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Imagining the New Year in Color

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tangerine-tango

By Claire Walla


Tangerine Tango. It’s bold, it’s exciting; it’s probably one of those colors you either love or you hate. But whether you like it or not, Pantone has named this vibrant shade its official color of the year, which — considering the influence of Pantone, a widely regarded authority on color — means you’ll probably soon be seeing it in retail venues and storefronts across the nation.

When I told Pantone color forecaster Keith Recker I thought the color was fine, but, unfortunately, it was probably the least flattering color combined with my rather bland complexion, he seemed to understand.

“I know,” laughed Recker, whose skin has a similar pigmentation. “Who looks good in tangerine?”

We agreed that Tangerine Tango is a color you either have to have really dark features for or be super-pale to pull off.

“But that’s part of the message,” he continued. “We are operating on two extremes these days. It’s either super expensive, or it’s a bargain. You’re either on the left, or you’re on the right.”

For Recker, as well as the color professionals at Pantone who boldly predicted 2012 as the year of vibrant orange, selecting colors to characterize the entire year takes more than a hunch and intuition.

When selecting colors to represent a given year, Recker, who works from an office in the Loeffler building on Bay Street in Sag Harbor, begins far away from the color wheel. Instead, he gathers information from such sources as current events, hot topics, fashion trends and pop culture. In essence, he tries to take the pulse of the nation far in advance to get a good grasp of what the most prominent issues will be during the course of the year. To these trends and events he assigns emotion, and to these emotions he then attaches color.

For instance, Recker said this year will largely be defined by the 2012 election.

“This color talks to the heated debate we’ll be seeing in 2012,” he explained. “Tangerine Tango is definitely a warning, super-bright, keep-you-on-your-toes color.”

The bold, radical hue, Recker said, could “propel you into achieving more and being more inventive.”

(Just to clarify: Recker was not directly involved with selecting Tangerine Tango as the color of the year, but he stands by Pantone’s decision to single it out. As a color forecaster who works for companies, including Pantone, Recker himself puts together a more wide-ranging handful of color palettes for the year. But, tangerine just so happens to fit in with the gist of his own forecast.)

But if orange is not your thing, have no fear: 2012 is about duality. To better characterize this idea, Recker hand selected two unique color palettes for The Sag Harbor Express, each made up of color swatches culled from the comprehensive color forecast he submitted to Pantone for 2012.

The first palette — containing Tangerine Tango — is a collection of bright, bold, almost candy-coated colors representing the energetic, ambitious side of the year.

“It’s this idea of technology, innovation and moving forward,” Recker explained.

The colors themselves stem from what Recker referred to as “the primacy of technology” in our everyday lives.

“I’m much more conscious of the control technology has over me these days,” he said. “We’ve got all these things that are constantly offering news and stimulation, demanding response and attention, and the response loop is quite small; people want to hear back from you super quick. So, we are faced with on-screen colors most of the day.”

He noted that the fashion world is already broadcasting this message. From Christopher Bailey at Burberry and designer Paul Smith to Ralph Lauren, Recker said spring and summer collections are already featuring bold, brilliant colors.

To complement this message, however, Recker also put together a line of more muted tones: a rich red wine color (which Pantone calls Red Plum), a mustard hue (which Pantone calls Arrowwood) and series of greys. These colors, he said, are about “staying calm, rooted, sensible and grounded.”

These shades have the characteristics of a color palette Recker initially modeled after the vibe of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“It’s more of an intellectual take, all the warm colors of leather book bindings — that’s where the Arrowwood comes from,” he explained. “It’s the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and really enjoying that.”

The idea behind this pair of palettes ultimately urges you to tow the line between being bold and creative, and calm and sensible. And according to Recker, we need both to move forward.

“Unless we make some bold, brilliant changes, what are we going to do?” he asks. “And if we don’t keep our feet on the ground and address some of the fundamentals we’ve really neglected we’re not going anywhere, either. We really need to be strong in both ways, and we need to move back and forth across the divide.”

Which brings us back to the color of the year. Still wondering how to incorporate Tangerine Tango into your life? Take a tip from Recker: he said he actually stepped out of his comfort zone and bought a jacket that definitely sits in the same vein as this vibrant orange hue. What’s more, he said he’s already worn it in public. Twice.

“I feel like a lollipop when I wear it,” he admitted. “But, you know what? I feel great. I have felt so vibrant and so on. Normally, I’d never… But, honestly, it’s felt really good to do something so out of my comfort zone.”

He continued, “For me, if you have to plan how to engage with these colors, just pick one and see how it goes. Get yourself a Tangerine Tango coffee mug and see if you don’t notice a difference. All it takes is one little thing. See what happens… you might like it.”

Saving Crafts: Magazine Documents World’s Little-Known Artisans

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Page 37 from HandEye_Issue

What’s happening in Africa? Southeast Asia? Haiti?
If you pay attention to international affairs, these place names probably evoke images of poverty, warfare and disease. At least this is what mainstream news headlines tell us.

But Keith Recker, founder and publisher of Hand/Eye Magazine, wants you to know that there’s more to the world than conflict. He created Hand/Eye to give readers a glimpse at international issues from a different perspective: art.

Printed on unconventionally tall, matte paper with brilliant eye-catching colors, large photographs and carefully rendered design elements, the magazine showcases high-end craftwork by artists around the world—most of whom you’ve probably never heard of.

Articles have covered velvet cloth made by the Kuba peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo; batik cloth crafted by a young woman named Nani Norchayati Lestari in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; and metal sculptures welded together by Croix-de-Bouquets artist Jean-Roberts Jacques.

Recker said one of the reasons why he decided to create the magazine is to educate people on the cultural value of other parts of the world.

“I feel like learning what is gorgeous, admirable, enviable and desirable in a place like Haiti or Mozambique may actually color our decisions vis-a-vis those societies in a much more positive way,” he explained.

“If you really see what’s at stake, if you really see that they’re a culture of creative people with problem-solving resources, wouldn’t you make better investments?” Recker, a Shelter Island resident who holds office space here in Sag Harbor, has a background in design, having been the vice president of home furnishings for both SAKS and Bloomingdales in New York City.

After nearly two decades in the business, during which time he forged connections with artists and gained a working knowledge of he international craft market, Recker was able to tap into his network of friends and associates in 2008 when he decided to begin work on the first issue of Hand/Eye.

Page 38 from HandEye

Now, after four printed editions and a circulation that hits about 4,000, the production is still modest, relying mostly on freelance contributors who volunteer their time writing articles and helping with fundraising efforts. In fact, the only other full-time contributor to the publication is Rebeca Schiller, who serves as Hand/Eye’s web editor.

While the website has the potential to reach a more wide-ranging audience (the magazine is only sold in a few boutiques and museums in the United States and Europe—none on the East End), Recker said the magazine component is still very important.

“I love print because I feel, particularly in the case of unknown artists, they deserve to be preserved,” he explained. Unlike the website, which also provides a wide array of information, the magazines are fashioned around a central theme, most often geographic. Past issues have covered Africa and East Asia, and now Hand/Eye sets its sights on Haiti. Partially due to the large-scale destruction that hit the area in the wake of the massive earthquake almost exactly one year ago, Hand/Eye’s focus on Haiti prompted Recker, for the first time since the magazine’s inception, to create the Hand/Eye Fund, a non-profit organization that aims to raise money for artists and craftsmen around the world. Recker has put effort into raising grant money and forging partnerships with national organizations like West Elm, Pottery Barn and the New Mexico Craft Fair, as well as local non-profits like Peace Quilts and Haiti Projects.

So far, Recker said the Hand/Eye Fund has raised over $100,000, half of which has already been distributed to poor artists in dire need of monetary support.

One of the main focuses of the Hand/Eye Fund recently has been housing. Millions of Haitians are still living in tent camps, which—for many artists—means they have been unable to work.

So last month, Hand/Eye held a fundraiser which collected about $3,000 to build a modest 400-square-foot home for a local painter named Gerard Fortune; and this week Recker will hold another fundraiser with the hope of raising another $6,000 to build two more homes for Haitian artists. The funds have also gone toward other artistic endeavors. Recker’s favorite grant so far, he said, went to help a group of mostly elderly women in a small Haitian village called La Vallée de Jacmel who make 17th Century cutwork lace.

Using a technique that was brought to the village by french nuns, the women draw lace patterns on paper by hand then place the paper over a piece of fabric. Then, using a blue oxide paste, the women make small dots along their paper patterns, which sink into the fabric below, thus transferring their designs from paper to fabric. The intricate task is time-consuming. And, as La Vallée de Jacmel is an impoverished region in an equally impoverished country, productivity is key.

With Hand/Eye grant money, the women can now create stamps that will more quickly transfer their patterns onto fabric and increase their rate of production.

While the Hand/Eye Fund has kept its focus on Haiti, Recker said that in the coming year—especially with the broad focus of the Spring/Summer edition of the magazine,

“Manifesto: philosophies of making and consuming in the 21st Century”—Hand/Eye will take on more global initiatives. Because this is what the magazine is all about. “The news media covers the news, but it almost never sees global creativity,” Recker continued.

