The Colour Collaborative: Blue

Blue found texture, David Gunter

'What is the Colour Collaborative?', we ask at the foot of each month's posts, always answering with a who and a why, and a suggestion that it may be more than the sum of its parts. And it is: in our twenty-nine months to date of posting we've created an archive of colour memories and impressions, a compendium of colour histories and perspectives, and we've listed a myriad hues, dyer Elijah Bemiss's thirteen shades of blue (1806) among them.

I do like a good list. Here's another one ...
Lists ... are for those who savor, who revel and wallow, who embrace, not only the whole of things, but all ... accounts, histories, descriptions, justifications ... [and] for those who love language, the vowel-swollen cheek, the lilting, dancing tongue, because lists are fields full of words ...
William H. Gass

And another (the original is without commas) ...
Blue[s] ... whether slick light sharp high bright thin quick sour new and cool or low deep sweet dark soft slow smooth heavy old and warm ... profoundly qualify our states of feeling.
Gass, again

Reminded of Borge's subversive and almost certainly spurious taxonomy of animals, which he divided into ...
(a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camel hair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.
I began to wonder if I might similarly classify all things blue.

I'm all quotes today, but Foucault's "to tame the wild profusion of existing things" is relevant here ... I've been collecting blues of every stripe, now how to order them? Can I, as Borges has done, usefully challenge the distinctions we customarily make, disturb our understanding of same and other? Can I conjure unlikely categories that can nonetheless co-exist, if only linguistically? Foucault again: "... the mere act of enumeration has the power of enchantment." This is fun!

I shall divide blues into ...
(a) carried by camels, (b) forgotten, (c) remembered, (d) repeated, (e) still wet, (f) posed in, (g) bird's egg, (h) adored by Cleopatra, (i) morbid, (j) in and of the oceans, (k) knitted, (l) edible, (m) seen by dogs, (n) at the Victoria and Albert Museum*.

How would you divide them? Any further categories you'd care to add?

* A few examples (I imagine you can think of plenty more): (a) "In the ancient trans-Saharan trade ... camel-powered desert ships carried indigo with African captives, gold, salt, kola, and other sumptuary items like ivory and ostrich feathers, to Mediterranean hubs where African, Arab, Asian, and European markets converged ...", from Catherine McKinley's Indigo: In Search of the Colour that Seduced the World, (b) ... um, (c) a sapphire blue party dress, I was six, (d) Yves Klein's 'Proposition Monochrome; Blue Epoch' featured eleven identical blue canvases painted with ultramarine suspended in a synthetic resin, or see the image I've used above and previously, (e) the interior blue of an empty mussel shell when first prised from the sand of the shore, (f) blue clothing in art, (g) to include Fired Earth's 'Duck egg' and Crayola's 'Robin's egg', (h) Google 'tekhelet' and 'Egyptian blue', (i) bruising, lividity, cyanosis (j) from the blue(ish) whale to a discarded blue plastic flip flop, (k) you knew I'd squeeze it in somewhere, there's no shortage of blue yarn out there, (l) the antioxidant anthocyanins, pigments found in blue hued berries, (m) dogs can apparently see blues and yellows but lack the ability to distinguish them from reds, so do dogs see the same blues we do? (n) the impossibility of counting them seems certain, but you could visit and count a few!

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ...

CJ at Above the River

Sandra at Cherry Heart

Sarah at Mitenska

Jennifer at Thistlebear

Gillian will return next month

What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.


A random ten

Image of autumn leaves.
Pale amber sunlight falls across the reddening October trees.
Ernest Dowson

1. October, my favourite month of the year, is also (for a variety of reasons) my busiest. This year, so far, it's barely left me with time to breath. Much has been written about reconciling the demands of motherhood with making art, not so much about how supporting ailing elderly parents and in-laws saps creativity*. I'm a writer with not a lot to say just now, too weary to wrestle words into any meaningful shape (hence the resurrection of the random ten). But I'm also tired of dutifully losing myself in the process of 'doing the right thing' ... 'right for who?' is the question I've begun to ask.

2. I regularly get so hooked on a particular song that I'll have it playing continuously all day. Birdsong, from Cattle and Cane's brilliant new album Home, is my latest crush. Also mesmerising me lately is the very different Tape Loops from Chris Walla (of Death Cab for Cutie fame - I wasn't a fan), a 'spectrally ambient' album quite unlike anything he's released before (don't judge it by the first track, listen to the whole thing a few times and let it work its magic).

