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JBW_2013-07-28_04675It’s not every­body who has a plaque out­side their house, still less one that they wrote and nailed up them­selves. But then not every­one rolls like Jaqui Tutt.

Tutt, a nat­ive of the Aro Val­ley, put up the plaque so that pass­ers-by would know why her Epuni Street home is painted such a vibrant shade of mauve. She’s a col­our con­sult­ant, you see: she meets people, works out their col­our palette, and trans­lates it into an interi­or dec­or­a­tion scheme.

Some­times the job goes well bey­ond decor. “I have been asked, in the past,” Tutt says, “to find out what a cer­tain person’s palette was before the oth­er per­son asked her to marry him.” And she didn’t find that a trifle odd? “Well, he’d already done a psy­cho­lo­gic­al pro­file of her, but he thought, just as a final little touch, he’d get me to do her palette.” (The res­ult, romantic read­ers will be pleased to know, was pos­it­ive.) The col­our con­sult­ant turned match­maker; as Tutt puts it, “it’s quite extraordin­ary when I meet people with very sim­il­ar palettes. You know they should be together.”

It would be easy to think that Tutt exer­cises a highly refined taste. Far from it: to each their own, she says. “To me, taste is a four-let­ter word.” And indeed her own house shows little defer­ence to estab­lished norms. Quite apart from its strik­ing col­our, it boasts a com­plete skel­et­on in the bath­room – “that’s Phoebe” – and, in the back garden, a statue of the Vir­gin Mary, res­cued from St Michael’s in Taita, near where Tutt grew up.

She plans to paint her up as “a prop­er Renais­sance Mary”, like the 13-year-old Jew­ish girl she really was, with dark skin and dark eyes. Last Christ­mas, she and her part­ner, Alan Fair­less, dressed the statue as if she were “ready to run”, com­plete with a back­pack and a can of V (for ‘vir­gin’, you under­stand). At Christ­mas time, she and Fair­less also “bless” Epuni Street, and its homes. Not that this goes down well on the door­step, neces­sar­ily – not when, as she puts it, “someone’s in bed nurs­ing a hangover, and I turn up fling­ing my thur­ible at them”.

Tutt’s Cath­oli­cism has inspired increas­ingly tax­ing pil­grim­ages: the Cam­ino trail to San­ti­ago de Com­postela in north­ern Spain, in 2007, and more recently one that involved walk­ing the whole way from Lon­don to Rome. But it was on anoth­er, earli­er European tour that she dis­covered the col­our that now graces her house. She was in Manchester, vis­it­ing its sci­ence museum, when she dis­covered in its base­ment a skein of silk col­oured with the first arti­fi­cial dye, a mauve cre­ated in 1856 by Brit­ish chem­ist Wil­li­am Perkin.

I opened this tiny little card­board box, and there it was. It was so bright, it was almost glow­ing in the dark,” Tutt says. “That, to me, was the holy grail of col­our.” This grail could, how­ever, be rep­lic­ated – with the help of a Pantone col­our chart – and then applied, on the 150th anniversary of Perkin’s inven­tion, to Tutt’s own house, albeit not without some expense. “Each litre cost more than a decent bottle of wine – and we used a few!”

Tutt is act­ively involved in the Aro Valley’s polit­ic­al intrigues; one inter­ven­tion led to a piece of graf­fiti that, ref­er­en­cing the lead­ers of Hitler’s Ger­many, quite unfairly described her and Alan as “Gauleit­er Fair­less and Nazi Queen Tutt”. One sus­pects that she likes mod­ern col­our – with all its vari­ety and oppor­tun­ity for expres­sion – in part because of its polit­ic­al qual­it­ies. Before arti­fi­cial dye made dif­fer­ent shades avail­able to all, gar­ments were col­our-coded accord­ing to status: bish­ops spor­ted purple robes, peas­ants wore woad, and pros­ti­tutes had “red and white striped capes”. Now, col­our says any­thing we want it to. As Tutt puts it, in a kind of per­son­al mani­festo, “We wouldn’t be human if it wasn’t for colour.”

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