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Colours of Sheffield “I've always been fascinated by colour and what different combinations can evoke”

Mary Tear and her kaleidoscope of colours are taking over the world.

Colour is all around us. A tapestry of vivids, hues, shades, pastels, neons and everything in between, it has an ability to spark emotion and memory that is all its own.

Mary Tear has taken her Colours of Sheffield idea and run with it far and wide, creating artwork that resonates with people on a deeply personal level and bringing attention to the connection between people, place and colour. I chatted to Mary to hear more about the project and how it has blossomed into a fully-fledged independent business.

How did Colours of Sheffield get started?

It started as an Instagram project in 2017. I’d just decided to continue living in Sheffield and study for a Masters degree and I wanted a creative project to channel my love for the city into.

On Pantone’s Instagram I’d seen people buying packs of 100 postcards and matching them to things in their daily life, like cake designs and colourful sunsets, and it looked really fun. I bought a pack and carried them around with me, searching for and photographing things that matched the postcards around Sheffield. It made me seek the beauty around the city, and in the process I fell more in love with it. I started to explore more areas, find more cool venues and talk to other Sheffield creatives.

In 2019 I decided that I’d like to make a print depicting some of the colours I'd matched and in 2020 when lockdown struck, I finally had the time to put pen to paper.


How did you navigate the journey from Instagram project through to becoming a small independent business?

It started with a bit of a leap and a few huge mistakes, like accidentally ordering the first 100 copies of the print with a typo. Shout out to all the friends who insisted they would take a 'Heather in the Peals' version of the print so I didn't lose out too much!

2020's year of lockdowns gave me the time to dedicate to the business, figuring out the complicated bits and getting my print seen in a few local shops.

I am certainly still navigating the journey though. I work at an anti-trafficking charity in the city four days a week, so fitting everything in can be challenging, but I love both sides of my career and enjoy the juggle.


You've amassed quite the following on Instagram. What do you think it is about the 'Colours of...' format that makes it so appealing?

I think it's the simplicity. Having such a simple design with the grid format, the squares and the chunky capital letters means that you can really go wild with the colours to make it eye-catching. I spend a lot of time ensuring the colour palette has a wide array of colours and that they fit together well. I've always been fascinated by colour and what different combinations can evoke.

You've branched out from Colours of Sheffield into Manchester, cake, Harry Styles and beyond. What's been your favourite 'Colours of...' to create so far, and why?

The ‘Colours of Harry Styles’ was so fun to create. I was asked by a friend of a friend who worked for Capital FM to design it for their Instagram followers, who are mostly Harry fans. When I released the print, I had hundreds of comments from Harry fans telling me I'd forgotten a very specific colour from a hotly-debated fan theory. It was such a laugh.

I’d also spent so much time googling Harry Styles, searching fan sites for the very specific colours of his various outfits and albums that after making the print, my algorithms were showing me a lot of Harry Styles content. Not that I’m complaining – I’ve obviously now fallen in love with him too.

However, my favourite print has got to be Colours of Sheffield because it's where this all started.


I loved your recent Colours of Milton Keynes print. You made that specially for a pal, but do you take on commissions more generally?

Thank you! I have so many prints that are on my list to create but when I get a silly idea in my head it always ends up taking priority. The Milton Keynes one, for example, or the all black one that I created for my goth friend with 12 black squares.

I certainly do commissions. People can choose from 12, 20 or 30 squares and send me their titles, colours and ideas. I've done some really fun ones. I love it when people send me a creative brief such as a flag design for a square or a tartan patterned square.

One customer asked me to recreate one of my postcards using silly words, as they were slowly replacing all the artwork on their fridge with rude versions until their housemate noticed. That was hilarious.

You can order a custom print on my website.


The world is your colourful oyster. What's on the horizon for you in 2023?

The big goal for me is to create a Colours of Sheffield book. I want a place to depict all of the Sheffield-based colours with descriptions from small businesses, local artists, shops and cafes, about why they chose their colour, what colour means to their business, or just what their favourite colour is. Drop me a line if you'd like to be included.

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)

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