I have been wishing for a second set of original Kathryn Kalisz calibrated SciART drapes for some time now. My personal set has become well-worn after years of work with hundreds of clients, and were Kathryn still with us I know I would have ordered another long ago.
As luck would have it one of the original Australian SciART certified analysts has just retired from PCA (Jacqueline Bosscher, whose now-redundant website ‘The Colour Commission” you can see here and whose new interior design focused website you can see here), and offered me her entire set of original SciART drapes. For those who own them, these sets become familiar and personal tools, extensions of our own eyes helping us to “see”. We love and prize those master sets from Kathryn’s own hand, and there is no expressing what an unbelievable thrill Jacqueline’s offer was (someone pinch me, please! The longed for addition and supplement ….at last!)
Genuine and complete “KK original” sets were curated many years ago, and in a different retail environment to that available to me now, working here in Australia. Custom-dyed fabric is particularly expensive and tends to come with volume and quality control issues, so Kathryn, always realistic, worked with stock fabrics, and she used her eye and expertise to classify these selections and employed to best effect the options she had at the time. As a result there was some variation in the exact colours used between sets, and to be able to study these different arrays gives a deeper understanding of her conception of the tones and also of her approach to the test sequence.
Although I make palettes and know the tones pretty intimately, there are colours which still remain elusive as fabrics, and as I look at this “new” set it is exciting to see fabric in colours I have never yet found in real life myself (yes, this happens to analysts and trainers, too. It’s a bit like bird-watching. We all have our bucket list of specimens never seen on the shop racks we favour or on the rolls of the local fabric chains.) There are my longed-for BW taupes (12-Tone Corp 1.2 and 1.3) – finally to see you in the flesh! BW ink? – there it is, a perfect match for the TCI Corporate palette BW 6.7 swatch … and the list goes on, a sprinkling of gems for each of the other tones too.
To examine or re-examine another original set, then, opens the archives of the system all over again. When I brought SciART to Australia and trained the first analysts I handled quite a few drape orders and always took the opportunity to enjoy Kathryn’s choices, but the human ability to fix a precise colour in memory is limited (that’s why we have palettes!) and there is no substitute for living with a set and getting to know it like the back of your hand. Again I appreciate the precision, skill and intuitive thought that her selections represent. They are the definitive expression in fabric of the boundaries she set with the original palettes, Kathryn’s transposition of her system into marketplace reality, and a different set shows us the tones from a slightly different angle.
If you value a system (with accuracy and reliability of results being the top of my list), you want to maintain it and pass it on, and the best way to do that is to practice thoughtfully and transmit it accurately. In 2012-13 I began to consider the practicalities of teaching again. While I could guarantee the world-wide community of analysts and new trainees a supply of accurate palettes, drapes were clearly the greater challenge for everyone. I began to investigate the process of assembling sets that would be reproducible, accurate and yet economically realistic for those working under local conditions here, keying these new versions to the original analyst guide, drapes and palettes – KK originals and current TCI lines – and testing them in practice.
As with making the palettes, there is nothing like trying to re-engineer something to make you more fully understand and appreciate the original. As I began to compose drape kits for my own students here, I tried variations on the original themes and test colours and sequences, working with options as they came to hand, and in doing so, the cleverness of Kathryn’s methods became that much clearer. I re-discovered just how good her understanding of the amount of difference and contrast that the average eye could cope with during a given analysis was, and that you over-tax the eye at your own risk. In searching and searching for suitable fabric lines that would be internally consistent and reproducible I also came to understand the difficult line she walked between what was available versus the possible pitfalls that might result if there was any compromise in the accuracy of the test fabrics, and how this drove her original selections of the tests and reveal drapes.
Her choices were shaped by the need to keep the test results distinctive and useful and to eliminate confusion and redundancy as far as possible, and I realized that she didn’t try to do everything that could have been done, but had designed her tests to hone in on what flattered the client’s colouring (including appropriate contrast levels which sometimes resulted in the same hue represented in the test sequence albeit in different values) without overwhelming or exhausting the viewer and without compromising on the accuracy of the critical test drapes.
As with the original master set of tones, Kathryn made slight tweaks over time in subsequent drape sets – a subtle adjustment here, a small modification there, with the overall aim of perfection every time. In addition to face-to-face training I enjoyed a long correspondence with her, and learnt that she never did anything without careful thought and consideration – she had a clear mental map of her system and her decisions about its design and implementation were deliberate and considered, never accident nor chance. In short, there was always a very good reason for everything she did.
And so it was with the drape set series. An original KK SciART drape set, used correctly, is a flow chart that gets you to the right answer with great economy and efficiency, and it still blows me away that she got it all down as tightly as she did.
I felt the need to extend the sequence in only one respect. The central feature of Kathryn’s work was, as regular readers know, the concept of neutrality, and the original sets incorporated this concept without explicitly distinguishing between warm neutral and cool neutral in the red test sequence. After Kathryn’s death and after re-assembling the palettes I began to tinker with the idea of assembling warm and cool neutral drapes for the red-test component of the draping. For a time in 2012-13 these were available as a separate set through the TCI website, but have since been incorporated into my training sequence.
There is no doubt that the long process of compiling these new sets so as to be faithful in intention to the original has heightened my appreciation and gratitude for the accuracy and elegance of Kathryn Kalisz’s tonal concepts and system design – and this of course is reinforced further by the pleasure of owning and archiving some more of her original work.