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? 

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21st March 2013 is International Colour Day!

Did you know it is International Colour Day this Thursday 21st March?

Logo designed by Hosanna Yau

Logo designed by Hosanna Yau

President of the Association International de la Coleur (AIC), Berit Bergström explains very well in this extract why we should celebrate this day.

An international colour day has been considered as appropriate since colour is, thanks to sight, one of the most influential phenomena in people’s lives and also one of the channels that most greatly contributes to the perception of reality. All around the world memorable colour activities are developed during the same day.
The proposal to establish this international colour day is spread throughout our international network and has been supported by its members. AIC is today represented by 38 different nations and I hope that you all will start your preparations for celebrating March 21st 2013!
The adoption of an international day of colour and light was proposed in 2008 by Maria Joao Durao, the Portuguese Association. Light and colour are inseparable. Colour is always connected with light, without light no colour therefore an international colour day will also celebrate the light.
Few things affect us as much as colour. It plays a vital part in our surroundings, whether at work, in public spaces or in our homes. Colour and light seem to interest everybody and are such a common component of our existence that we don’t give it a thought, in spite of all vision. All surfaces are coloured.  Colour has an outstanding role in our society and tells us much about different cultures as a crucial aspect in defining our identity.
WHY MARCH 21ST?
March 21st, every year the “equinox” – aequus (equal) and nox (night).
Around the equinox, the night and day are approximately equally long, symbolically relating to the complementary nature of light and darkness, light and shadow expressed in all human cultures.
Many different colour activities can be arranged worldwide in such a day. Here are some of the activities and events that could be unfolded on the International Colour Day:
•       Arts exhibitions, architectural projects, design, decoration, fashion….
•       Meetings, debates, scientific events…..
•       Workshops on the use of colour and light for both adults and children.
•       Contests on colour and light design.
•       Decide your identity colour, and wear it and use it during this day!
•       Start discussions…..
 
I realise it will be difficult to think more than usual about colour on Thursday because I   analyse colour and colour combinations all the time, every single day. I find it impossible to go anywhere without giving the colours around me a lot of thought. It’s a habit that can on occasion be quite tiring because I find it almost impossible to stop analysing and have a clear or empty head. I was attempting to explain this to a friend last week to find out if she did this too. I have come to the conclusion that we all look for different things despite looking at exactly the same view. I tend to immediately get rid of the detail and pull the view into simplistic flat blocks of colour. I didn’t think it was an odd habit until I started talking about it! I expect some people will be more interested in intricate details and be inspired by ornamentation or light and shadow. I think perhaps it is because I get confused when I am surrounded by too much detail and I therefore automatically start simplifying my surroundings.
How do you look at things?
I have tried to demonstrate in the photos below what I tend to do, let me know if you do this too!
Primary blocks
Teal, white grey
Red, white and blue
pink roses, deep door
On  Colour Day this year, I have decided to do a quick tally on what colour interior magazines are using on their front cover titles – should be a fun task and interesting to see what they think we are currently responding too.
How will you celebrate it?

When Inspiration Deserts You

It’s been a while since I last posted and that’s because something rather strange happened to me. To put it bluntly, my inspiration evaporated, vanished, dried up (partly due to a rather long bout of labyrinthitis) . Oh dear, I know on social media we are all meant to be oozing with creativity and positive energy but for one day only I will break the unspoken ‘bubbly’ rule. However, I am delighted to report, that finally I am back on track and raring to go. Phew, about time!

orange hull, violet below.

orange hull, violet below.

I mentioned previously that I am working on some woven textiles using blended colours and with this in mind  I photographed some of the huge ships docked at Leith, Edinburgh’s commercial quay this morning. I hope you enjoy the colour blends and shapes which were boosted by the glorious sunshine we have here today.

blue stripes, red overall

blue stripes, red overall

orange hull and below
metal stripes

metal stripes

orange hull, blue tape

orange hull, blue tape

sun through containers

sun through containers

I enjoy reading great blogs and comments from jewellers, cooks, artists, poets, writers and dress makers and all your posts come thick and fast. Does inspiration ever evade you? And if so, what do you do?

January = Creative Time

So, here we are in January scuttering back to work but oddly enough it’s one of my favourite months. Being the first month of a brand new year, January gives me renewed focus and an excuse to try out new techniques (in other words a month where I feel no guilt about spending more time on creative projects and less time on administrative and business tasks!)

clay men by Lawrence Epps

Clay Commuting Men by Lawrence Epps

For those of us living in Edinburgh, another bonus about January is that the National Galleries of Scotland  mount a beautiful Turner exhibition. The extensive collection of paintings was bequeathed to the Gallery with instructions that they must be ‘exhibited to the public all at one time, free of charge, during the month of January’ and this has been faithfully adhered to for over 100 years.

As its normally abstract expressionism that inspires me, I find visiting the Turner exhibition each year a great way of shifting my ‘normal’ way of thinking to considering other ideas.

Butting blocks of solid flat colour against each other is something I will never tire of as the energy that is created between two sparring colours or indeed the harmonious marriage of related colours discovering each other is an infinite source of enjoyment for me. However, the pure romanticism of the Turner paintings with their semi-transparent colour washes capturing stunning moods across the paper, or as Johannes Itten described as “a psychio-expressive medium to lend mood to a landscape” made me think about translucent colours and colour gradation.

air colour gradation

As you know, colour gradation has been a popular trend over the last year and  Danish brand Hay have designed stunning textiles using this technique. You will probably have noticed shop windows filled with clothes in colour gradations and teenagers adorning ‘dip dyed’ hair.

Shop window, London So with this in mind and with the plan to have some textiles woven by one of our  fabulous mills in Scotland (and there are many with incredible craft men and woman producing staggeringly high quality textiles), I am currently working on designs with gradients punctuated by solid beams of colour. It’s early days and I am still at a messy creative stage in the process but that’s what January is all about.

My etsy shop is now up and running as is unifiedspace on facebook and pinterest and I have an alternative blog, nikispace, for those short on time and  just looking for a picture rather than words – I told you I was having fun in January!

Photo taken in the Rolf Sachs 'Journey of an Ink Drop' exhibition

Photo taken in the Rolf Sachs ‘Journey of an Ink Drop’ exhibition

Inside the Mill at Bute Fabrics

Do you find that every once in a while a day comes along that blows your mind?

I am glad to say this happened to me last week when Bute Fabrics kindly invited me to see their mill on the Isle of Bute. It has to be said that arriving at the beautiful Victorian railway station at Wemyss Bay and walking onto the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to sail over to Bute is a pretty good way to start to the day.

As I mentioned in my last post, production is something I find completely intriguing and walking into the mill at Bute fabrics was no exception. The mill has a similar feel to a whisky distillery in that it is made up of a series of long low buildings and the tour involves dashing outside from one building to another between wind, rain and the odd deer. However, there is no disguising the fact that this mill is making miles and miles of crafted fabric because the constant clack clack of the looms emanates around the site.

A quick glance around and you ask the question, how on earth does this complex set of odd looking machinery mean anything to anyone? How on earth does a single piece of yarn fed in at one end become a bale of highly prized designer cloth at the other? But cloth woven in this very room on this small Scottish island is being shipped off to customers such as Bank of America, Chap Lek Hok airport Hong Kong, the Sheraton Hotel in Moscow and Royal Festival Hall, London. Well the process can happen because the mill employs passionate people who have real skills. There was a tangible feeling of pride and heritage amongst the people I spoke to. Quite simply, they know they are producing something very good indeed and they are proud of it.

For me, discovering that Bute not only have their own range of cloth but can weave bespoke cloth in virtually any Pantone colour was the icing on the cake (I hope to visit the dyers in the Scottish Borders next). Can you imagine the possibilities this can open up? I firmly believe that designing home wares with a high quality raw material one needs to add very little embellishment at all. A simple form in the perfect colour in a natural material is hard beat.  Finding the perfect ingredients and then setting out to design something with it, in my mind is a pretty exciting way to start a project. Good raw materials speak for themselves.

This mill is only two hours away from where I work, which is quite far in Scottish terms but in reality is ridiculously close. The point I would like to make in this post is to encourage anyone reading this to find out what is being produced in their own area (and sometimes its not always very obvious) and just think of the opportunities it could offer. Embracing what we do well locally I am quite sure will help restore national pride. I for one am very proud to be from a country with mills such as Bute fabrics. What does your country or area produce that makes you feel proud?

