A field of pastel
During my extensive research into this ancient blue dye, the only people who have been able to show me a field of pastel grown in Occitanie are Bruno and Régine Berthoumieux. Over the years, I have made numerous visits to their family estate at the Château de La Serre near Cambounet-sur-le-Sor. I have trampled on their crop, watched the harvest, witnessed the transformation of green leaves into blue dye, admired the process of dyeing and even dipped the odd cloth into the vat myself.
Recently, I was back there again, tagging onto a group of 30 Belgians who had come to learn more about the history of pastel and try a spot of dyeing for themselves. As a seasoned visitor, my eye was caught by something new – an exceptionally striking tee-shirt.
Dyeing for charity
In May this year, an association called ‘1000 étoiles pour l'enfance’ (1,000 stars for childhood) asked Bruno and Régine to transform some of their promotional tee-shirts by dyeing them with pastel. You can judge for yourself the success of this transformation thanks to these two photos taken by Régine. You may also like to decide if I’m too sexy for my shirt (too sexy for my shirt). If you can tear your eyes away from the tee-shirt, you will notice that the door beside me is also painted blue. People used to believe that this colour repelled insects. Modern science has discovered that paint made using pastel does indeed provide a natural protection against insects and some types of fungus, but the active ingredient is a transparent substance rather than the colour blue itself.
‘1000 étoiles pour l'enfance’ was founded in 2003 by an artist from the Tarn called Casimir Ferrer and it raises money to help ill children through activities including the sale of these tee-shirts. The design shows the Tour de France against a backdrop of Albi cathedral, inspired by the tour’s frequent visits to the town, most recently in 2019.
To find out more about the Château de La Serre where you can experience pastel for yourself and even buy your own tee-shirt, visit www.pasteldelaserre.fr