Colour Provenance

DESIGN: Laura Daza Carrera



make me! 2016


The different shades and colours strike us with their power. However, it seems that their origins and the journey they have made over the centuries are now obscure and forgotten. Today, colour is a commodity, mechanically made and reserved for mass consumption, but it once had a unique aura, power and magic that brought stories to life. The “Colour’ Provenance” design project is a visual exploration and interpretation of the ancient world of colour. By understanding and deepening the knowledge of how colour was sourced, made, and used in the past, Daza Laura aims to celebrate ancient rituals and forgotten alchemical techniques. She also wants to make people appreciate colour anew through the process of experimentation and reproduction of authentic ancient pigments, which are increasingly being irretrievably lost. Today we seem to have lost touch with the sources of colour, moving far away from natural materials and traditional methods. The creation of pigments used to be a labour-intensive process. For example, medieval and Renaissance masters used their apprentices to grind pigments and had access to the most valuable and hard-to-reach ingredients. The project tells the story of 8 colours – White Shell, Saffron, Ochre, Patina, Malachite, Azure, Mummy Brown, and Black Lamp. The artist rediscovers their history, origins, secrets, and original ways of making them. Inspired by the purity of the ancient Egyptian colour palette and the materials used to produce them, she interprets them and seeks a recipe for sourcing the raw materials for their production, such as recreating the green from malachite, believed to be the first shade of green ever used by mankind. Her journey involves many locations and a series of almost alchemical experiments with materials such as dry bones, eggs, mummies, minerals, and shells. One of the colours, Mummy Brown, has an interesting history – the pigment was extracted from mummies ground to ashes.


Daza Laura designed the “DIY Colour Recipe Book,” a useful manual on how to experiment with colours. It highlights ancient colours, restoring them to their original value and significance. It shows the key tools, secrets, and documents the artist’s experiences in recreating colours, such as drawing on historical recipes found in Cennino Cennini’s ‘Il Libro dell’ Arte’ and ancient Egyptian manuscripts (among others). Laura wants to take her audience on a fascinating journey into the past to help them understand and appreciate colour in a different way. The artist has also designed a collection of tailor-made vessels for storing and presenting pigments. Each vessel represents a different colour from the “Colour’ Provenance” palette. Each one is handcrafted, like a valuable jewel, using the same materials that were used to make the pigment; Laura used unusual raw materials that were precious in the old days and are usually very easily disposed of today. These vessels remind us of the importance of colours and the role they have played for humanity.

Colour Provenance, design: Laura Daza Carrera / from designer’s archive

Colour Provenance, design: Laura Daza Carrera / from designer’s archive

Colour Provenance, design: Laura Daza Carrera / from designer’s archive