Why do Colours Have a Visual Weight?

Have you ever wondered why some colours look heavier than others?

The strange thing about this question is that we instinctively know which colours appear heavier and which lighter. I can hear you say, “of course we know. Darker colours appear heavier than paler colours”. Yes, true but it’s not quite that simple.

If you paint two identically sized squares with equally saturated hues, one red and the other yellow, the red square will appear heavier.

equally saturated & sized red and yellow squares

The heaviest looking colour is red, closely followed by blue, then green while yellow appears the lightest. But why is it that there is a weight hierarchy for two dimensional colours?

Obviously if you paint a three dimensional brick  yellow and then weigh it, the physical weight of the brick will be the same had you painted it red. But our brains will conclude that the red brick appears heavier than the yellow one.

Psychologist Edward Bullough conducted an experiment in 1907 where he divided a ten foot wall in half horizontally and gave his subjects two buckets of paint. One bucket was filled with red paint, the other with pink. He asked them to paint each half of the wall in a different colour.

Virtually all of his subjects painted red at the bottom with pink above. As we instinctively find red to be visually heavier than its paler cousin pink, it is interesting that most of us prefer to see the heavier colour at the bottom of the wall. If red was used above the line, the wall would look top heavy and make us feel uncomfortable. So we like heavier colours closer to the ground and as red looks heavier that pink, it feels more natural for us to put red at the base of the wall. We seem to be applying gravitational forces to our selection of colour placement even though we know logically that the physical weights are the same!

I expect we are environmentally conditioned to use dark colours closer to the ground with lighter ones above as we are accustomed to solid dark earth under our feet and the pale sky and air above. We are therefore subconsciously emulating an environment that is familiar and comfortable to us.

Pinkerton and Humphrey conducted some experiments on colour weight in 1974. They concluded that perceived weight of colour “is independent of brightness as coloured circles, equal in brightness, differ considerably in apparent weight while achromatic stimuli which differ in brightness do not”. Perhaps its just me but I find it fascinating that our brains order colour like this. Oddly enough scientists still don’t know exactly why we give colour an associated weight. I can’t find any up- to- date research on the subject which I think is rather odd. If anyone knows anything further, please let me know!

Colour weight of course is very important when designing a balanced harmonic interior. In a  public space a designer will normally want to make visitors feel at ease. However some public spaces can be designed to be unbalanced intentionally in order to play with the visitors emotions and create an edgy and unexpected almost awkward experience. This has been achieved at the Imperial War Museum North where the shapes and angles of the building create a tense feeling perfectly suited for a museum about wars.

In domestic interiors it is usual (but not a rule) to create a seamless flow around the house in which case it is best to use colours of equal weight thus avoiding an abrupt change from room to room. If you are using a commercial paint colour chart strip like Dulux for instance, it’s easy to choose several hues which are arranged in the same horizontal position on each colour strip.

However, there are many examples particularly public spaces where architects have placed colour in positions which are unorthodox (and go against normal rules) and in doing so created some breath taking spaces……..more about some of these spaces in my next post.

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!

Short of Inspiration? Visit Reykjavik, That Will Fix You

Having spent the last few nights standing on a remote snow covered lava field in Pingvellir National Park Iceland, I had hoped to be posting magnificent images of the aurora borealis but I’m afraid the famous Northern Lights did not play ball despite the near perfect conditions.

There are however, enough colours in Reykjavik city centre to melt the head of any colour lover.

Coloured facades, Reykjavik.

Iceland is well known for it’s contrasts – fire and ice, dark winters light summers but I hadn’t expected to find so many contrasts in the world of design. I didn’t spot a single international chain shop or restaurant, instead I found row upon row of individual shops/work spaces with the makers living above or behind their showrooms. The designers are using a huge range of ancient craft techniques and creating cutting edge designs to satisfy the hunger of the design conscious locals but also to ship to the best galleries and design stores in New York. In short, very traditional techniques are being used to make ultra contemporary styles.

design spaces Reykjavik

The Icelandics don’t appear to be influenced by design trends abroad, they have their own unique and extremely strong sense of design and as a result are producing some of the most exciting pieces I have seen in years. One of the most impressive workshops I visited was one which was attached to restaurant Forrettabarinn. There, four designers make and display their furniture, jewellery and textiles. It felt a little like some of the venues at London Design Festival, a smaller version of Tent London perhaps but with designers I had never come across making very powerful pieces that I would loved to have taken home with me.

