What do you think of when looking at the color green? Do you think of cool grass on a hot summer day? Or maybe freshly sprouted leaves on trees and flowers in the spring. For most people green is a symbol of nature, and new beginnings, attached to joyful memories of time spent in the outdoors. But the color hasn't always had such a favorable image and throughout history has had a vast array of meanings around the world, good and bad.
Green's reputation has made quite a comeback from its deadly origins. No other pigment in the history of art was as dangerous to produce and use as the color we know and love today. To understand why let me take you back to 1775, in the hands of a chemist named Carl Wilhelm Scheele was a hazardous green pigment that would soon take the world by storm. The chemical, arsenic, was being used to create the striking color that Victorian age Europe was said to be “bathed in.” This was not without consequences though; arsenic exposure has horrific effects on the human body causing skin ulcers, hair loss, organ failure and often death. Not the best choice of color for the world to be bathed in (mymodernmet.com).
Often, women and craftsmen fell victim to the effects of the poisonous green pigment. Women of the time adored green, putting it in their wardrobes, nurseries, and wallpaper. The dye would often transfer to their skin, and even in small amounts resulted in health complications. The craftsman, who made and applied the dye, had it even worse. Mass deaths and illnesses were reported for years before a connection between the chemical and their reactions were made. It is believed to have caused many health complications for famous figures like Napoleon Bonaparte, Claude Monet, and Paul Cezanne. By the time the 1960s rolled around the formula was finally banned, but the hue's impact was still prominent throughout the world (Racked.com).
In England, green is thought of as a brave color, being tied to the stories of Robin Hood and other acts of heroism. Japan also holds the color in high regards, believing it will bring growth and eternal life. Many South American cultures view green as a symbol of death. In China, green has previously represented disgrace and dishonor but in modern culture represents cleanliness and purity. It's actually commonly incorporated into kitchen decor and believed to promote good health to those in the home (k-international.com).
Green's place in home decor began long ago, and will likely remain for long to come. The ancient Egyptians believed green was a color of fertility, and often dyed women's garments and belongings the color to promote that. From there, through the Victorian era and late 19th century, green was one of the most desirable shades for decorating any place in your home. Its appeal would eventually disappear for years, due to the toxicity of it but leave it to the 70s to radically turn that around. With the explosion of bright colors and new ways of thinking, green found its way back to our lives like it never left (lithub.com).
Despite its poisonous past, green has developed to be a symbol of environmental consciousness and living a sustainable lifestyle. Unfortunately, many versions of green pigment today still use materials that are not only bad for people but also for the environment. Things such as chlorine, bromide, cobalt, nickel, and titanium are some of the harmful ingredients used in different green hues today. On the bright side, many companies are finding new ways to use natural ingredients in their green pigments, in an effort to practice what they preach. MATE the Label is one company pioneering the movement for more sustainable businesses practices in an industry that is notorious for extreme amounts of waste and pollution. MATE offers sustainably made in America clothing that is naturally dyed, good for the planet and good for it's patrons.
In our lives as stagers, understanding colors and their effect on people is a big part of the job. Our mission is to tell a story with each project we do, and using different colors in the right ways, helps us do that. Green is a combination of yellow, an energetic, happy color, and blue which has a calming effect. We use green to achieve a sense of harmony, freshness, and to bring balance to harsher elements in the house.
So the next time you pull out your favorite green sweater or are admiring your lush green pillows, I hope you’ve discovered a newfound appreciation for how far the color and our world have come.