Friday, January 27, 2017

Re-Evaluating Brown

This week has seen the beginning of my dyeing activities for this month’s fabric selection. Because it has been an emotionally very intensive week with the refugee class, only two of the six colours have been dyed yet, none of them has been ironed … but I think it will be a nice colour selection. Which is a bit funny now, because this selection is one that I have been putting off for a while, at least since July, which was the first time I thought that it was about time for making another selection of browns. Not that there hasn’t been one done before, but it had been a while ago. It will be a combination of shades of different browns.

In my own stash, and in the colours I have on offer at the stand, I am never terribly well-stocked in shades of brown. I don’t like brown. Despite the fact that I used to have hair of a very dark and rich brown, and I have always liked my hair - it never led to a situation that would let me feel something like appreciation for the colour brown as such. Brown for me was always tainted, it was ‘the colour of the Nazis’. When I was still buying fabric in fabric stores I would always pass by the brown section. It just never occurred to me that one would want to buy a piece of brown fabric. I do have a brown leather jacket, and I have had that for many many years, but I bought it for the fact that it was less than half price, very large, and it just came at the right time. Never have I felt a particular appreciation for its colour.

When I started dyeing my own fabrics, this changed a little, and I learned to appreciate brown results of my own dyeing activites, especially when they had turned out not too uniform, but were rather displaying a bit of variation.
What I could appreciate about the beauty of hand-dyed browns was their hand-dyed characteristics, I was happy to sell them, and even strive to have an almost decent selection on offer. But I would still not have been very likely to try to actually use a shade of brown in a quilt unless I was forced to. Recent conversations with some of the students in class, talking about colours, preferences, and feelings associated with particular colours in their home countries, however, has given my unappreciative opinion about brown a bit of a shake-up. The pride of the West-Africans about their skin colour, the way they dress and are frequently very positive about brown has given me a new outlook on the possibilities of combining brown with other colours. I would probably still not (yet) use it much for any quilt for myself. But I could well imagine using it in special combinations with other colours, should somebody want that for themselves. It’s amazing how this little bit of teaching German as a foreign language is affecting my personal outlook on life, and obviously it is starting to take an influence on my art making as well. No matter how emotionally draining the refugees’ situation is, and how dispiriting my lack of power to take any influence in that can be - being in personal contact with this special group of people is probably much more enriching for me than I could ever give them back by telling them something about verb conjugations or passive constructions.

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