History of colour, with hands-on dye making with Francesca Herrick

Ref: S1D31801

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About this course

Discover colourful palettes of the past, with a focus on interior design. Learn about how our psychological and scientific understanding of colour has evolved. Try your hand at using historical dyes and some surprising ingredients.

Course Description

Colour is a topic that links interior design with science and wider cultural developments, such as art and fashion. In this session, we will investigate the unusual origins of historical colours and reflect on the merits of returning to organic options for contemporary design needs. We will look at changing tastes and the factors behind major shifts, from the pretty pastels of Neoclassicism to the daring primaries of the Regency era. We will cover pivotal moments in the evolution of colour theory and psychology in order to think about the value of colour for health and wellbeing.

For our afternoon session, you will experiment with natural, home-made dyes to create different colourful effects. Experience how common food-stuffs, such as beetroot and turmeric, provide vivid colours with no negative consequences for us or the environment. Participants are welcome to bring a small cotton item to dye (e.g. a t-shirt or cushion cover). Alternatively, cotton tote bags and test squares will be provided.


• Engage participants with history by presenting interior design in its social and cultural contexts

• Offer different lenses for looking at interior design, including spotlights on contributions by women and non-Western cultures

• Promote historical materials, techniques and the use of antiques for both aesthetic and sustainability purposes

• Encourage direct connections with history through practical activities

• Create a friendly and positive learning environment where everyone contributes to discussions about design

You will come away with:

• An overview of how colour has been used in interiors over the past 400 years

• Insights into colour theory and psychology

• Appreciation of the global origins of historical colours

Practical outcomes:

• Everyone will take home a hand-dyed cotton item

• Ideas for using natural and sustainable colours

• Tips on growing a dye garden


Timetable for one day courses

Students should arrive by 9am for registration.

Classes are from 9.15 - 5pm

Lunch is included.

Course Materials


  • The College will supply some of the materials, including natural dyes and fixative, a plain cotton tote bag and fabric samples to test dyes.

What students need to bring

  • Washing-up gloves
  • Apron
  • A plastic bag or folder to carry home wet fabric

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes). Possible equipment restrictions in tutor absence.


Francesca Herrick

Francesca Herrick is the module leader in Historical and Critical studies at the KLC School of Design.

Courses of interest

Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.