a yellow hello

archive yellow painting 1980s

The house directly opposite the short-cut path to the station has a chrome yellow front door; it matches the ‘up-and-over’ of the garage and on the drive sits a modest canary coloured car.
hand painted calicoOut of the front door came a woman with golden hair wearing a print dress of buttercup, black and white. As I approached the kerb she called to me “What a splendid outfit you’re wearing!” Never having met her before I crossed over, thanked her and then commented on the impressive yellowness of her own surroundings.

“Yes” said she, “I love yellow, it’s saved my life.” “How so?” “I had a nervous breakdown; as I got better I somehow discovered the joy of yellow – it’s been a therapy, it makes me really happy and I have everything yellow that I can.” I agreed that it is a powerful, positive colour often associated with wellbeing. As we parted I asked her whether she knew the painting by Josef Albers ‘Departing in Yellow’. She didn’t, and was glad to have a new yellowness to look out for. We went merrily on our ways. I reflected that far from the cowardice sometimes associated with that colour this woman had shown courage and resolve. Unusually for me I was dressed all in white.

Josef Albers 'Departing in Yellow'

I remembered with a private smile that Susan and I sometimes performed impromptu little studio playlets in which the characters were our colours – Yellow was always the noisiest one who insisted on hustling forward demanding attention! Black, on the other hand, was cool and still, while all the time allowing Red to flirt around him, showing off outrageously, getting nowhere.

animated colours

I haven’t visited the Malevich show at the Tate yet, and am very much looking forward to seeing it. As he said “Colour is the essence of painting..”

black square malkevich

It’s true that over my long career my output has been, and still is, prolific. Now I have an explanation: in his absolutely fascinating contribution to The Food Programme on BBC Radio4 a couple of weeks ago Fred Plotkin described (among many other delicious operatic stories) how Mozart was addicted to sugar and ate very little else whilst working continuously – a sweet pastry in one hand and his pen in the other, fuelled by those wicked white grains.


Well, I too have a weakness for it; in fact my dad attributed this to the fact that he laced my baby’s bottle with extra sugar to appease my infant self – thanks a lot Pop! So maybe the quantity – not the quality – of my output has been similarly stoked! Listen to the entertaining Mr Plotkin here.

Mozart doodles 007

This is the time of year for prizes and awards, goodbyes and good lucks. Both the teachers with whom I’ve worked at The Norwood School for the last three years are moving on, as of course are the year 13s. We all had a farewell supper together and I received the sweetest messages in the thankyou card they gave me including this one. I can’t help thinking it should have been me writing that to an eighteen-year-old, not the other way about!

sarah's thank you card

texprint showThe evening before I’d been giving out the Arts and Humanities prizes for progress and attainment – it’s exciting to see how well the school is doing, and very pleasing too to meet one of ‘my’ students from last year who’s just got a place on the Textiles course at Chelsea

The 24 students at Texprint showed us some really beautiful and original work, which didn’t make judging for the special awards at all easy – at first it seemed impossible to even know where to begin. The five of us gradually sifted, grouped, investigated, compared, talked with the students, stood back, peered closely, drank tea. Then we had a long and lively discussion between us and somehow came up with the shortlists – winners to be announced in Paris in September. In the end we agreed originality of thought was the true test, followed closely by quality of execution and consistency of work. Congratulations to all the entrants, both for their work and their confident presentations, and thank you to Texprint for inviting me. 

Texprint show

Last Sunday a sudden stormy deluge drenched the Lambeth Country Show, causing it to close early – unheard of! Trapped under canvas for an hour by the torrentlambeth country show – I don’t think the Indian dancer had ever had such a huge audience – we managed finally to squelch up the hill to the plant tent and happily spotted some succulents that would be just the job for a current front garden project.

