Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I'm a Colour Nerd

Yes I'm a colour nerd. I notice colour all the time - I work with it after all. But I am also interested in the story of dyes and pigments. You can see the crazed excitement on my face when I visited the old ochre factory in Roussillon, Provence. 

The factory closed in the 1940s but there is a museum and shop there now. And this installation of worker's shirts and bags of ochre.

The ochre was open pit mined and then washed through this flume to let the sand settle out. The muddy water was then drained out through these holes into sludge pools where it was left to evaporate over the summer.

The gift shop was wonderful. 

The town of Roussillon is painted with the locally produced ochres. 

As well as paint I am interested in dyes and was happy to see these oak galls for sale. They are a traditional source of tannin - used for tanning leather but also in dyeing for their reaction with the irons found in ochres. They are made by small worms living on oak trees.

And this funny picture shows the thing that excited me the most. Found not at Roussillon but in the village of Mazan museum. It is an old fork used for digging up madder root. Before imports of the insect cochineal from the New World and the later invention of chemical dyes madder root was Europe's main source of red. This fork was so heavy I could hardly lift it. My charming tour guide said that two men were needed to operate it and the guy who had to use his left hand got paid more.

My friends and I all started to become more aware of colour and two of us decided to wear purple on the day we went looking for lavender. 

We also started to notice strange things like the morning all  five of our coffee cups matched what we were wearing. 

And the morning we went to the market in Mazan - accidentally wearing matching outfits. 

And my favourite colour memory from my trip - the evening the sky matched the colour of my rose wine.