Worth Works

Stephanie Hansen
talks about colour and
Worth Works

Colourful Changes

When I was young I made colour choices to please others. I wore blue because everyone I met commented unfailingly how beautifully it matched my eyes. When I was not so young I made colour choices to spite others. I broke my first colour rule when I was twelve, using my allowance to buy a pair of red underwear from the local Bi-way. The minute my mother saw them in the drawer full of properly white panties, she threw the offending pair in the garbage saying, "Red is for prostitutes and 'for sale' signs!" Her impassioned response showed me that colour choices undoubtedly have everything to do with inspiration and autonomy. Today, for my own pleasure and well being, I layer my entire life with bold and audacious colours. First, however, I had to learn to detach from the strong opinions of others on the matter of the appropriateness of colour.

Clothing was only a small part of that experience. I came face to face with my true colour cowardice when I moved into my first apartment with my boyfriend. At twenty-one, starving for a change of scene, I could not wait to fill my home with colour. Unfortunately, my boyfriend's mother had taught him that walls must be white and uncluttered, and that the carpet must never show the dirt. Not one to risk disapproval…yet…I allowed the walls to be painted white, and suffered in silence as the chocolate brown carpet was installed. I stared at the carpet in defeat and dismay while my soon-to-be-ex partner beamed with delight at our surroundings.

Eventually, making a break for independence, I moved into a place of my own where my frustration with living on a twenty-four-year long strict colour diet came to a head. I satisfied my colour cravings by painting every inch of the apartment not one but two shades of the most shocking, kick-you-in-the-head pink I could find that actually fought with each other on the walls. It was my declaration that no man lived there. Friends and family screamed. I was too busy revelling in the joyful effects of the colour binge to feel upset by their reactions at first. When they pressed further, I jokingly said, "Hey, when I wake up in the middle of the night there'll be no doubt where I am!" They offered to buy new paint and help me "fix it". Visitors continually argued and complained that every time they came over it felt as though the walls were attacking them. It did not take me long to realize what was really under attack was my right to choose.

I soon became sick of living in a circus booth, but I had too much on the line to change yet. Keeping the pink walls was an intentional exercise in making a choice. I was determined to live with the visual discord until I was comfortable with making personal choices without regard to public opinion. However, my determination failed and I caved. Using a picture from a posh magazine as my guide, I painted my home various shades of beige, taupe, cream, and even - I am ashamed to say - white. Everyone raved. Compliments were endless. I could not wait to get out of there. Despite my lack of resolve, my colour rebellion eventually succeeded because I learned that the approval of others neither encouraged nor discouraged me anymore. This left me feeling at a loss. I gave myself permission to choose how I lived. Now what?

If I was not going to make choices based on other people's reactions, I was going to have to figure out what I wanted for myself. Yellow. I wanted yellow. Yellow would be bright, optimistic and energetic, even when I was not. Yellow surroundings prompted many surprising changes in the way I felt and lived. Even as the paint was drying, I created a home-based business, returned to school, and rekindled my professional writing career. Is my connection between colour and ambition too much of a stretch for you? It took me a while to see it too, although was simple. Every day in my yellow home was a warm, sunny day. I felt free and relaxed. Some people fear contentment leads to complacency and subsequently to inaction. In my experience, contentment breeds and sense of fearlessness. There is an undeniable power in serenity, and from that point of serenity, everything felt possible.

The comfort, energy, and encouragement I drew from my surroundings supported my sense of independence and fed my personal success. My work provided me with motivational skills which I applied to help me graduate with honours across the board. After exploring the tangible and spiritual effects of adding various colours to my home environment, I combined my knowledge of the power of colour with my faith in the power of words. Accused of having an answer for everything, when asked why I painted the words "you're beautiful" on a frame holding my own picture, I said, "Because no one else is here to tell me". When asked why I painted my dresser red, adding the words "your life is entirely your own" across the six drawers, I said, "Because seeing it every day makes it easier to believe.". Exploration taught me a lot about risk and trust and resulted in my new and some would say inevitable career.

No longer requiring courage to use colour, I now use colour to inspire courage. In my bright yellow and purple art studio I sell chairs, tables, mirrors, mache, and other items that I cover with colours and words that challenge and inspire. One mirror is red and insists "I DARE YOU". Another is purple and probes, "What would you be doing right now if you weren't afraid?" Yet another is orange and urges, "Be bold, audacious, and ever courageous". All my words and works of art are chosen with the understanding that we already know our answers but sometimes we just need to 'hear' them anyway. And if ever I question the feasibility or importance of what I do in my colour-based business, I only need to remember what happened last week. My eight-year-old stepdaughter came in to show me her new blue sweater. She said she wanted everything to be blue because everyone always says how beautifully it matches her eyes. She also noted the kitten decal on the sweater and suggested all little girls should wear clothes with kittens and flowers on them because those are "nice things", and girls are supposed to be "nice". What could I say? I just went upstairs to don my bright red pants and paired them with the black sweatshirt that had the word "ATTITUDE" emblazoned across the chest.

Worth Works Studio is supported by The Soul Food Cafe
Copyright - Stephanie K.Hansen

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