But the belligerent plant police refused to let the Dutch nurserymen go on selling one minute longer – curses! Quiet words were exchanged. Next morning bright and early we drove into the park, even over the grass, to where the plants were waiting – bargains were secured along with some boxes of fruit and unwanted bunches of very showy blooms. The result was this – the new dustbin cupboard roof garden transformed in a morning into an eye-level oasis! And some delicious plums too, poached with fresh ginger and a vanilla pod.

roof garden

roof garden

On the allotment the currants have all but finished and the blackberry bounty is just coming in. I love the swirl of white yoghurt on the rich red fruits in my breakfast bowl.

breakfast bowl

goldfish bowlAnd I’m ridiculously excited by some black dots! They appeared amongst the water weed in Liberace Goldfish’s bowl. Suddenly I see they’re two tiny water snails, and one has secretly grown quite big – for a tiny thing that is. I’m sure they’ll keep the water clean and the fish company. I think the last time I was wearing black dots was at the Habitat press party held to show the special 50th birthday products we’ve designed – and here we are, the designers, declaring that we’re back! The launch will be in mid-September during Design Week at an exhibition to be held at Platform in the Kings Road; we’re busy planning the space now. Meanwhile you can see my rug here.

Habitat 50 years

I‘m pleased to be starting work soon on two new projects – one here for party and posh picnic ware and one in the States for home sewing and quilting fabrics – more news to follow on these. Meanwhile it’s good to see this new bedlinen at West Elm now.  

Sarah Campbell for West Elm

Such is the timetable of production that despite the heatwave here I’m thinking snow and ice for winter 2015 at the moment! For our own SCLtd product range we’re working on a small new collection of cushions with fresh hand-painted imagery – should be ready in time for this Christmas… 

painted birds calico

picado paper cuttingThe other morning I had fun adorning the trees outside the flat with these home-made paper garlands. We’ll be making many others at the workshop on August 7th at the FTM, taking our inspiration from the papel picados in the current Mexican show. I think there are still some places left so do book here and come along – and even if you have nothing special to celebrate they’re great for just cheering the place up – a festivity in themselves!

picado paper cutting in trees

Collaborations, working together and in a group, are springing up everywhere in the creative industries field. Watching musicians perform is a collaboration we take for granted; I really enjoyed seeing and hearing music made by the jazzman Taj Mahal and his trio together with the Malian group led by Bassekou Kouyate the other day – and they really seemed to enjoy jamming it too despite the formality of the RFH! Listen here for a flavour.


Lastly a word about The Geometrics symposium held last weekend by The Slow Textile group, where the innate geometries of form and pattern were revealed and discussed by a number of different textile practitioners. Ptolemy Mann – congratulations on her very recent marriage as well as her great design successes – pointed out that the origins of the word itself comprise the ancient Greek for both earth and measurement. I reflected that the very architecture of our bones is a wonder of geometry, being constructed from a mesh of tiny inter-connecting beams – trabeculation – joined so as to give the greatest strength and withstand the greatest pressures.


Thanks to Molly and Steve, and remember you can visit Sophie and her German Granny at Torriano Road Meeting Room this Sunday evening.

yellow dye

14 thoughts on “a yellow hello

  1. Thank you, Thank you, for sharing yourself with us thru this blog. It is so excellent to be able to know even a tiny bit of your world, thoughts, expertise and mastery from far away. Much appreciation!

  2. Gosh, you’re such a busy bee Sarah – You Habitat judges look so COOL in your monochrome outfits. Loved your description of the Yellow neighbour – isn’t it great to have an impromptu exchange with a neighbour when you’re a Londoner – we’re all portrayed as standoffish and not interested in talking to each other, which isn’t true at all.

    I had a ‘Yellow’ moment today myself. I succumbed, along with a friend, to filing in one of those silly quizzes on Facebook – this one was called ‘What colour is your aura’? Mine turned out to be yellow – a colour I wouldn’t often choose. I liked the description of what I am apparently like though ” “You are optimistic and intelligent, with a friendly, creative presence. A yellow aura signifies that you are full of life and energy, an inspiring and playful person. You may be on the brink of a new awakening, close to finding new meaning in your current life. ” This could apply to you Sarah!! Looking forward to our workshop at mine on Sept 20th with some fellow textile lovers. x

  3. I love yellow too!!! 💛💛💛💛💛

    Lovely words & beautiful pictures as usual. Sending love from sunny Brighton xxx Tanya xxx

  4. As usual you string several moments and images together, seamlessly and with ease! There is so much color and so many ideas in this post . .. the talent of Taj Mahal, a vast variety of yellows, and the fresh taste of blackberries. Overwhelmingly lovely, Sarah.

  5. Wonderful stuff Sarah and the narrative so perceptive and lively – where do you get your energy from?

    We saw the Malevich exhibition and think you will find it exhilarating, and look forward to your reaction. Next time we come to London we must see if you are free to meet up. Take care.

    Love Dave and Haze xx

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