The Colour Code by Liz Roache

A chat with American artist Liz Roache about her latest collaboration with la Maison Pierre Frey and how colour can influence your life and well-being .


IRMA: You once said that all of your artwork starts with a paper study. What does the paper cuts you created for the Pierre Frey collaboration mean to you?
LIZ ROACHE: All of my art begins with a paper study. That’s the way I was trained in colour and design. I continue to work with paper for my love of the colour I can achieve but most of all for its sharp edge. The patterns I have with Pierre Frey all came from paper studies first. What is so fantastic is that you can see this is the way they began because the fabrics also achieve this beautiful sharp edge and clean line which is so important to the overall impact.

IRMA: Do you think of Colour or form first?
LIZ ROACHE: This is such a good question. I am not sure. I have a giant table of paper, shapes, paint, inks, shapes, etc. and I often begin by pulling things together. Often I see the beginning of pieces on the table and think “Oh these two colours / things have to live together”! It’s more listening to the materials than thinking ahead. I love that kind of play – it’s the most fun way to design.



IRMA: Where did the inspiration came from for the collaboration with La Maison Pierre Frey?
LIZ ROACHE: The focus of my artwork is always on the power of colour and dynamic Design. I have an entire collection of prints that centre around those two things. I’ve worked this way for 30 years. I teach an extensive course on Colour mastery and Bauhaus Design Courses. I studied and then taught alongside Ati Gropius for over 30 years and was then chosen as her successor. My entire art career has centred around Colour’s behaviour and dynamic design. Patrick Frey requested certain pieces in my studio to be sent to his team in Paris. He knows exactly what he likes. We share a mutual appreciation for bold colour and design. He’s so fun to be with, everyone loves him. He has extraordinary enthusiasm.


IRMA: Does it help you to form groups of shapes and colours to create something new ?
LIZ ROACHE: Yes, forming new colour groups or new shapes together always leads me to create something new. I do this by cutting things out – shapes and colours and pulling them together. Also, I love to walk everywhere, the woods, the beach, around town because colour and shape and pattern are everywhere, even in the shortest walk you can find many, many things that should be worked on, put together. It’s all everywhere. I often bring things into the studio I found on the street. Paper, cardboard, some great shape that needs to be expanded on. Rotting trees are especially fun to look inside of.

IRMA: You once said your work got a different dimension when you met Ati Gropius in the 90s, the daughter of the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Tell us how Ati influenced or inspired you for the work you are creating now.
LIZ ROACHE: Ati Gropius has influenced all of my work, everything that I know about colour and design Ati taught me over 30 years. After working with it for so long I have come to new things on my own, but all of my work is rooted in her teachings of Alber’s colour work (she was a direct student of his before I became her student) and her lifelong dedication to the Bauhaus which is the school her father Walter Gropius founded. She dedicated her entire life to Albers and Bauhaus teachings like I have dedicated mine.


IRMA: How did you come up with the names, Saturday, Surprise, Optimist for the different fabrics, wallpapers and carpets for your collection with La Maison Pierre Frey?
LIZ ROACHE: Saturday, Surprise, Optimist came from the thought that the intention of my work is to lift you up. It is optimistic and always has been. When people come into my studio, they tell me time and time again how happy they feel. This is important to me, you are meant to feel uplifted – someone once told me that my work is like an antidepressant, that was one of the best compliments I have ever had. Colour can have an enormous impact over our environments and our moods, so can dynamic design. All of it should be alive and make us feel alive. Otherwise, why do it? It’s my contribution to our world today – look there will be a better tomorrow, there is already so much to be happy about today. I’m just reminding you of that.


IRMA: Who are your heroes in art ?
LIZ ROACHE: My art heroes are Ellsworth Kelly, David Hockney and of course Matisse.