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Colour day proves a sight for sore eyes!

Mon, 25/04/2016
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Mensa chairman JENNY GILL reports from a colourful day out in Yorkshire


What an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. First of all the company of 30 Mensans, families and friends and then enjoying an informative Colour Experience at the Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC) in Bradford - not only a learning experience but an opportunity to experiment as well.

No, we didn’t blow the place up!

We had a very interesting and informative presentation by Richard Ashworth, the SDC Colour Experience manager, entitled Can You Believe Your Eyes, which explored optical illusions, colour effects and perception.  This set the cat among the pigeons when people sitting next to each other, looking at the same thing, saw different things!

We then visited the gallery which contained a number of interactive exhibits.  Did you know that a mantis shrimp has 12 different colour photoreceptors in the eye but we have only three?  A short video showed how they see very differently.

Next we moved on to the workshop.  As you would anticipate, given the building we were in, this was about dyes. 

This gave us the opportunity to become alchemists - unfortunately we didn’t make gold but did manage to turn white cloth golden.

Many remarked it was like being back at school and were having a great time mixing, sieving and dyeing with different substances.  

Each pair had three beakers, one empty, one with a yellow powder (turmeric) and one with a clear substance (this turned out to be water), two small containers containing white crystals (soda) and another clear liquid (vinegar), a wooden stirring implement and plastic sieve, plus strips of white fabric.

First boiling water was added to the turmeric, stirring, mixing, sieving and washing followed on, then using international testing fabric we created this:

The materials on the test fabric are (from left to right) – Wool, acrylic, polyester, nylon, cotton and acetate.  Interesting the different effects, the same dye has on different materials.

Adding soda crystals to the turmeric turned it to dark brownish-red. Turning the solution back to yellow was quite simple, add vinegar.

We then experiemented with all sorts of other substances including the juices of boiled vegetables, such as onions, red cabbage and beetroot, fresh vegetables such as cranberries and raspberries and other products such as saffron.

The next hour (and a bit, we ran over by 30 minutes!) passed quickly.

Despite not making gold, the afternoon was deemed a great success and worthy of repeating.

For more information about the Society of Dyers and Colourists, visit

Is there an attraction or venue in your area which would make an interesting Mensa event? Let us know!