Thursday, December 11, 2014

Red Revisited

Christmas placemats in 2/8 cotton by Jane Richmond in a pattern from the Marguerite Davison's Handweavers Pattern Book
Because we've had an overwhelming number of projects removed from the loom that had red as its dominant colour, and also since it is "Holiday Season Time" ....festivities that employs a lot of red ornamentation, I've decided to reprint this blog post (except for the projects) from last year on Red. Over the centuries the colour red has been obtained by using lead, bugs, and plants. It is one of the first colours to be produced by humans and at first was used to paint their bodies and then on cave walls and rocks. The fact that it is also the colour of the life giving fluid , blood, makes it even more of a  powerful colour charged with symbolism and significance.
Evan Davies' first project in 4/8 cotton, a table runner. Rambler Rose pattern taken from Marguerite Davison's book
When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his soldiers conquered the Aztec Empire in 1521, besides discovering silver and gold, they uncovered that the Aztecs obtained a spectacular red from drying and crushing a tiny cochineal, a parasitic scale insect which lived on cactus plants. They exported these to Europe where they provided them to  textile dyers. 
Lann Smyth wove these rag place mats. Warp 4/8 cotton. Rags cut manually in 1" strips. 
At first dyers guilds' in Venice and other cities banned cochineal to protect their local products, but the superior quality of cochineal dye made it impossible to resist. By the beginning of the 17th century it was the preferred luxury red for the clothing of cardinals, bankers, courtisans and aristocrats.

Baby blanket by Mai Liis Toome. Pattern from Handweavers magazine. 
There are many names given to red paints and pigments: vermilion, madder, scarlet, cerise, persimmon, sanguine, cinnabar, rouge, crimson, carmine, geranium, ruby and rose.Every textile can benefit by warming with red giving life to a muted colour palette.
3/1 twill shawl by Susan Abrams. 
Red is charged with emotion and possibility.  Red conveys heroism and bravery, honesty and patriotism, strength, power, authority. It demands that you pay attention to it. It can represent many emotions: love, hate, anger, passion, lust. Love may be like a red red rose, as one's  sins. Even  politics may be red. One "sees red" when angry. There is red tape, red ink, red wine, red lips, red blood, red earth, red barons, red barns, red hearts, red thoughts and red herrings. Even women have been described as scarlet and we all know what a red light district is.
Woven ribbon scarf by Toshiko Shindo. 
Red is the color most commonly associated with joy and well being,  celebration and ceremony. A red carpet is often used to welcome distinguished guests. Red is also the traditional color of seats in opera houses and theaters. Scarlet academic gowns are worn by new Doctors of Philosophy at degree ceremonies at Oxford University and other schools. In China, it is considered the color of good fortune and prosperity, and is traditionally worn by brides. In Christian countries, it is the color traditionally worn at Christmas by Santa Claus, because in the 4th century the historic Saint Nicholas was the Greek Christian Bishop of Myra, in modern-day Turkey, and bishops then dressed in red.

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