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Red

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Red

In almost all of my paintings or jewelry, you will find a touch of red somewhere. This habit of mine can be traced back to October of 1999, during my first trip to Tohoku, Japan. During my travels, I particularly enjoy the first impressions of the landscape. Having arrived in autumn, the colors were at their most vivid and intense. 

Some of my most lingering memories of my first month in Tohoku were seeing the red Torii gates of Shinto shrines,  Buddhist temples all in contrast in with the deep autumn colors. It was an all around sensory experience, I can still recall the scent of healing hot spring baths, the scent of hinoki and sulphur in the chilled autumn air. 

All of these sensations brought to life the power and energy of the earth, and left an indelible influence in my life and work. When I began doing enamel jewelry the colour red became a constant. It never ceases to inspire and when wearing red, it brings a distinct energy and confidence, while also providing a reminder of our source. 

As you may know, red is one of the most ubiquitous colors in Japanese culture. The color red is symbolic of power, strength, joy, and happiness. It is considered an auspicious colour, especially with white (as it is used in the national flag). It is also often seen at Shinto shrines, as “shuiro” or vermillion is believed to ward off evil and bring good luck. 

There are many traditional shades of red or aka in Japanese, shuiro (vermilion) , enji (dark red), karakurenai (crimson or Chinese red) , hiiro (scarlet) safflower red (benibana) and akaneiro (madder red) are just a few.. Japanese colour names are endless and intricate in colour and hue. 

Ranging from orange to deep wine hues, red has had a depth of meaning in world cultures and art throughout history. It is symbolic of love in western cultures and in many cultures, red symbolizes, power, strength, success, joy and good fortune.

In ancient history, red colors were created using various pigments, here are a few:

  • Rubia Akane/ madder which produces a dye extracted from the roots and ranges from pink to deep red. 
  • Safflower/Benibana: the darkest colour of safflower ranges from deep red, orange to rose. Benibana was once used in cosmetics as lip or cheek rouge. 
  • Cinnabar: Cinnabar red is an orangish red pigment made from the ore of oxidized mercury found in nature, from volcanic deposits and hot springs. Cinnabar is also known as vermilion, they are chemically the same however cinnabar refers to the mineral and vermilion is the pigment. Cinnabar or vermilion is a perfect representation of its inner earth origins. 
  • Kermes: Crimson red , which inclines toward purple, was made from the dried bodies of tiny female scale insects called kermes which fed on the sap of certain oak trees and were harvested to produce dyes and paints. Over time kermes became less used and cochineal became the dye of choice one of the reasons was that it took twelve times the amount of kermes to achieve the color intensity of the cochineal.
  • Cochineal: Both scarlet which is an orangey red and crimson red were rendered from dried and pulverized scale insects, cochineal are cactus eating insects native to tropical and subtropical areas of North and South America. 

You can see how the many shades of red still inspire and feature in my latest work on my online shop! Here are two pieces that feature red more prominently: