here’s to christmas, to winter, and to tapetum lucidum,

plant pot in belatrova cobalt ceramic slab pot

the belatrova Christmas tree

Winter is drawing in and the days are getting shorter, Christmas is around the corner, and belatrova is already thinking about 2014 and what it will bring. New colours, newer shapes and sizes of tables and bowls, and who knows what else, though one element will always be a constant at No9, and that is the oxide that produces the colour we most associate with intelligence and trust, serenity, logic, reflection and calm.

Which colour do we think of when winter is upon us? Which is the one that will calm the mind and bring serenity? It is the colour of clear communication, the colour of the mind, essentially soothing, the one we most commonly associate with harmony, faithfulness, and confidence.

the colour blue


It is the world’s favourite colour. But it was not always so: in Europe the colour blue grew in prestige and popularity only because of the veneration of the Virgin Mary and a change in the colours used to depict her clothing. Earlier, her robes had usually been painted in blacks and greys but after the 12th century they began to be painted a rich blue, usually made with a new pigment imported from Asia; ultramarine. So that is how blue became associated with holiness and virtue.

And long before belatrova came into existence, Chinese artisans, in about the 9th century, abandoned the traditional recipes they had been using and began to use cobalt blue, made with cobalt salts of alumina, to manufacture fine blue and white porcelain.

These ceramics were shaped, dried, the paint applied with a brush, covered with a clear glaze, then fired at a high temperature. Centuries later, this was exported in large quantities to Europe where it inspired a whole style of art, called Chinoiserie, though European artisans only succeeded in emulating their Chinese counterparts in the 18th century after a missionary brought the secret back from China.

scooped bowl by belatrova

belatrova scooped bowl made with cobalt and other oxides

For all the associations those in Europe attach to blue, in other cultures it can have other associations. In Mexico, Iran and Korea it is the colour of mourning, in the Middle East it is associated with protection, and in the East it is generally linked to immortality, life and femininity.

And just think how artists have used it down the centuries. Look at Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888) and see how the colour is used to create a mood. That cobalt blue sky and sea, and the touches of yellow/orange (cobalt’s opposite), are what create everything depicted – an immersion in blue.

painting by Vincent Van Gogh of night panorama over the Rhone river

Starry night over the Rhone by Vincent Van G

So all this is a roundabout way of saying to all of you: “see you next year, enjoy the winter, have a happy Christmas.” We will raise our Dry Martinis to you and dream up new things for your delectation – belatrova knows that even arctic reindeers’ eyes change colour over the course of the seasons (from amber to blue), so we may surprise you in 2014, though cobalt blue will always be there in some guise or another.

pug mill with Santa Claus hat

Thelonius says “Happy Christmas”

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