Friday, February 8, 2019


After the holidays I managed to cross paths with a cold bug that laid me low for what seemed like an endless session of coughing and nose blowing. Since I was not up to my usual elaborately plotted novel as bedtime reading, I tried a book I had bought on a recommendation I read somewhere, The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair.

It was the perfect option, although I probably would have loved it whenever I got around to picking it up. But these brief two or three page snippets about a particular shade in a color family were the right length for my attention span between coughing spells. And it is full of actual colors as the edges of the pages subtly change from ultramarine to cobalt to indigo to Prussian blue.

The book looks at color from a variety of perspectives--from some descriptions of the actual chemical processes that produced a hue, with sometimes lethal side effects for those who created them or those who used them (lead seems to show up too often as a crucial element in color production) to how colors were named or used to attempts at capturing their essence (Kandinsky: "Orange is like a man, convinced of his own powers.") And all the human emotions are here as well, from delight to greed. One amusing story from the 13th century describes how the folks who sold madder, which produced a red dye, were feeling threatened by the rising popularity of woad, a plant in the indigo family that produced a blue color. The madder merchants somehow convinced the stained glass makers to help them undercut this upstart blue by making the devils in stained glass windows blue and hoped guilt by association would do the trick. Their ploy did not work. Woad kept gaining in popularity until another indigo plant that was processed more easily was discovered. 

I highly recommend this book, particularly when you need a distraction from an annoying cold--or from annoying news you can't get out of your head.

And then there is the distraction of color itself. An order of perle cotton arrived and a pile of glorious color sat on my cutting table for a while, warming my soul every time I wandered into the studio with a box of tissues.

Linked with Off the Wall Friday


Shannon said...

I can't wait to see what you're going to make with that wonderful perle cotton- and I'll have to check out that book!

Linda M said...

That book is on my wish list, I guess I'd better get it. Love the pile of pearl cotton and I'm with Shannon, I can't wait to see what you do with it.

Andree G. Faubert said...

Hi Madalene, I really hope that you're feeling better. Thanks for the book recommendation. It sounds wonderful. It's now in my "Want to read" list :-)