Blue is my favourite colour. It’s iconic, stylish, elegant and entrancing. I begin many of my designs in blue before transferring them to the computer.
When you dig beneath the surface of one of our most beloved colours you find a fascinating history.
The word “blue” was absent from human languages until the ancient Egyptians found a way to produce blue paint around 2,200 BCE (they could also turn it into a glass or a glaze for their art) by combining limestone, sand and minerals such as azurite or malachite. It was a labour intensive process easy to get wrong but the world’s love affair with blue was born.
It took thousands of years to discover a new shade of blue and a new way of making it. In medieval Europe Lapis Lazuli was used to create Ultramarine or “true blue”. It rivalled the price of gold and became one of the most sought-after colours. For decades Ultramarine was reserved for only the most important paintings commissioned by the church because it was so expensive.
Indigo didn’t become a coveted dye for textiles until the 17th and 18th centuries, deriving from a plant it was more accessible and made blue fabric available to just about everyone. It’s still used to dye your jeans today. Although, in the last decade, “bio-indigo” made from a chemical reaction scientists discovered in a certain bacteria can also produce indigo dye. Bio-indigo will likely be an environmentally-friendly alternative that designers turn to in the future.
Prussian Blue, International Klein Blue and the latest in 2016, YInMn Blue have all been developed (or stumbled upon) since those early days.
Considering that for many thousands of years we didn’t even have a word for blue it has certainly captured our collective imagination.
Yves Klein patented his International Klein Blue in 1960 and created dozens of pieces using only that colour.
Pablo Picasso went through his famous “blue period”.
Matisse created the gorgeous Blue Nudes series.
Katharina Fritsch sculpted a giant ultramarine rooster that was impossible to miss. It stood in Trafalgar Square in 2013. We all bring our own meanings, memories and feelings to the colour blue.
For me, I feel peace, gratitude, and at times, completely energized. Anything blue takes my breath away, the sky, the sea, a pattern, a book, fine china, tiles, vases… Blue catches my eye and captures my imagination.
Colour psychology teaches us blue is loyal, trusting, peaceful, reliable, caring and devoted. Different shades have different meanings, for example, pale blue inspires creativity and freedom. Sky blue is optimistic and calming. Azure is determined and gives you a sense of purpose in striving for your goals. Navy blue evokes authority. And dark blue can be serious, responsible, knowledgeable and show integrity.
Of course, blue, like any colour, can have different meanings around the world.
I have to agree with Joan Miró’s “Photo: ceci est la couleur de mes rêves”, blue is the colour of my dreams, too.
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