Monday, July 2, 2007

Color School

My true education in color and how to use color as an element of design began when I started a custom window treatment business. This was after my oldest daughter was born, and I wanted to find a way to work at home. I could sew well. I made my own window treatments and I had done it a few times for friends.....and for some reason I thought this qualified me to do this as a business! Sometimes ignorance is the only way we will take that leap!

What I quickly learned when I would go out to meet with potential clients is how many people could not see subtleties in color, or know how to combine various patterns. When I would explain to someone why one fabric worked better than another, my understanding grew through finding the words. I began to read more and take classes (backwards, I know!). And explainations became easier.

What was most valuable to me was the expansion of my color vocabulary. We all have colors we are personally drawn to. When you are making custom work for someone's home, putting aside your preferences to focus on their space is important. By working with so many other color palettes, my color vocabulary grew. I got comfortable with shades and combinations I had never really explored. I would get a fabric sample book and eagerly flip through it the minute it arrived. I loved to take in the color, the pattern, the textures and the finish (matte or shiny).
I will share some of my lessons in another post, but if you sometimes struggle with color combinations, I encourage you to visit a fabric store. Touch as well as look. Fabric satisfies many senses. Do you like geometrics, traditional patterns, florals, or contemporary colors and designs? The beauty of fabric store is you can find all of these, in all sorts of color combinations, in one space. What is drawing you like a magnet? Or what repels?

You may want to buy a few swatches of fabric that intrigue you. You can often get 1/8 yard pieces, which will not cost much. Then you can bring it home and dissect it. What colors are in the piece? What is the scale of the pattern? Is it satiny smooth and shiny, or matte, or full of texture? Some fabrics have one pattern woven into it, and another printed on the surface. If you bring home several pieces, see if there is something about them that connects. Do they work together, or are they all very different?
Think of this as a research project to help understand you a bit better. It is hard to identify what our personal aesthetic is without sometimes stepping outside ourselves a bit and using some tools, like the collaged journals or a visit to the fabric store. The knowledge can only help enhance our work. Over time our tastes will change. Sometimes it is about re-educating ourselves to see where we are now. Sometimes what appeals to us will surprise us. This may reflect that time of transistion.
Have fun! And if you feel inspired, see if you can create something in your media, influenced by your fabric store finds.

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