Thanks to Ruthie for her blog rainbow feature on Etsy Beadweavers. This week she’s featuring yellow and she has included a bracelet of mine in her feature called Yellow Tartin. You might like to pop by Ruthie's blog and look at the other lovely yellow beadweavings from the team.
I found her selection of yellows very cheering on what was a very grey early spring day in Southern Australia. They reminded me of the bobbing yellow daffodils and jonquils in our garden that tell me spring has sprung. In Australia, the golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha), which has a bright yellow flower is Australia's national flower. It is also a sign that spring has sprung in Southern Australia.
However, like most things in life, the meaning I give to yellow is not necessarily the meaning that others may give to it. What I think is cheery, someone else could find sad, angering or funny. Colours evoke memories, meanings and feelings. They are laden with personal and cultural meanings. In reflecting on Ruthie's blog feature, I wondered what yellow has meant in different parts of the world at different points in time. Little did I realise how many different and divergent meanings lay behind yellow.
Here’s just a little of what I found. For Leonardo da Vinci yellow represented earth, to the Hopi yellow is north and for the ancient Maya it was south. Here in Australia,yellow represents the sun in the Indigenous people’s flag. In some cultures yellow has been, and remains, a colour of renewal and growth and in other countries it is a sign of deceit. In England, early anti-semetic feeling led King Edward I (1200s) to decree that all Jews must wear a yellow star to identify themselves in public, in 10th-century France, doors were painted yellow to identify the homes of felons, traitors, and criminals and in Elizabethan England yellow denoted your status. More specifically, in Elizabethan England by law the duller, muddier yellows were worn by the lower classes and the brighter, more vibrant yellows by the upper classes. Similarly, during the reign of the first emperor of China (known as the Yellow Emperor) yellow was associated with personal status. Only members of the Chinese imperial court were allowed to use the color yellow in their buildings or clothing. It's likely that this was because the yellow dye in clothing of the time came from the labour-intensive process of producing bright yellow dye from stamens of the saffron crocus. Some of yellow’s controversial cultural history in clothing may be linked to the fact that it is apparently the most visible of colours at a distance - hence it’s use in many countries as a hazard or warning colour.
Yellow not only has many meanings but comes in many forms - I stumbled across 20 ways to be yellow - pale yellow, marigold yellow, banana yellow, golden yellow, lemon, canary yellow, champagne, chrome yellow, citrine, citron, flax yellow, lemon yellow, mustard, saffron, butter yellow, corn yellow, straw yellow, toffee yellow, tumeric ... and more.
Those of us who have use yellow in our bead-weaving will bring our own meanings to it – some may be steeped in history, some will be full of emotion but all will be steeped in culture. I wonder what the meanings behind the Etsy beadweaver’s yellows are and were? I wonder how many other ways to be yellow they know?