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Color Story

Purple is the color that occurs the least frequently in nature. Throughout western culture history, it had been perceived as a color that was associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and wealth. Originally because Tyrian purple dye, made from the mucus secretion of a species of sea snail was extremely expensive and hard to produce in antiquity. Despite the fact that tyran purple is a natural dye, it's also animal-based and holds in it a history of exploiting and harming nature while extracting it.



Name Origin

The modern English word purple comes from the Old English purpul, which derives from Latin purpura, which, was the name of the mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail in classical antiquity

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Natural dye

For thousands of years textiles were limited to natural dyes. dye were produced related to the regional flora and fauna. The appearance of purple dye was rare. the animal based dye was richer and luster than the plant based,  but the process of making the dye was long, difficult and expensive.

Animal based

Plant based

Plant based


Dark berries

Orcein - purple moss

Sea snails




As early as the 15th century BC the citizens of Sidon and Tyre, two cities on the coast of Ancient Phoenicia (present day Lebanon), were producing purple dye from a sea snail called the spiny dye- murex. The deep, rich purple dye made from this snail became known as Tyrian purple.

Thousands of the tiny snails had to be found, their shells cracked, the snail removed. The snails were left to soak, then  the juice extracted and put in a vessel, which was placed in the sunlight.  

There, a remarkable transformation took place. In the sunlight the juice turned white, then yellow-green, then green, then violet, then a red which turned darker and darker. The process had to be stopped at exactly the right time to obtain the desired color. Then either wool, linen or silk would be dyed. the shade was rich, bright and lasting.

The sea snails purple produce was one of the most expensive dyes in the ancient world, because it took over 10,000 snails to produce about 1.5 liter of coloring, and the process is difficult and very smelly.



The Most

Expensive Color

The cost depended on the color of the cloth. This was because dyes were expensive to obtain. Naturally, Tyrian purple was a color for the elite only. It was a dye so expensive that only Royalty could afford it, and over time, tyrian purple became the color of kings, nobles, priests and emperors all around the Mediterranean.

The color purple is often associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and ambition.

Emperor Justinian I mosaic, 6th century, San Vitale Church, Ravenna



Royal color

Purple's exclusivity carried over to the Elizabethan era (16th century), during which time everyone in England had to abide by Laws, which strictly regulated what colors, fabrics and clothes could and couldn't be worn by different classes within English society.

Queen Elizabeth I's Sumptuary Laws forbid anyone but close relatives of the royal family to wear purple, so the color not only reflected the wearer's wealth but also their regal status .

Purple became synonymous with royalty in England, a connotation which lasts to this day. For centuries only the upper echelons of society could afford to wear purple but things dramatically changed in the 1800s.



Certain fruits, vegetables and flowers may appear purple due to the presence of natural pigments called Anthocyanins. These pigments are found in the leaves, roots, stems, of all plants. They aid photosynthesis by blocking harmful wavelengths of light that would damage the leaves. 

Not all anthocyanins are purple; they vary in color from red to purple to blue, green, or yellow, depending upon the level of their pH.




The attempt to try to craft the color from more available materials, plant based, natural dye, lead to a visual documentation of the process, emphasizing other aspects  of the color such as materiality , texture, form and color spectrum of shades.

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Through intuitive experimentation and visual documentation, in an attempt to produce the color, the research follows alternative ways to make this color less exclusive and to tell its story by the contradiction between royal elements and the perception of purple as high color, while using a plant-based purple dye that made out of very accessible material, as a way to elevate the perception of an object.



& Land

Exhibition by Shenkar Center for Design Research in Israel


Four decades ago, designer Franz Kraus, one of the leading graphic designers of Israel's founding generation, began a series of shell drawings. The series includes dozens of illustrations in various formats, in gouache and pencil, all of which deal with observation, wonder and amazement.

Following the illustrations of the shells, the exhibition contains the tension between scientific observation and precision of nature and human creative interpretation.

The Sea-Land exhibition showcases biological collections of shells and corals, along with design, art, technology and interactive installations.


The surprising connections between the works, the biological exhibits and the educational messages create an active, unique and multi-sensory experience, aimed at involvement and leading a significant process of environmental thinking.

The exhibits in the exhibition range from the meanings given to the shell in the human world to its original meaning in the sea. Visitors will explore the distances between the shell as perceived by man on land and its true role in the sea – the outer shell and shield of a mollusk.

The connection between the sea and land, between the shellfish and its shell, enables a broad view of the shells as part of the living environment of animals and humans, and asks questions about personal responsibility and the boundaries between harming nature and inspiration and exploration.

We invite you to embark on a journey in the shared world of humans and shells, which moves between land and sea in two different spaces, far and near, that enable movement between human crafts and nature - between Shenkar College of Engineering and Design and between the Museum of Man and Animals.

ים יבשה - גלריה רוזן שנקר - אירוע הפתיחה יולי 2023 - קרדיט צילום אמנון חורש (70).jpg
ים יבשה - גלריה רוזן שנקר - אירוע הפתיחה יולי 2023 - קרדיט צילום אמנון חורש (132).jpg
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