sort by colour

Stepping into the Royal Academy‘s first room I gasped at the voluptuous deep scarlet  walls hung with sumptuously coloured paintings; it was such a thrill, a heady rush for me. As I took it all in a young man approached me with a pen and pad. ‘What name would you give that blue there?’ he asked – ‘and that one in the background?’ I suggested cerulean for the first one and a mottled ultramarine for the second, remarking that he’d picked a good questionee. My friend laughed – ‘well look at the colours you’re wearing’ – sharp mustard linen jacket, turquoise silk tee printed with little jewel paisleys, french blue trousers, bright red birkies with matching toenails, marigold shoulder bag. Yes, I was a good choice for a colour namer.

The red wall stayed with me, and I just couldn’t resist painting it. At the very same moment of emailing the new suggestion off to my customer in flew a pic from him – of a reference with a rich vermilion ground! Good timing.

I so miss talking about colour with my sister – we shared a deep interest in both the hugeness and the minutiae of colour nuances, of dissonance and harmony, and developed a lifetime’s vocabulary of understanding and reference. So my ears pricked up when Stephen Fry’s programme came on Radio 4 with him talking to, among others, David Hockney about the language around colours. I found myself loudly interrupting and impatiently huffing at the radio with my own theories – I really enjoyed it.

Of the many many things I have about me in the studio the hundreds of pieces of fabric are stored by colour, a sight I always enjoy, and which gives me great pleasure when I suddenly need to find a something or other in the blues say.

Of course, the nature of my working life is that I’m always making more. Recently in an attempt to ‘rationalise’ some of these hordes of things various young people agreed to help me sort and herd wandering items into holding pens with names such as ‘glitter department’ and ‘inland revenue’. They even hinted that I might jettison those possessions that do not earn their keep (but how would I know what useful future they may hold?) One old box – already named ‘wire creatures’ – revealed that inside some greedy grubs had long ago munched through rather a lot of the flour and water papier-mâché, but nevertheless the contents retained its essence. After quite a lot of mite-murdering and sprucing-up here they now sit on my table enjoying the sun and still telling their stories!.

Is there a better summer breakfast than early morning sun-warmed blackberries straight from the branch? I don’t even mind the hint of spiders’ webs. On the allotment this morning I saw my first peacock butterflies of the summer. I know I go on about butterflies – they are endlessly beguiling and the dancing echoes of their wing patterns so fascinating …. and in this year of cold wind and rain there are so very few.

I love to swim, and as I go along I enjoy the sense of my own symmetry: the intuitive agreement between left and right, the balances and adjustments, the pattern of movement and mirroring of action – it’s the nearest I’ll get to being a butterfly! This silk scarf was drawn with both hands simultaneously – surprisingly it’s not as hard as you’d think.


There’s new stock of our unique hand-made archive  greeting cards at Joss Graham ‘s lovely shop – pop in if you’re in London.

And for all the A5 printed cards visit our online shop – now fully stocked and easy to use – so don’t forget to click through…..


With thanks to Molly and Alan.

9 thoughts on “sort by colour

  1. Pingback: Present Mirth | Sarah Campbell Designs

  2. I tried the writing with both hands simultaneously…and you are right, not as difficult as it at first sounds, although more resembling the writing of a three year old… my two wire ‘dragons’ have survived many years too and are still as loved as when you made them, enjoying my light airy kitchen.
    love rosemary

  3. Dear Sarah,
    I will never think about swimming in the same way after reading the description of what it means to you – so deeply insightful and clever! Thank you. Similar to how you miss Susan’s understanding and appreciation of the colors you created and shared, I miss my father for his writerly wisdom and unique perspective on words. We are in this together!
    P.S. The wire creatures are so alive!

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