Keith Recker on Color as Narrative


Guest in the studio is Keith. wrecker who is the author of a new book true colors world masters of natural dyes and Pigments Heike. Hey how are you both pretty good Keith how did you get into color. I have to say it's been a long and winding road I come come from a background of poetry and literature and of course you know when you have that background you have to do something and I ended up having to separate careers. Maybe three three one and big retail as director of home furnishings at Saks fifth avenue gump San Francisco and Bloomingdales Direct Response and another career nonprofit as head of aid artisans As founder of the hand Eye Fund and hand eye magazine and currently as pro bono creative director of the international folk art market based Down Santa Fe and my third career has been in Trenton color forecasting with Panton. WGN A little bit with Stylus of really trying to inject a sense of adventure creativity relevance to their client base. Now when we did our episode where we interviewed Donna. Karen that was was She had part of the international folk art market in the urban store and and we were surrounded by products from that market But she didn't really talk about the interview. Can you tell us a little bit about the international folk art market. Yeah absolutely you were surrounded In the urban zone holiday market by I think it was twenty nine different artists from all over the world mostly textiles in that In that collection and the things ranged from the most amazing handspun Kunia hand-knit by artisans in Argentina And the group. That does these. Things is part of have a biosphere management program in the high dry plains of Argentina where Kunia are an essential part and the Kunas harvested the incan way where the village surrounds the Vicuna. So that there's no sense of panic. They slowly move in until the animals can be sheared It's a really touching story so you have. You were surrounded founded by twenty-five stories with that kind of depth and historic resonance And the folk art market is an annual event in Santa Fe. Happens every July. We bring together between one hundred sixty and one hundred eighty artists from all over the world fifty plus countries and they're bringing the best of what they make from a traditional point of view view sometimes from a personally adventuresome creative point of view sometimes from recycled and cutting edge social point of view. It's a real mix of creativity city that from our us-based experiences seems very out of the mainstream and therefore terribly exciting and motivating they must get a lot of just going to that and and meeting each other and seeing what they all do all around the world you that that must be just such experienced for an artisan who works in the community services that do the same thing and then meeting artisans who do wildly different things from other parts of the global. You've already understood the thing that the artists themselves I liked the best about it. They love exchanging topics with each other. Whether it's how to whether it's Oh my God you should try this. Sometimes they get together and collaborate after the market so somebody shares of an all white Chikan embroidery piece from Lucknow and they send handed off to one of their new friends to be dipped in indigo to be Bandini tie-dyed to to be transformed into something subtly and beautifully different so the exchanges which is really the magic plus the sales a lot of folks walk away from the market with a years worth of income in their pockets based on a twenty two hour event. We sell a around three three point. One two three point. Four million dollars worth of product in twenty one hours and all. The skit paid out Two days later so in five days you go from setup to pay out and reviewed archie. It's an amazing operation. It sounds like a really tight knit community than really so. Is it hard hard to join that community or WHO's finding new artisans for that. It's a very tightly jury. Joe Artists from all around the world apply online pictures and text and their two juries. There's a group of academics from museums around the world. Mostly around the. US who look at it from the point of view is of is this this really rooted in a cultural assets right that we recognize that there's techniques color languages languages motif. Is it routed somehow in community entity heritage and then the second group answers the question. Is this gonNA connect with the market. Does it represent a product. Does it represent a look. Does it represent a price is point and of course is it super beautiful. I mean that's that's the first question that we have to answer before we even proceed to the further analysis so those two groups are responsible. Secure eating something. That really is unique in the world. There's nothing like in the entire world so between that and what you're describing in your the book about being in touch with all these natural colors ways of getting color from the earth from plants a lot of this is about being in touch with what what you're making an and how it's being made and we talk about the supply chain a lot but most people aren't really at the root of their supply. I Chan they don't they don't go back to you. Know Not alive designer. Spent much time in cottonfields looking at different types of cotton as they're growing what the fibers look like in different fields. They get finished product. Kind of textiles What does it do for the world? If if people are more in touch with this I would love to answer your question in a complicated way. Cleans that's what the show is more. I think we need to look at the heritage Jane even as we look at the supply chain If you look back at how how we got where we are today in terms of what we make and how we make it into textiles especially The eighteen fifty six invention of the first synthetic dye. Mo- Oh Wien right by a teenage English chemists Perkins totally by accident. He was working with coal tar to try to find a synthetic Quinine quinine substitute right to treat malaria and the colonial era of of the British empire and he discovered that something that he was making Would dissolve Alvin Water and color rags in really very attractive sharp Purple Reddish purple. That unleashed the willful exploration exploration of using a lot of petrochemicals to substitute what were centuries thousands and thousands of years of heritage so for example the company that became. BASF right the maker of the cassette tapes that some of us are old enough to have fetish started off by making making synthetic indigo and interestingly the synthetic indigo they made did not appeal because they had not really captured that the full charm of indigo go went beyond just the indigo molecule. They had to go backward and realized that. Indie Ruben. A red molecule that would form in the process of indigo dyeing was needed to give the color depth so they had to go back and explore. Why Nature was so much more beautiful than what they were at first capable of making in any case since eighteen fifty six we have lost so much knowledge? If you and I walked down the street today and Looked at what people are wearing down the street and we asked ourselves well. How would you ever get that color? Are we using anything other than a chemical would have zero insight. Chances are right. We've left all that behind so the heritage chain I think has impoverished the richness understanding That we used to have about what comes from our world and how it's made and how valuable it is. We've gotten to a point where we're so distant from our heritage chain that things have the virtue of plastic bags of disposable valueless product after they've faded in the washed twice were done. There's a statistic out there that eighty percent of the clothing we buy ends up in a landfill within one year. And it's because we're so oh distant from people culture heritage skill invention and talent that the things we buy are not worth holding onto so then we go to the supply chain right and there really is in as an extension of this heritage chain a set of material knowledge judge that is still relevant in making textiles. It still relevant in making clothing and it's waiting for us to study at more and to really really incorporated into responsible valuable fashion creation.

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