Colour, how we see it – BLUE – Part 6 of 10 – Joanna Close

When I think of blue, the image of a calm clear lake comes to mind. Water can be so many different colours of blue, as can the sky. With every entry that I write I feel like I have so many photos and images that I want to show.

Indigo and woad are the only two natural dyes that will yield a blue colour on fabric. Lapis lazuli and azurite are two minerals from which blue pigments were derived for use in painting. Both methods of making colour are labour intensive. Making blue cloth was much more expensive than making any other colour, before the introduction of chemical dyes. Woad is mainly grown in Europe and is known as the European blue. Indigo needs a warmer climate therefore it is mainly grown in Asia, India and Africa. Both dye stuffs must be extracted from the sediment that remains after the leaves of the plant are fermented.

Lapis lazuli and azurite are minerals that are found in various places around the world. Lapis lazuli has been mined in Afghanistan for 6000 years. It can also be found in the Andes, Pakistan, India, and Canada. Azurite can be found in the middle east and is produced by weathering copper ore. Both minerals (lapis luzuli and  azurite) can be made into a pigment by grinding them into a fine powder and mixing the powder into a desired medium of the artists choice. The artist my select from various oils, eggs, and other chemicals to work as mediums to hold the pigment.

Blue can also be very pale and suttle, opposed to the rich intensity of the colorants mentioned above. To whiten fabric it can be treated by ‘blueing’, using a small amount of blue dye. I use this method in my own dyeing, when making natural sheeps wool into a pure white. Adding a slight bit of a blue, and washing the yarn through eliminates the natural yellowy colour of the wool. This method was used, along with bleaching the fabric in the sun, to obtain a white surface on which to add dye, rather than starting from a yellowed fabric.

Blue is a colour that is not nearly as prevalent as colours like green, brown, and grey in the natural world. We often marvel at things that are blue, like the sky, bright blue flowers, blue eyes, and the feathers on a bird. The sky, water, and distant hills are the things that I think of as blue when I look at the landscapes around me in Atlantic Canada. What colours of blue are you enthralled with?

A view from the King’s Throne mountain in Kluane National Park, Yukon.
Yarn dyed with indigo
Lapis lazuli rocks on the left and azurite on the right
Wild maritime blueberries, ripe and delicious.
A calm quiet morning on Marven Lake, Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

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