3. The sweet violets we planted 'in the green' back in the spring are in flower again. I don't know who's more confused, me or them.

4. My nickname, throughout my later schooldays, was Dulux (yes, like the house paint ... don't ask!) Yours?

5. I spent my free time during my first term at uni knitting myself a Joseph's Technicolour Dreamcoat of a sweater (to a pattern of my own) from odd balls of wool and angora. It was very 80s and truly awesome, and to this day the best garment I ever made. The first time I laundered it it was stolen from the communal drying room in my dorm, never to be seen again.

6. My night table is a kind of literary lazaretto ... if I don't quarantine new books and they find their way to a book shelf unread they're likely to remain unread for years (we do buy rather a lot of books). Currently sequestered there: Claire Wellesley Smith's new book, Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art; Terry Pratchett's The Shepherd's Crown, the last title in the Discworld Series; Paul Evan's (writer of the Guardian's Countryside column) Field Notes from the Edge; Peter Balakian's memoir, Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past; the brilliant biography Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske, by Julia Blackburn; Catherine McIntyres inspiring Visual Alchemy: The Fine Art of Digital Montage; and of course, Carola Hick's Girl in a Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait. If I could just find a moment to continue/finish reading any of them I'd update the Girl in a Green Gown readalong and write a review or two!

7. Most of my favourite words begin with either F - filigree, flotsam, flurry, fossick, frost, furrow - or W - watkin (a hare), wildwood, windhover (a kestrel), winter, woolly, wordsmith.

8. Crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, and magpies ... corvids fascinate me. I've been chasing them with my camera recently. Ditto starlings. Birds with attitude ... I like their style.

9. Whenever life drags me away from the interwebs I miss you guys ... the folk who visit here, the folk whose blogs I visit, virtual acquaintances who've become "What! You too?" friends**. Mutual self-disclosure, good will reciprocated, shared enthusiasms and shared experiences foster powerful, meaningful connections. Or is that just me?

10. I keep a post-it note commonplace 'book' on one section of my studio wall, the collected words of a variety of people. Most recently added: from Neil Gaiman's The Long Now Foundation lecture "... if they do not change, stories die"; and from a poem by Kate Knapp Johnson, "Which work matters?".

Want to play along? Leave me a comment telling me a random thing or two about you. Or, if you're a blogger, why not post your own list of ten.

* And I'm still doing the mother thing to a degree. I believe we're called the sandwich generation. Hey ho.

** "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." C.S. Lewis



Most knitters and their ilk would seem to share the same unsettling fear ... one day there'll be no more yarn. And as having nothing to knit is beyond unthinkable they also share a propensity to hoard the stuff. Stashing, it's a kind of knitterly survivalism.

Clothes moths, they're just trying to survive too.

Need I say more?

I keep my yarn in ziploc bags stuffed with lavender and cedar balls and periodically I pop the bags into the freezer*. Yeah, like that works.

Thankfully I also, after last time, keep those yarn filled bags dotted about the house in an attempt to limit the dietary choices each mama moth can make for her children. So I've only lost (weeps) one large box of assorted (expensive) alpaca loveliness (from Toft, Purl Alpaca and Town End).

Every other ball or skein of yarn I own, regardless of where in the house it was kept, I've inspected closely before giving it the all clear. Overkill? Probably. But I'm more familiar now with the stuff I've got stashed than I've ever been before. And I'm also ready to give away or sell as much as half of it.

What I knit has changed over the years - I've switched from sweaters to shawls, hats and mitts - ditto how much I knit - a lot less - and (perhaps most significantly) why I knit has changed - for occasional pleasure not need of warm clothing. And increasingly I'm choosing proper, often breed specific, wool. But I have a stash that doesn't quite reflect all that and it's weighing me down, taking up far too much space in my head and in my house. Contemplating parting with so much of it is frankly liberating ... looking at what I think I'm keeping I can see what it will become.

Or that's how I'm hoping I'll feel tomorrow. Today I'd happily set fire to all the yarn in the world**.

Are you a stasher too? Tell all, do!

* Given the mere four to ten days it takes for larvae to hatch from newly deposited eggs I'd need to keep my yarn in the freezer permanently for this to be fool proof.

** Any suggestions for a less irksome pastime than knitting that I might try? I was thinking maybe bog snorkelling, an activity the Welsh are entirely responsible for unleashing upon the world, but the mister suggested worm charming might suit me better.

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