My latest fabric purchase, a greyish mauve foxglove design by Philip Jacobs (see below), the designer of extravagantly coloured large florals, http://www.westminsterfabrics.com/pub/designers.jsp, suddenly reminds me of a piece of advice given by Susan Collier, the eldest of the two sisters who founded Collier Campbell, during a talk she gave several years before her sad death in 2011 http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/may/15/susan-collier-obituary. This was (I paraphrase): "If you're stuck for a colour that will work with all the other colours you are using, try parma violet.
Looking at pictures of the small sweets from my childhood - still, reassuringly, being manufactured - I can almost smell and taste them. But it is the grey-mauve colour that is the significant sense experience here. Because it is, indeed, a sweetie. Neither as sombre as grey nor as attention-seeking as mauve, it slips diffidently into a collection of more assertive colours, like a maiden great-aunt, to sooth the fevered brow with spring-like gentleness.
To check out the evidence behind this wisdom, I went to the quilt that is now on my bed - see top - and which I made from fabric samples of some the iconic Collier Campbell ranges. And there it is, among the azure, ice-cream pink, rose and poppy reds, buttercup, sand and emerald: several shades of parma violet.
I am not sure if I have ever consciously followed Susan Collier's advice, but I suspect it has crept into my work by stealth. Now I will try to keep a few petals in mind when that "missing link" proves elusive.
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