When I was working on our Heath Ceramics collaboration, we worked with colors rooted in the Southern vernacular and my upbringing in the 1960s and 70s in Alabama. When I look at the dishes, I see parts of my childhood in the shades of red and blue.
The chosen red is appropriately called red clay, as it was inspired by the color of Alabama soil. This miraculous color used to bring tears to my eyes as I would fly in from my time living in Europe. As a child, our summer clothes were stained with the color. The bottoms of our feet were permanently red clay colored after the temperature reached 78 degrees. Gillian Welch’s song Red Clay Halo cannot say it any better:
All the girls all dance with the boys from the city,
And they don’t care to dance with me.
Now it ain’t my fault that the fields are muddy,
And the red clay stains my feet.
Being a barefoot child who played in the garden, I knew this color intimately. This is the color of hard-working farmers and farm wives; it is the story of a community.
Southern musicians have written about Alabama’s red soil for decades. EmmyLou Harris’s Red Dirt Girl is another iconic example.