod to the current native interior references,

and tribal chic a predominant interior trend in 2012 where skins have been used extensively over many forms of seating –  more frequently sheepskins and deer skins draped over classic mid twentieth century Scandinavian designs.

Okay, so my parallels are a little tenuous but nevertheless they are all themes which have played a part in recent interior projects including this next image fusing punk, biker -rock, street with tartan, probably more in bars than domestic interiors but a strong influence for sure.

Talking of trends and themes, the most talked about colour for Winter 2012/13 appears to be Ox Blood, not a description I hugely cherish, perhaps an earthy beetroot cordial sounds more appealing but as it’s colour combinations that interest me I am paring the Ox blood with some squid ink (!) and I can suddenly see how this rich palette could make a big impact this Autumn.

London: a Riot of Colour

I have to admit to not quite knowing where to start with today’s post. I spent last week in London, a city that never fails to blow my mind, and last week was no exception. It was of course in the throws of London Fashion Week and the The Brit Awards which meant that the shop windows were groomed and styled to perfection.

Strong colour trends were clearly visible throughout London. Blocks of coral crashing into great chunks of Klein blue and 70’s purples anchored by spicy tans and cinnamon hues – tribal colours without the pattern, instead emerging in great blocky geometric shapes.

As if I needed any more colour stimulus, I made a trip to the David Hockney exhibition ‘A Bigger Picture’. Suddenly you find yourself looking at the English countryside though a new set of eyes. To say the exhibition is vibrant, energetic, zesty would somehow be an understatement. This huge exhibition positively bursts off the walls of the Royal Academy with a ramped up sense of optimism and freshness. I would strongly recommend you to watch Andrew Marr’s interview with David Hockney on last nights The Culture Show – so much can be learnt from the mind of this artistic genius. As Hockney says, ‘everything becomes interesting if you really look’, I couldn’t agree more.

looking at patterns and exaggerating colour in Fife

Space is something David Hockney often talks of, particularly where one thing stops and another thing starts. Where two colours meet is something I am intensely interested in as the energy created at the boundaries of adjoining colours is the perfect fusion of art and science. But infinite space is one of  Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s enduring obsessions.  Her show at Tate Modern is one of the most fascinating exhibitions I have ever seen.

It shows her work constantly changing over the decades which probably mirrors her life which includes living in rural Japan, New York, Tokyo and for the last thirty years living voluntarily in a  psychiatric institution where she has created work hoping to show the psychological trauma she so often feels and wants to escape from. Leaving the exhibition you must navigate through a darkened room covered in mirrors and tiny coloured lights which completely disorientate you and seem to stretch out to infinity. It really is something you should experience if you are in London.

Apologies for the lack of photographs on this post but I couldn’t take my camera into the exhibitions. I’ve also been very busy creating some new products – I’m still at the messy stage but I am really pleased with the pieces that I started in Iceland last month.  I hope to have images up soon!

Made in Britain

How important is it to you to buy products which have been grown or manufactured in your own country? Surely it’s a good way to get people back to work, instil some national pride and cut down on our carbon foot print?

Earlier this year I decided to produce a range of home wares and I was determined to design and manufacture them here in Great Britain. The first designs are a set of kitchen textiles which I think have architectural overtones. I am well aware that the market is awash with decorative kitchen textiles but I was keen to produce something for the contemporary kitchen – my designs can’t be described as pretty, and a friend actually thought they were quite masculine but I was pleased with that, it’s what I intended!

The designs are all screen printed – a long process but the best process for obtaining vibrant colours and colours that stay truer for longer. Digital printing is fine for some things but as it’s strong flat colour that interests me, screen printing was the answer (all the inks are water based causing minimal environmental impact). I decided to print onto linen union because the texture and slubs you find on linen gives the product more character.

So, they are designed and printed in Great Britain (including the brand label which has been woven) but I have paid the cost of taking this route. I hope it works out (I could have had them printed abroad for a fraction of the cost) but it gives me immense satisfaction having them produced here in Great Britain – I hope it is important to buyers too. I thought it was interesting to see that a new Made in UK  logo is set to appear in our shops next year.

My retailers would prefer me not to display the textiles until they have the stock (by the end of the month) which is why I have only inserted a tiny image of my proofs above.

Below are some of the reasons why I like living and working in Scotland. Where do you live and why?

Choosing External Paint Colours

It struck me that the majority of my posts have been concerned with colours for interiors but of course external colour selection is something I spend a lot of time considering.

