YES INDEED: COLOUR MAKES PEOPLE HAPPY
There must be a special place for colour in my hippocampus. In yours too. It springs into action when a colour instantly summons up your first bike, your grandmother’s tea cosy, or the sleeve of a cherished LP. Sometimes, it’s two juxtaposed colours, reminding you (even if you don’t make the conscious link) of a railway station you used to use, or a Grace Kelly outfit in Rear Window. Its a kind of Proustian magic !
I don’t think I knew all that back when I was painting beach houses on Long Island, and travelling into the city to restock at Pearl Paint. Arranged over five floors in Lower Manhattan, Pearl had been serving everyone from jobbing house painters to artists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock since the 1920s, and treating them all just the same.
But what I had begun to realise was that I really liked paint, and specialist shops (whatever they sold) with time for everyone. Which made that John Travolta line in Saturday Night Fever – “There must be more to life than working in a paint store” – problematic. It seemed like a noble calling to me.
I’d heard that The Netherlands was the world’s capital of paint and had been since the 17th century, so I went from New Amsterdam to Old Amsterdam, and by some good fortune met a 'rock n roll paint maker' called Hans , and he helped to develop my own paint brand, Siècle. The idea was, we’d make the paint there, and sell it in London – at my first shop in Clapham and eventually (thanks to an inspired buyer) through Liberty’s (the first range of paints they’d ever stocked).
Then I got the chance to buy my own ramshackle premises in South London and do what I liked with it. We'd Run occasional screenings of cinematic celebrations of colour, like the Umbrellas of Cherbourg or West Side Story. And I installed a messy spinning paint wheel where kids could create their own technicolour masterpieces.
Most of all, I just wanted it to be a shop you could drop into and share significant colour-inspired moments of the kind you’re unlikely to get in a chain store. And go home with a headful of colours you instinctively liked, rather than those dictated to you by institutionalised ‘good taste’.
Colour Makes People Happy is now in Lewes, East Sussex
We are soon to open a CMPH in-store experience in the Netherlands (between Utrecht and Amsterdam)