On the Colour Couch with Dulux Creative Director Marianne Shillingford

What a joy it is to introduce you to Marianne Shillingford. For those of you who are yet to meet her, Marianne is the Senior Creative Director at Dulux and one of the kindest people in the colour industry devoting a lot of her own time to a charity she has set up called the Colour in Design Awards where she champions new designers at the beginning of their creative careers. It’s a privilege to call my her friend. You can just imagine when we get together, oh the colourful conversations we have! So without further ado, it’s over to Marianne and her adventures into colour…

What do you think your life would be like without colour?
Flavourless. I can’t quite imagine it. What a horrible place…

Were you ever afraid or wary of colour? And what did you do to overcome this?
I’ve never ever been afraid or wary of colour in my work and living environment but was distinctly dull in my fashion choices until my mid 40s. I preferred to melt into the background rather than stand out when I was younger and although I had full confidence in my skills as a painter and curator of colour it simply didn’t extend to what I chose to wear.

When I thought nobody was looking at me anymore was when I started experimenting with a confident palette in my wardrobe. Ridiculous isn’t it? I am a completely different woman now to the one you might have encountered when I was 30. Age is a colourful adventure all of its own.

For anyone afraid of colour what would your number 1 piece of advice be?
It doesn’t bite… in fact it’s quite friendly. Choose palettes of colours you love and maybe turn up the volume a bit more than you would normally. Use digital tools to help you see how it’s going to look on the walls and (just like learning how to cook something new) experiment. Colour is the seasoning in decorating, once you know how things taste you will be much more confident in creating a visual feast at home. What is your earliest colour memory?

What is your earliest colour memory?
My dad grew roses and my mum made the most beautiful rose petal wine which was the colour of summer.  My first memory of colour is on my dads shoulders  as a toddler walking through multicoloured fields of roses.  The colour, the perfume, the buzz of happy insects and his passionate explanation of each new variety sowed seeds that have blossomed throughout my entire life.  

What does colour mean to you?
It’s the unspoken global language that we all use and recognise.  It’s the ingredient in design that is fundamental but often overlooked as merely decoration and it has the power to change the way we respond to the world around us.  

Do you have a favourite colour or a colour that you find yourself constantly drawn to? And why?
Orange for some reason.  I love it’s energy.  It has the bounce of Tigger, the sweetness of fruit and the warmth of glowing embers. Orange for me is home and love. 

Do you have a colour that you least like? And why?
Colours are like family members.  You love them all – but don’t necessarily like them all the time.  I’m not overly fond of raw true grey – I prefer the complex greys that hold secret hints of colour. 

What do you love most about working with colour?
Meeting the experts who use it in their practices from lighting experts and scientists to designers and artists.  This is the true joy and privilege of my job.

What’s your favourite colour story?
I love the story of Tyrian purple which was discovered in the spiny dye Murex sea snail. This colour was both vivid and precious.  It was prized by wealthy and important people and mentioned in Homers Iliad. The story doesn’t end well for the snail of course and these little prickly beauties are now incredibly rare but the purple wherever it is preserved reveals how extraordinary nature is in creating colour from every corner of her domain. 

Do you have a favourite colour place that you visit (or have visited)?
Kew Gardens at any time of the year.  The Orchid Festival might be my favourite.

If you could pick any colour and give it a name, what would that be?
The colour would be an orange (of course) but it would be responsive and unfixed. It would change in different lights and temperatures.  One moment vibrant and powerful, the next soothing and comforting.  I would call it Life Affirming Orange.

Which colourful person do you most admire and would love me to interview for the On the Colour Couch series?
There are too many to mention but at the moment I admire an Irish colour expert called Cora Collins. Her approach to colour and generosity in sharing knowledge that is well researched and intelligent is outstanding. 

There is also a young designer working in prismatic colour and glass called Jordan Soderberg Mills.  He is absolutely awesome. Plus a designer called Alan Vaughn who creates costumes for the Moko Jumbie stilt walkers in Trinidad.  He’s a British artist who works partly in Newcastle too.  His approach to colour has carnival at its heart.  

I can see why Marianne and I have such giggles, fun and there maybe a bit of playful mischief involved… we both share the same favourite colour – orange!

If you would like to discover more about Marianne’s colourful world you can find her over on Instagram @m_shillingford sharing her colourful musings and to find out more about her charity, head over to www.colourindesignaward.org.

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