On the Colour Couch with textile designer Clarissa Hulse

little book of colour on the colour couch with textile designer clarissa hulse

Clarissa is one colourful lady. We first met when we were judges for the Colour in Design Awards back in 2020. I had the pleasure of interviewing her at her colourful London studio for my colour trends course and we sat on this sofa. Without further ado let’s dive into Clarissa’s joyful interview here on The Colour Couch…

What is your earliest colour memory?

I LOVE this question and no one has every asked me before! My earliest colour memory is of looking at a lawn filled with tiny blue flowers that almost glowed as the sunlight hit them. I asked my mother if I could have one and she replied ‘they are all yours.’

My second memory was doing some colouring in with an older child who had a really impressive set of felt tips but she didn’t keep them in a beautiful colour order and it distressed me. I remember also being very disappointed that the colour on the outside of the pen didn’t match the colour of the felt tip itself.

My mother was a colour enthusiast and would always be drawing my attention to beautiful hues ‘look at the middle of this flower! Look at the colour of this incredible silk! Look at that sunset!’ She adored rich deep jewel tones and I remember she painted our front door plum when everyone else’s was navy blue in the street. It really fascinates me as to why people are drawn to certain colours. I wonder if a study has been done on it?

What does colour mean to you?

Colour is, happiness, richness, depth, light & shade, emotion, pleasure, excitement… Gosh I realise that just the word COLOUR conjures up so much for me!

Do you have a favourite colour or a colour that you find yourself constantly drawn to? And why?

Pinks and oranges if I am allowed 2! Or maybe I can compromise with an orangey pink. It excites and uplifts me. I wear one of the two most days and feel incredibly dull and drab when I am wearing neutrals. I honestly feel slightly repressed when I wear a grey top.

My love of pink and orange is for the whole spectrum of both – I adore hot pinks, neon pink, cherry, raspberry, beetroot. Even the names have got me salivating!

Do you have a colour that you least like? And why?

I am not a fan of camel. It totally drains me to wear (in fact I don’t think it suits a lot of people – especially the shade with a yellow undertone) It’s just so meh. I can’t really elaborate further as it is so boring there is nothing more to say about it.

What do you love most about working with colour?

I love working with colour as there are literally thousands and thousands of colours, and combined with different lights, and different textures it means that my work is infinitely challenging and exciting. I am also intrigued by how you go in and out love with certain colours and combinations. I never used to like green, and I absolutely love it now! I think it was that horrible grass green you get in paint set that put me off.

What do you think your life would be like without colour?

I know this sounds dramatic but it would it would be like losing a sense for me like hearing or touch. I reckon if I underwent a brain scan the part that is connected to colour would be really developed and full of electricity zapping around. I notice it all day every day. In nature or in the city – I get so much pleasure from lovely or interesting combinations.

Were you ever afraid or wary of colour? And what did you do to overcome this?

I was never afraid of colour, I can only ever remember being excited by it, but funnily enough I do sometimes worry about how I use colour in my work and if it is commercial enough which can be inhibiting. I just want to use bright crazy colours all the time but I have to recognise that is not everyone’s cup of tea! Actually to be fair I do also love muted tones too. In general I would say there are no bad colours in themselves, just bad combinations.

Do you have a favourite colour place that you visit (or have visited)?

Yes… every Autumn I am in absolute awe of what nature does with leaves. Even just in London streets I am transported to heaven! Kew Gardens is fantastic at that time of year as they have hundreds of different tree species. I think the maple tree is probably the best of all in Autumn as it always creates a perfect ombre of red to yellow.

If you could pick any colour and give it a name, what would that be?

I have been pondering this question… so may colours to choose from! For fun I would name a Farrow & Ball colour ‘Stanley’s paws’ after my cat – it would be the perfect creamy grey mocha. My other colour would be a magical paint that would come out like oil on water. This is cheating as it would actually incorporate all the colours in one… It would be called ‘Essence’

For anyone afraid of colour what would your number 1 piece of advice be?

I think if it is for the home you can just start with little hints of it in your accessories – like cushions or ornaments. Think about using colours that you have always been drawn to. You can then build up to painting a wall.

I am huge fan of tester pots so buy a bunch, paint  largish patches and live with it for while. Remember a wall can easily be painted over! Teals and greens are a very easy way of adding colour without them being too scary. As far as wearing colour goes, I think the same principle applies.

Try a brightly coloured scarf and build form there. I think so many people don’t realise that wearing colours that suit them can be far more flattering on the skin than black or neutral.

Which colourful person do you most admire and would love me to interview for the On the Colour Couch series?

I have long been a fan of Kitty Joseph and her fabulous rainbow clothing. She is also a fellow ‘Colour in Design Award’ judge (with you of course) and I would love to hear what she has to say in answer to all your questions!

What a great name ‘Stanley’s paws’ and I really want to see this magic colour called ‘Essence’! And as luck would have it, I’ve already asked Kitty if she would join us on the Colour Couch and it was a yes!

If you would like to discover more about Clarissa and her colourful textiles, head over to her Instagram @clarissahulse.

Wishing you a colourful day,

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