Purple, violet, mauve

Purple-curtainsYou may or may not have noticed, depending on how much you use Google, that earlier this week Google marked an interesting textiles red-letter day, or should that be purple-letter day.

google-celebrates-perkinThe folks at Google uploaded the above rather charming Google Doodle to celebrate the birthday of William Henry Perkin who was born on 12 March 1838. Perkin was the man who discovered the first synthetic dye, aniline purple.

Purple-clothThere is an interesting short article describing his pioneering work deriving a purple dye from coal tar on the Selvedge Magazine Blog.

The discovery of aniline dyes and, in particular, a purple dye, provided the opportunity for the mass production of purple coloured cloth. Up until the 19th century there was a long-held convention of royalty exclusively wearing purple garments. A tradition that originated with the royal and aristocratic families of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Imperial family of the Roman Empire. In Renaissance England Elizabeth 1, a shrewd monarch with a fine instinct for understanding the value of visual propaganda, added to the many Sumptuary Laws governing how folk were permitted to dress, and proclaimed that only close members of the Royal family were allowed to wear purple.

Purple-silk-cushion-scarfPurple textiles had been incredibly expensive as they were coloured with Tyrian dye collected from sea snails with approximately 10,000 molluscs needed to produce about one gram of the dye.

Purple-face-silk-scarfLooking through my recent work I have hardly used any true purple (as seen in the third photograph above) and it is a dye that works well on silk producing an extremely rich  colour.

Three-lilacFurthermore, I only have three scarves in my shop at the moment that have lilac(ish) backgrounds. Of course, I might be very tempted now to use a lot more purple as I have just read that the Colour of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet (perhaps why Google chose to celebrate Perkin?).

Purple-shapes-silk-scarfMaybe, I am at the turning point of a personal ‘colour cycle’ as some of my older pieces feature purple accents and one of my favourite chiffons from about 20 years ago shows a saint dressed in deep purple and burgundy. Perhaps it’s farewell to pastels and pinks for a while, mind you I am not holding my breath on that one!

Purple-clothed-saint

 

 

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Going to the Prom – an English version

Prom-commission-topEarlier this year I was asked to paint some silk that was to be made up into a Prom dress. Now commissions are great, but I’m always slightly nervous about creating the look and feel that a client is expecting. Good communication is essential.

From the outset I endeavour to get a firm handle on what specific colours are required. The kind of tonal range, bright or muted, in a calm or busy design with small or large motifs, are all considered. And, to this end, and being the 21st century, the young client sent me a digital mood board.

lilac orange mood board
A 21st century mood board!

Before I started on the five metres of chiffon I painted a few sample pieces and finally a chiffon scarf as examples of my interpretations for the brief. And, this scarf design and colours, Valeria lilac, was chosen, but with the note – ‘I like it all except the green, please.’

When I’m painting several metres of silk I try to keep the motif sizes consistent but for this piece I still wanted them loose enough to give the impression of the design flowing across the surface.

There is no true repeat, but the finished five metres still has coherence.

Phew - five metres finished and now for the steamer.
Phew – five metres finished and now for the steamer.

Once the silk chiffon has been steamed the colours are fixed and now their actual slightly brighter colours can be seen. This is the point where the dress lining colour is chosen. I think the unique beauty of chiffon, is the way the colours change subtly as they float over different backgrounds.

The richness of the plum in the chiffon was brought out by the darkest burgundy silk lining. I dyed the white habotai lining using an acid dye in a hot dye bath with a vinegar mordant. The lining was rinsed, dried and along with the finished chiffon parcelled up and sent off to the dressmaker. My part done!

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-prom-commission