Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It's not easy being the color of corruption and blight

I used to be amused when I heard people talking about colors they dislike and won't use in their quilts. Some people get all skeeved out by pink, possibly due to its unfortunate social designation as a "girly" color or perhaps as the result of some sort of Pepto-induced trauma. Some people hate purple because, well, some people are just damaged and cannot be saved from themselves. I used to hate yellow because my childhood bedroom furniture was yellow and the walls were yellow and my sheets were yellow and that's just too much yellow in one room. It was like my mom had been specifically deprived of that color as a child and had decided that her offspring would be bathed in its golden glow forever and ever to balance the scales.

But as I got more and more into quilting and into appreciating colors and how they relate to each other, I realized that yellows are perfectly lovely and useful, that any color can be beautiful depending on how it is used and there really is no need to throw any one color out of bed just because it once farted near you. This of course gave me ample opportunities to feel smug whenever anyone else would express their disdain for whatever color currently offended them. At the announcement of the Pantone color of the year I would watch as people gasped in horror and dismay, as though the Pantonians had, with malice aforethought, chosen the one color that makes people spontaneously combust upon seeing it. And so I would sit back and smugly smug to myself, "It's just a color. It's like one of the lesser Kardashians—it only has meaning in relation to other Kardashians."

However, as usually happens whenever I get smug about anything, the universe finds a way to take me down a peg. I started going through my scraps and organizing my stash in preparation for some projects I had planned, and during the process I kept coming across a particular color and thinking, "Ew." Or sometimes, "Gak!" And also, "Why the fuck is this here?" It is a color so heinous, so vile, you would think it ought to be outlawed for the sake of common decency, but no. It's real, and it's everywhere. I'm talking about, of course:

This color has managed to sneak into my stash and even into projects I have made. Years ago, I made a quilt out of a layer cake I had and thought I loved. I had believed the colors were predominantly blues and bright plums, oranges and yellows. But once it got it all put together, I couldn't quite figure out why it all just looked like mud.

At first, I thought it was all the yellow, but then I decided that the yellows, like all the other colors in the quilt, are bright and clear and happy. It's the greens that all look like overcooked asparagus.

There's nothing clear, bright and happy about those greens. Those are greens of despair. Those greens have lost hope. Those greens said, "Yeah, we could have evoked spring and leafy trees and the soft grass of a rolling meadow, but we'd rather evoke baby poop BECAUSE LIFE IS SHIT AND NOTHING MATTERS."

Green is a combo of blue and yellow, right? A little more blue and you lean towards teal. A little more yellow and you get your spring-y yellow-green. But then you add a wee bit of red to the mix? Then you get Nausea Green. It's not quite brown, not quite green. You can actually feel the orange in it, trying to claw its way out. It does no color that has to sit next to it any favors. And yet designers keep throwing it in with perfectly good colors, either as an accent:

Or as the background:

In fact, some designers will use it as one of the colorways in an entire line. So, who sits down with their fabric company execs and says, "For this lovely and delicate floral collection, I've created three palettes: Clementine, Berry Mist, and Sinus Infection"?

In fact, I've seen so many greens in so many lines heading over to this direction, I started wondering if maybe true green dyes have just gotten too dear, and whenever a designer turns in a collection that uses too much of it, the fabric company comes back and goes, "What, you think we're made of money? Go back and stank up these greens to a hue we don't have to buy on the black market." But I suspect that's not how fabric colors actually work.

And lovely, happy, non-bilious greens are possible to produce.

So it's not like it can't be done. Some people just choose not to, I guess. Just like some people choose not to bathe or perform routine dental hygiene.

Now, here comes the obligatory part where I say if you love dyspepsia green and you have decorated your whole house in it and you'd dye your own hair that color if you could I'M NOT SAYING YOU SHOULDN'T. If one of the fabrics I've shown above was created by a designer that you would sell your own children to sit next to on a crosstown bus, I'm totally not judging you. Everybody gets to have preferences and make choices, even if those choices indicate perhaps a mild brain-eating parasite infestation. Just because you clearly bathe in slime mold, that doesn't make you a bad person. Just like my deep and abiding love of purple doesn't necessarily make me supremely intelligent and worthy of adulation and emulation. You do you, as the whippersnappers say.

My actual point here is that while I was feeling all superior about how some people hate perfectly good colors for what I considered to be no good reason, and was routinely climbing on my "all colors matter" high horse, one color came along, barfed on my shoes, and taught me a very valuable lesson. A lesson that has given me pause, caused me to do some hard thinking, and has truly humbled me.

HAHA I'm kidding; this color fucking sucks.


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