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Martha Roberts on colourful living and Shelfie styling-Women in creative business

Rainbow books Shelfie by Martha Roberts from The Colourfile

Hello! and thanks for stopping by!

Welcome to my new series of interviews. Here I chat to ace women who inspire me and have set up creative businesses to fit around motherhood. My 1st interview is with Martha Roberts from The Colourfile Blog. We chat all about colourful living and Shelfie styling. I am very passionate about women in creative business so I hope these will inspire you in some ways. I met Martha last year on our mini business course and she's a lovely soul. If you don't already follow her on instagram it's a must as it is a feast for the eyes and will lift your spirits any grey day! Plus her beautiful book 'SHELFIE' is coming out in July.


I trained as a journalist and my background is in newspaper and magazine writing but in February 2017 I started to blog about colour at The Colour File. I go around taking colourful photographs which I then compile into colour- and texture/shape-themed quartets. Each one is accompanied with a ‘micro-blog’ of around 70-100 words which includes anything from facts and stats about colours to personal colour stories. I also do ‘shelfies’ where I arrange my favourite vintage finds and new objects on a shelf or shelves, generally with a colour theme that is one I love or one where I’m challenging myself to see what unusual combinations work. It’s as a result of this that I was commissioned to write my book, ‘Shelfie’, which is coming out in July.


I started writing about colour as a result of my editor at Psychologies, Suzy Greaves, giving me a life-coaching session when I was having a moment of mid-life anxiety two years ago. I was telling her all the things I thought I ‘ought’ to do to move my career on (like retraining as a psychologist) when she cut right through it all, saying, ‘Yes, but what is it that you LOVE?’ I explained it was colour but that it wasn’t really a ‘thing’, to which she replied, ‘Then MAKE it a thing and see what happens!’ I didn’t start blogging about it for another seven months because I still wasn’t sure what the blog would be but when I did it felt like the most natural thing in the world to be doing. I’m glad Suzy forced me to be brave.
Martha Roberts platic collages The Colour File has also let to me collecting colourful marine plastic litter which I've taken to arranging into colourful pictures, like these pastel one. They spent years maybe decades, being washed around in seas and rivers, so it feels right to retain their fluidity and transience.


I think it’s all about the visceral feeling you get when you clap eyes on something special – I liken it to the chemistry you feel when you meet people you know are going to be good friends or even the love of your life. You know you just can’t walk away from it. It’s anything from a gentle fizz to a lightning bolt but it’s NEVER a ‘Yeah, that’ll do’. Well, not for me, anyway! My rule of thumb is to go with something – whether it’s a work of art, a wall colour or an accessory - that makes you hold your heart with utter joy. About ten years ago, a fashion editor friend of mine, Heather, told me that you should choose things because you love them – ‘like’ just isn’t enough. That has been my rule of thumb ever since. What I find is that by sticking to that, a sense of object and colour cohesion naturally follows: if the thread running through is that everything in your home has been bought or acquired with a feeling of utter love, then it will go. For example, I have this love of faded, pastel colours and often buy artwork in those hues. The subject matter varies enormously – a watercolour of some beetles, a framed button card, a vintage flowers still life – but they sing when they’re put together. Love what you choose and you can’t go far wrong.


The book is called Shelfie and it’s about the art of arranging shelves. There are two parts to it: the first is shelfie ‘rules’ I’ve come up with to help people construct perfect shelfies and the second part is room by room to illustrate how it might be done. It happened very quickly: I signed the deal in at the start of December 2017, had eight days of shooting in January 2018 and had to submit the manuscript, captions and pictures by January 31. It was hair-raising and I haven’t been that exhausted since my son was first born, but thanks to great teamwork (including Emily from Doodlemoo who lent me some gorgeous artwork for the shoot) it all came together.
Shelfie book The 'Shelfie' book by Martha Roberts is coming out in July and it is available to pre order


