A watershed moment, literally, for Carole Waller was when she observed the mist and rain falling over the top of a mountain on the Dingle peninsula of the south west coast of Ireland.
This atmospheric movement of weather through the air is mirrored in her exploration of how liquid procion dye travels through fabric; the physical capillary action, a kind of ‘creative chromatography’. She applies her chosen palette onto cloth and the secondary colours create themselves as a result of their interaction. Her work is a glorious example of how mastering the way materials and ingredients behave allows a skilled artist to maintain a sort of controlled improvisation, “an absolute mixture of my own deliberate intention and the physical dispersement of dye through a piece of cloth,” she says.
It’s this dynamic spontaneity that gives Waller’s work such verve; “The inspiration for colour in my work is simply that it is an expression of energy.” Hand painting dye directly onto cloth means you have one chance to get it right, which she certainly does. An established artist based in the UK, Waller has always had a focus on colour, successfully making pieces for both interior, exterior, and fashion projects. However clothing really drives her practice. She explains her interest in the idea of a stationary image (the painting) merged with a moveable object (the coat). “I’d always been intrigued by the idea that art was primarily to be found in galleries, in museums, in frames – and I wanted to explore other contexts, venues, canvases and spaces. Clothing became a fascinating device to use as a canvas.”
Several years in her early life were spent living on the Mediterranean seas in a boat and once we know this, her striking flashes of hot turquoise and bright yellow make perfect sense. It links back to the landscape and the horizon again. Everything she does connects to the light, weather, and mood of wherever she may be at the time. Those early garments were created with no specific wearer in mind and came completely from her own Aegean adventures; in some ways they were completely un-wearable. But she kept to her love of colour and her customers found her from far afield. Now, she creates collections of exhibition pieces, along with bespoke garments made to commission enjoying a vivid dialogue about colour with the final wearer; but for her it’s “the atmosphere and intensity of colour rather than the actual hue” which is most important.
She just knows and feels when a colour is right. As mysterious to most of us as this sounds it’s really the crux of any work by a brilliant colourist. In the fashion and interiors industry the desire to quantify and understand what makes certain colours ‘right’ often meets this brick wall. People who are good with colour often just, are. Waller takes colour references from her environment and then ‘intensifies’ or ‘deletes’ colours accordingly in order to arrive at the end result. It’s this constant addressing and editing process that makes the final garment so engaging.
Extract from the article On the Same Wavelength: Ptolemy Mann meets three designers whose work is saturated in colour, in Issue 57 Meteorological, written by Ptolemy Mann.
We're delighted that Carole will be joining us for our upcoming online talk, My Life in Colour, on Wednesday 16 March.
She will provide an artists perspective on colour, traversing her career as a painter, creating painted silk and cotton garments and accessories.
Find out more and book your tickets here: