Reading All About Color


A Perfect Red by Amy Butler is the story of cochineal. It’s a fascinating book about this dye, made from an insect native to South America, Mexico and Arizona. I loved this book, and was enthralled by reading how the source of this dye was kept a secret, for hundreds of years, the power and fortune it provided to the Spanish Empire of the 16th Century, and how many wild theories developed about where it came from and what it was.


Color: A History of the Natural Palette by Victoria Finlay recounts the author’s journey around the world in search of the history of colors. I really loved this book, too, being an armchair traveler on such an amazing journey. It’s part travel and adventure, part history, part sleuthing, and wholly fascinating and enjoyable.

And more:

Indigo: In Search of the Color that Seduced the World (a memoir and travelogue by a woman on her search for the color that touched so many of her ancestors lives)

Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World (the story of the accidental invention of the first chemical dye, which truly revolutionized the world of fashion and dyemaking, by creating the first “consistent” color)

Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Story of an Ancient Color Lost to History and Rediscovered (about Tekhelet, or hyacinth-blue; how it was lost with the fall of the Roman Empire, and then rediscovered by a marine biologist in the 19th century)

The Brilliant History of Color in Art (the quest to uncover the origins and science of color, full of history, fun facts and anecdotes, and lots of illustrations of the some of the world’s greatest works of art)

Green: The History of a Color (yep, all about the history, differing social interpretations, and cultural significance of green)

The experience of working with color so intimately over the past 13+ years has really shown me how people react so differently to color, and experience it in such unique and sometimes deeply personal ways.  It’s part of why I love what I do: the opportunity to create something that speaks to another person on an elemental level.

I don’t know if I would love reading about the history and development of color so much if I didn’t do what I do every day. I do know that love history, and I’ve always been fascinated by color. Over the years this fascination has broadened to include the history of colors, their discovery or invention, how they came to define both social standing and social mores, how they shaped cultures, traditions and even destinies, and the power and prestige garnered by those who controlled them. The monopoly and control of some colors (indigo and cochineal, for instance) could truly make or break an Empire. I find that compelling and incredible; I just can’t get enough of it.

Our upcoming week is going to be crazy and intense. Jackson’s JMU audition was rescheduled for Thursday, on top of the auditions already scheduled for Monday (WVU), Wednesday (VA Tech), and Saturday (Bridgewater). So, my work week now consists of Tuesday and Friday (how productive is that going to be?!) ~ Most likely I’ll be back here on the flip side!



5 thoughts on “Reading All About Color

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