Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Colour Alchimia at Bota Fogo in Milan


Super excited and inspired after my latest workshop in Milan. I met really interesting people and creatives; it was a multicultural group mainly Italians, a New Yorker and a Lebanese. Most of them colour designers for the automotive and fashion industry, art directors and industrial designers. 


The workshop was held in Milan at Bota Fogo Ceramica. I loved the energy and the light of the space, highly recommended.

Colour Alchimia is an experimental workshop with a hands-on approach aiming to reconnect us with matter through our senses.  It was a 5-hour workshop divided in theory and experimentation with natural materials such as saffron; egg yolks; gums; earths; stones such as azurite and malachite; lampblack and whiteshell. 


Photo: Virginia Doria 

It can be said that colour is a tool for visual communication. It can create a story, it may give a cultural understanding, stimulate the senses and invoke memory. 

I shared my experience and passion for colour, and briefly explain the history of it and the evolution of the chromatic system from Prehistory to Renaissance times. Talked about the importance of colour craft in old times and how these authentic processes have been lost today


Photo: Muriel Kai

There are so many old processes which are still asleep waiting to be rediscovered, revived and repurposed in a contemporary way, as there is so much wisdom that needs to be shared today. 


Photo: Muriel Kai

Participants were amazed with the beauty of azurite and malachite stones; its texture and tone, specially if you grind and sieve azurite you may get different blue shades, beautiful! Both of them are found in copper deposits all over the world, mainly China, USA and Russia.  

Photo: Muriel Kai

We all enjoyed this sensorial experience of working with natural matter and concocting alchemic processes. The sound of grinding stones and shells was quite harmonising; the delicate aroma of saffron and earths; the strong smell of egg yolks and burning lampblack; and the dazzling colour of azurite particles.


Photo: Muriel Kai

In old times, colour was extracted from the rarest materials. Extracted from shells, sea snails, insects, urine, blood, mummies, toxic metals and precious minerals. Fascinating stories behind these bizarre materials.

Many ancient colours have extinguished from the colour palette and there are many reasons for this. Some colours have been replaced by synthetic alternatives; others have ran out of the source for making it and lastly, some recipes have been lost through time. Colours such as Mummy Brown, Indian Yellow, Egyptian Blue, Turkish Red, Naples Yellow and many more are only found in artworks or archaeological pieces.


Photo: Virginia Doria

Some questioned why these colours have disappeared from the colour palette, if they can be replicated by using a Pantone colour card? Of course you may get the synthetic version of the colour but not the authentic one, and by authentic I mean, using the same natural materials and methods that were used before. 

Photo: Virginia Doria

Participants were quite intrigued and asked me a question regarding, which has been the most rare material I have ever used to make pigment?

I can say, a mummified rat... for making Mummy Brown. Also, I have never said this before but I used urine trying to replicate Indian Yellow. Traditionally, the urine from cows was used for making authentic Indian Yellow, which is a beautiful yellow pigment, but the cows had to be fed with mango leaves.  I did some experiments which were unsuccessful so I decided to let go of this colour.


Photo: Work by Muriel Kai

As the final stage, participants had to set up all their colour swatches and create a moodboard with all the experimentation developed during the workshop. It was very interesting how each one brought something new and creative to the table. 




Photo: Moodboard by Sophia Ahmad








I had a great time with you guys. Loved the energy! Thanks for joining in this colour experience!








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