“And in a world that’s increasingly connected, shouldn’t we be focusing on the everyday genius of creative people as much as we focus on the everyday genius of politicians, criminals, merchants, companies and executives?”

The Man Who Predicts Color

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Keith009_L


By Claire Walla

How do you plan for the future?

Keith Recker starts with two 35-pound boxes of pictures and, after he scans this imagery and considers countless other artistic and visual sources, he reduces the future to 50 swatches of Pantone color.

Recker — who lives on Shelter Island and recently moved into an office in Sag Harbor — is a color forecaster, which, in the simplest of terms, means he predicts which colors will dominate the retail market two years from now.

In addition to Pantone, an internationally renowned corporation that has created over 3,000 copyrighted colors and color-schemes used in dyes, fabrics and computer graphics around the world — he also submits forecasts twice a year to a global trend-forecasting company called WGSN, the self-proclaimed “fashion capital of the 21st Century.”

Recker’s color schemes today will be used to spark conversations tomorrow among clothing designers and retailers, like Target, for instance, who will turn to his color palettes for creative inspiration.

“It’s about suggesting different combinations of color that can be used to make new products, and doing so in the context of a narrative that may be interesting two years from now,” said Recker, one of just a handful of color forecasters in the world.

But color is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I use words, as well as visuals,” Recker explained while flipping through a Power Point presentation of his Spring 2011 collection. The presentation begins with a stack of rectangular color samples, which rest beneath a headline that explain the palette’s overall theme.

“In this 2011 collection I’m trying to talk about walking forward through the great recovery, shaking off the dust of the stuff we’ve been through and really starting to allow ourselves to get enthused and live again.”

This theme emerged after Recker said he floated “a zillion” other ideas all based on certain trends, images and ideas he sifted through while trying to boil the future down to a single concept.

“I’m forever looking for books and magazines and interested in what films are bubbling up and what they look like,” he said. ”One season I find that all of a sudden I’m presenting several dozen pictures from contemporary photography and the next time it’s manuscripts from 20th century America, Asia and Europe.”

When asked where his inspiration comes from, Recker smiled.

“I don’t want to know,” he said. ”To me it’s less about understanding why it’s happening than seeing it happen and letting it flow. There’s no recipe here. The product world thrives on new. Too much repetition and you’re dead in the water.”

Speaking of new, on December 10, Pantone announced its “color of the year” for 2011 — Honeysuckle, a warm tone between pink and red which the company describes as “a captivating, stimulating color that gets the adrenaline going — perfect to ward off the blues.” Last year’s color, by the way, was turquoise. Though Recker said he has nothing to do with choosing the color of the year, per se, the concept behind it matches his narrative for the coming year.

To focus his Spring 2011 palettes, Recker chose to present them using five different personality types: the Contemplative, the Wanderer, the Seducer, the Wallflower and the Romantic.

Recker’s presentation for the Contemplative, for example, is a blend of earth tones ranging from cream-colored shades to muted reds, followed by a series of artistic and graphic design images, including a picture of chestnut brown hair pinned back with a clip made to look like a small twig.

“[The Contemplative] is people being very thoughtful about what’s going on,” Recker explained. “There’s going to be some neutrals and some naturals; but, the insistence on prettiness is coming back, so we see beautiful lavenders and a beautiful, dark red.”

This concept is similar to a color palette Recker projected two years back, which emphasized recycled and environmentally friendly design.

“You had lots of cardboard color, craft paper, those shades of green that signaled sincerity and naturalness,” he said.

That idea of using “gritty” recycled materials, however, has run its course, Recker said.

To explain the difference, Recker points to a shade of pale white from the Contemplative color palette on his computer: “This is wood that hasn’t been stained, or pushed through a chipper and reconstituted with environmentally safe epoxy,” he said. “It has the simplest, freshest wax treatment.”

Though Recker has yet to see whether these 2011 predictions are on the ball, the present moment is a fleeting concern for a forecaster. Recker is already planning for 2013.

And as for what we can expect to see in 2012, Recker said the presidential elections will most likely play a big part in forming our national mindset.

“You can probably predict a pretty high volume [of interest] and lots of shouting. So, how’s that going to feel? How’s that going to look? How is our visual environment going to accommodate that?”

After a silent pause, Recker answers.

“In our cultural context, colors have messages,” he said. “ And you [have to] pay attention to what has already been done and what feels like it has a lot of energy, as well as what the likely social, psychological, emotional, political and economic landscapes are. Then, somehow, it just happens. A picture comes together.”

“You just have to think about it,” he added. “You just have to think about it all the time.”