I recently did a shelfie for PurePR using beauty products on a sand-coloured String Pocket shelving unit. I’d looked at their products and saw lots of dark brown, pharmaceutical-type bottles from Perricone MD and I knew I just had to put them with cerulean blue in a blue and brown shelfie. Now, I’m not mad keen on brown but when it’s with blue it can be phenomenal. I did a similar one for The Colour File where I teamed blue (apparently the world’s favourite colour) with a sludgy khaki (apparently the world’s ‘worst’ colour – people associate it with ‘death’) because I loved the juxtaposition of ‘loved’ and ‘hated’ working together and I enjoy a visual challenge!
Shelfies Styled by Martha Roberts from The colour file Shelfies Styled by Martha Roberts from The colour file


No, I don’t! My four-year-old self would have insisted it was purple but I now love combinations of colours rather than one single colour. I love pink and green; pink, green and yellow; and pink, green, yellow and purple (one of my favourite pieces of artwork I’ve got is a picture by street artist Christian Guemy, AKA C215, which is of his daughter Nina and is in those colours). There are individual colours that make me very happy, like cerulean blue, spring green, hot pink, millennial pink and crocus purple, but it’s the range of colours in the world that makes life so fantastic. I could never stick to just one.
NINA_C215 My 'NINA' picture by _C215 (Christian Guemy) consists of my favourite colour combination: pink, purple, yellow and green


I see colour everywhere so this is a tricky one. It would have to be a city because although nature comes up with some phenomenal colours and colour combinations, it’s man-made colour scenarios that excite me the most. So it would probably have to be New York, London and Miami (all those delicious pastel-coloured Art Deco curves and lines). I also loved going to Peru for its textiles. I have a burning desire to visit Guatemala to learn about fabric dyeing techniques and Cuba for the buildings but these are just the tip of the colourful iceberg. I know I’ll find colour wherever I go, even in the least glamorous and dazzling places.


Everything I see inspires me, from something someone is wearing to an accidental splodge of paint dropped on a pavement. The Colour File has given me permission to be as crazy about colour as I always have been but didn’t know what to do with it. Every day I think, ‘Where will the colour opportunity be today?’ and almost without fail it pops up, often when I’m least expecting it. The people who inspire me aren’t necessarily famous (although Iris Apfel is my style and attitude icon) but rather ordinary people whose passion for colour, pattern and form is unequivocal and without apology. I find them more and more as I journey through colour. It’s like I’m finding my ‘colour tribe’.
'I see colour and beauty in the strangest places! 'Accidental' man-made colour beauty excited me the most, like these blue pipes against and orange ceiling. I look everywhere for colour and colourful picture opportunities, including oon pavements! I still love the fluoro work men's markings on a pavement in Bordeaux. I love that they mean something to someone but don't need to be anything but beautiful to anyone else.


Don’t be nervous. I waited seven months until I started mine because I couldn’t visualize what it would be. It was when I went to a book launch of a blogger who isn’t a writer but had written a book that I suddenly thought, ‘What are you DOING?! What are you waiting for? Just crack on with it’. The very next day I put my first blog up on The Colour File and I’ve carried on ever since. I think it’s easy to feel anxious because you think the world will be looking, but in all honesty unless you are Kim Kardashian or Victoria Beckham, no-one is sitting in the wings waiting for your blog. I think this is great news because it’s like having a ‘soft start’ which enables you to make mistakes, try new things and see where the whole thing is taking you without feeling like you’re under constant scrutiny. This means your blogging journey can be an organic, evolutionary process. It’s always worth remembering this if you’re stuck and not knowing how to start.


My business is still in the development stage although I have various lines that I’m pursuing, including shelfie styling workshops which I’m in the process of organizing at the moment. I’m also starting to do more shelfie styling for companies to help them showcase their products. I’m working on the proposal for my second book which will be – and no surprises here – about colour.


You can find me on Instagram at @the_colour_file and at I love people getting in touch with me if they’re interested in colour and have any ideas for projects and collaborations we could work on together. I also have a monthly colour column in Psychologies magazine.
Martha Roberts from The Colour File and a rainbow book shelfie Martha Roberts from The Colour File and a rainbow book shelfie
Thank you so much Martha for telling us so much about your love of colour, colourful living and Shelfie styling! For daily inspiration and colour stories check out THE COLOUR FILE on Instagram and WEBSITE We hope you enjoyed these, please leave us a comment and see you next week!

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