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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Thinking with color

I have a problem with plum. To be more specific, I have a nearly pathological obsession with the color, plum. It's not just that I like the color. If I see it, and a very specific dark, almost black shade of it, I lose my mind. I NEED TO HAVE IT. It doesn't matter what the IT is. If it's a jacket, a bag, a pen, a bottle of fountain pen ink, a notebook--if it comes in a very particular shade of plum, I will think about it day and night until I make it mine.

Just a (very) few of my plum things

I've had this relationship with color for as long as I can remember. I have a slightly less intense but nearly as compulsive desire for things in a specific shade of teal, dark blue, red.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that colors have a powerful effect over me. It certainly helped that I was raised by a father whose main approach to father/daughter bonding was dragging me to whatever museum or gallery he had an invitation to that week, so I was exposed to lots of different colors, and approaches to color, from as far back as I can remember. I also always had access to all the art supplies I could imagine. Artists like sharing their supplies with kids, and encouraging kids to draw and paint and make. My earliest memories are of hanging out with art students when my dad was studying at Pratt, being encouraged to be creative (including drawing all over our apartment walls...I had very permissive parents), learning the joy of making. And color was always a part of the joy of making for me.

On my most recent trip to Japan, I spent 2 exhausting but wonderful days wandering around Kyoto searching for color inspirations. One of my fascinations with Japanese design is the way colors considered clashing or inappropriate in the West are used together with utmost ease. Kimono fashions have changed over the centuries, but one of the constants is that concepts of what colors go together are very different from what are considered complementary colors in the West. And I love the unlikely color combinations in wafuku (Japanese clothing). And this is something that seems to be true for my Japanese friends as well. Some of my designs only appeal to them, but especially appeal to them, because they find the colors calming and comforting. This approach to color is part of what makes Japan an eternal home for us.

Some scraps of fabric I found in Kyoto

Part of the fun of coming up with my own designs is exploring unusual or unique color combinations, ones that make sense to my Japanese soul. I love putting light blues with plums, or reds with greens, or grass green with maroon. There is really no end to the possibilities.

I've been studying Japanese textiles, an area not really in my wheelhouse, to seek out new inspirations. There are so many possibilities, so many options! I can't wait to test out new designs as I start this new year.

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