I really enjoy selecting colours for commercial shop fronts as studies have shown that certain colours can actually drive more customers through a door. Being able to evaluate the effect of a colour with statistics is a really different way of looking at colour choice and obviously an important one for a business owner.

Position of colour on a building also plays a pivotal role. It is usually more pleasing to have “heavier”(darker) colours closer to the ground and lighter colours above as it helps to “ground” a building and in turn feels easier on the eye. This is normally referred to as “architectural order”. Reverse this and you have “typographical order” – like newspapers which use heavier colours at the top of a page in order to create a banner.

However, you will see some shops displaying typographical order as they may want to create a brand “banner” above the entrance.

And then of course you must look at colour association. It’s no coincidence that many fine wine shop fronts are painted red,

red wine colour

travel agents azure blue,

sea and sky blue

organic food shops green,

environmentally aware green

 spas violet,

purple, regal and spiritual

and this delicate bridal shop,

shell pink oozing femininity

However, a recent client, a farmer, commissioned Shepherd Huts to be hand built by Plankbridge ,a wonderful artisan company based in Dorset. The idea is that she will disperse the huts throughout a forested piece of land on her farm and will rent them out to holiday makers. She was really keen to choose colours for her shepherd huts that would meld into the natural environment – not to be camouflaged as the huts are beautiful but they had to related to the natural colours in the trees around them. On occasions like this, the best way to start is to analyse the existing colours in the immediate surroundings. I am always amazed how often violet grey pops up – a fantastically useful subtle and delicate colour in decoration and one which pairs so well with many other colours.

silver birch bark - Scotland

palm tree bark - Lisbon

plane tree bark - France

So next time you find yourself out shopping or taking a holiday in a Shepherds Hut (!) take a moment to look at the colours – there is often an interesting process behind the selection.

Two Summer Colours to Keep

As I sit here at 55 latitude, I have to report that summer has definitely vanished. The shops are filling up with heavy textiles and the colour palettes are rapidly changing.

However, it is still August, so I thought I would pin up some summery palettes and interestingly each image contains one colour that is going to hang on well into Winter 2011.

Sulphurous yellow is likely to be a key micro colour this winter. Used for details to lift a moody room, or on the catwalk to make fun of  grown up tailoring, its presence even on very small areas will be felt.

Inky midnight blue is another colour I think we will see but this time on larger areas. Not a conventional navy, more a bruised navy heading towards off-black. A great backdrop for artwork and a colour that can easily add sophisticated drama to an interior. Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue fits the bill but if you are looking for less saturation, Paint & Paper Library’s Blue Blood is a stylish “easy on the eyes” blue. Little Greene’s Juniper Ash  a hazy airforce blue-grey  would be a softer choice while Valtti “St.Peter’s Boat” a powerful blue-black would create an interesting feature wall.

Put the two colours together and you have a great combination – perhaps it’s not so bad we are marching towards Autumn……

The Hues of Decay

For a paint consultant to love peeling, flaky, rusty decayed surfaces is a bit of an anomaly but I do confess I am totally drawn to such weathered features. I have tried to figure out why this should be so, surely I should be seeking out squeaky clean well maintained pristine examples of paint but no, it’s definitely the ones “in need of attention” that catch my eye.

Of course the reason I and so many others are attracted to these surfaces is because they have created their own unique colour palettes – salt, oxygen, water, pollutants, resins all acting together in an open air chemistry lab to produce a vast selection of colours that we paint consultants can match and use in projects – but generally replicate on smooth and perfect surfaces……

It’s high time I thanked my subscribers for reading and commenting on my blog – you’ve no idea how much I appreciate it. I would also like to point out that I got quite a shock yesterday when I saw my blog on a pc. I work on a mac so the colours I am looking at are much lighter and brighter than the colours on a pc. This is rather an issue as most of the time as you know, I write about colour. It would be interesting to know how many of you are pc users. If it’s a lot, I will try to lighten up my images, just let me know. I also hope you don’t find my way of spelling colour too irritating –  I know most of my readers are American and Canadian, again just let me know!

Blue Horizon

Having spent the last two days walking round Scotland’s North East Fife Coast I am now flicking through my rather enormous collection of photographs from the trip and clearly see why analogous colour schemes are often referred to as harmonious.

Analogous palettes normally consist of three adjacent colours on the colour wheel. The middle colour is chosen as the lead or dominant colour in a scheme while the others take on more of a supporting role.

If you look at combinations of colours in nature, particularly landscapes, you will notice they are frequently analogous which is why they look and feel harmonious to us – useful to know if you want to create a calm and serene room with little contrast and a seamless feel. It’s also a good way of simplifying an awkwardly shaped room.