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Good pattern is one that people can connect with - one with familiarity

Pattern is innate in us - we have been at it since the beginning of mankind. Symbols and patterns were so important to primitive tribes; they formed the basis of their languages and consequently, our visual and verbal language today.

As early as 40,000 years ago, zig zag lines were etched on Ice Age mammoth teeth, the stripe appeared in prehistoric times and was bent at right angles to produce a zig zag, perhaps to represent the hostile-looking mountain range.

In the cave paintings at Lascaux, animals were depicted and Oriental carpet often showed the stylised gardens in the oasis that the desert tribes hoped to fi nd. In the early eighth Century, chrysanthemums signifi ed long life; the swastika signified light, and perhaps was a stylised version of a four - petaled flower, blooming when the weather was fruitful.

Andean tribes wove dots and lines and suns into feather pieces; 16th Century Ottoman craftsmen wove them into beautiful brocades - their patterns were as sophisticated and as beautiful and modern looking as anything today.

17th Century Mughal painters and craftsman carved with exquisitely sensitive depictions of desert flowers into marble, neelam stone and pietra dura work.

Then there are the William Morris designs or those 17th Century silks by Maria Garthwaite and James Leman. And on it goes - so you could argue that the groundwork has been done for us modern pattern makers.

I have come to understand that a good pattern is one that people can connect with - it must have a sense of familiarity about it, but at the same time the design must surprise them with its freshness.

We are all becoming more confident with pattern. In interiors, geometrics are very much on trend. I am seeing geometric patterns infl uenced by the dynamic abstractions of the Russian avant-garde and the Russian Art exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts will no doubt inspire bold innovative design. The Turnell and Gigon design Rocket is an embroidery of flying geometric motifs mixed up with Ottoman crescent roundels motifs. Rocket is embroidered on a rough farmer’s sackcloth, using glinting metal thread and raffia, making Rocket a ‘noble’ embellishment of a poor man’s cloth.

The Japanese were very good at this in the 16th Century with their kimono fabrics, taking the simple knot and dye and the running thread technique and incorporating metal thread creating wonderful hand painted depictions of nature.

Flowers and botanicals are timeless but the fashion is to give the classics a fresh spin. Nature arranges shapes so well, whether it’s the petal formation of a flower, or the lines on a shell - I find it quite astonishing that any of us pattern makers feel the need to do any re-arranging of our own.

In the past, decorative patterns were hand drawn, hand painted, hand carved, hand woven - all with skills that demanded patience, a lot of practice, real thought and close live examination of nature. Today images of plants or geometry can be scanned, downloaded and with a click on the key board, manipulated to produce a pattern so easily. I worry that this has produced a slap dash trigger pulling attitude which can lead to soulless results.

I feel lucky as I have the best of two worlds - the experience of pre-digital age Art school with lots of drawing, painting and experimenting with print techniques without the distraction of computers combined with, the current digital age speed which enables me to work on several projects at once.

It will be interesting to explore the interest in hand drawn pattern in a digital age. This may well be a trend in itself. 

Designer: Neisha Crosland

Author: Neisha Crosland

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