Another striking contrast were the deeply minimal, squeaky clean public buildings (lots of black concrete and stainless steel) which were peppered with tiny elements of highly decorative antiques especially crockery. Oddly enough this gave the sometimes fairly austere and rather serious spaces a fantastic sense of quirky humour.

Minimal working with decorative

I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning the ridiculously cool Kex Hostel in downtown Reykjavik. It’s housed in a converted biscuit factory and is stuffed full of twentieth century design classics. It has one of Reykjavik’s best bars where jazz bands play and many a celebration takes place. It summed up Reykjavik to me – work hard, play hard and always, always creative.

Kex Hostel

Colour Specification, a Female Occupation….. Really?

I’ve never been particularly interested in gender traits and try to avoid stereotyping but someone made a comment to me last week that inspired me to do a little research around colour and gender.

I’m not talking about which colours males or females prefer – there is plenty written about this already, I was intrigued to read that throughout history, scholars have claimed that females respond to and feel colour more than their male counterparts.

However, when reading a little deeper on the subject, this theory seems to have stemmed or perhaps been reinforced by nineteenth century French art critics such as Charles Blanc who valued drawing skills over colour and as far as I can interpret,  assumed males to be the dominant sex and so ‘delegated’ colour which was of secondary importance in his eyes, to the female sex. In his book Grammaire du Dessin he writes, ‘drawing is the masculine gender of Art, colour its feminine one’ and goes on to state, ‘painting courts its own destructions and will be corrupted by colour as humanity was corrupted by Eve’ . Wow, strong opinions there then but on a positive note just shows how far we have moved on with regard to equal rights.

There are countless other texts written in a similar vein so I think it may help explain the comment made to me last week which triggered this research.

I was waiting in my local paint shop while the technician mixed my NCS paint colours. The very helpful and friendly manager popped out to chat to me and asked about my latest project. I told him I was specifying colour for a new restaurant and he responded, ‘ah, girly stuff then’. I don’t think he meant to be rude, and I  wasn’t offended, I was just curious that he perceived this type of work to be ‘girly’. If in the twenty first century, colour consultancy is perceived as a female domain, (and this comes as a surprise to me) could it really have just stemmed from sexism in the art world where colour was viewed as secondary to form and therefore dished out to the ‘weaker’ sex?

John Gage in his book, Colour and Meaning  highlights the fact that even the leading mid twentieth century German colour theorist Rupprecht Matthai actively left all judgements of colour harmony to his wife, again reinforcing the notion that colour somehow belongs in the female world. However, Gage also queries whether views on colour and gender may also have a biological as well as cultural basis. He refers to the work of M.Sahlins, ‘Colour and Cultures’,  where it was found that colour defective vision is nearly one hundred times more common among white males than among white females.

I think wherever our views derive from about colour and gender, they all need to be taken with a large pinch of salt. I certainly know many expert males and females working in colour specification so once again, I think I will steer away from any form of stereotyping and assume that there are talented people from both genders working in the fascinating and powerful world of colour.

2012 Warms Up

While Pantone have chosen Tangerine Tango to be their Colour of the Year for 2012,  Dulux opted for a lively juicy red but Crown paints have launched a whole new colour palette, New Directions ,which is intended to encourage us to mix traditional colour groupings together i.e pastels with neons, brights with neutrals, neutrals with pastels (but all still under pinned by neutral grey). So it looks like 2012, Apocalypse or not, is going to be a colourful year with plenty of trending hues emerging from the warm side of the spectrum.

Back blogging on January 5th

It will be interesting to see what iconic Danish brand Vipp will choose for 2012 as their 2011 colour was ‘rising red’ – I will tell you as soon as they announce it but I have a feeling we may see something with a violet tone to it.

Anyway, lots to look forward to but most of all I would like to take this opportunity to thank all subscribers and readers of my blog for being so supportive and jumping in with brilliant comments throughout the year. As all bloggers know, receiving feedback is what it’s all about, so thank you all very much indeed and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to catching up with you around the 5th of January 2012 for another colourful year.