I had such a lovely evening on Monday night. May I tell you what I did? I visited the studio of Petra (see a tour of her place here) and spent several hours with her, some clients, and my friend Esra who just returned to Germany after vacationing in her native Istanbul. Esra brought with her a very special gift for me, would you like to see?
Handmade ceramic bowls in the most beautiful shades of purple, with a raised tulip pattern, can you see the tulips? Isn’t it a pretty design? This is very typical from the tulip era in Ottoman history that has influenced design there for ages from tulips on palace walls to embroidery on clothing and hand painted onto ceramics. The Dutch have this period to thank for the tulip bulbs that made their way over to Holland hundreds of years ago.
Seeing this beautiful floral pattern made me think about all of the popular motifs that exist out there and how so many have a deeper meaning than, “it’s cute”, “I think I’ll design a print with a ___ one it because it’s popular right now”, “it sells”, etc.”… Not this lovely tulip. It stems (pun fully intended) from a very important place in history that people living hundreds of years from now will (hopefully) always remember thanks to books and families passing on tradition. Same with many of the ethnic prints and patterns, folk art, etc. that you find often while traveling or through the pages of popular design mags.
Seeing traditional patterns from other cultures is a window into a new world? and it’s a very exciting view. The bowls that Esra gave me inspired research and so Tuesday morning I spent 4 hours reading all about the Tulip era and the Ottoman period to refresh my memory from past world history classes. It was so fascinating to learn about this tulip pattern because now I appreciate these bowls even more. I know I’ve mentioned this several times already, but try to read Selvedge magazine out of the UK, “The fabric of your life: textiles in fashion, fine art, interiors, travel and shopping,” if you can because it as a magazine worthy of your time and money. Each issue is like a book, the writers are polished, accurate, obviously well-traveled, and keenly interested in world culture (and the fabrics! ah!) and unlike any magazine I’ve ever read, I walk away learning so much about what goes into the making of textiles, the tradition behind patterns, and so much more. Each issue is like a mini textiles class, I value Selvedge so very much.
After being so inspired by these tulip bowls I thought about all the patterns out there that have saturated the market and I wonder if perhaps a few of you would be daring enough to start a new wave in the indie design world. Why not try to consider the local culture or bring in something more meaningful to you personally into your next illustration or design? I think many of us are looking for some bright, innovative designers to show us something different. While I really enjoy the popular ones, from birds to faux bois, little houses, and deer… Why not wander off the path a bit and dig really deep to challenge yourself to design something that is a bit like the Turkish tulip — that has to do with your culture, what you’re all about, where you came from, an important period of time to you. Perhaps you are part Polish and could research what your ancestors make in Poland and think of a way to modernize that motif a bit? Or if you are from a certain state see what your state flower or bird is and if you can pull inspiration from that.
This is one thing that I absolutely appreciate about J Hill Design in Boston and her business, “Places I Have Never Been”. Her designs are based on how she imagines a place to be like after conducting extensive research on it. Isn’t that an interesting way to design? I’m sure with each design she feels really challenged and excited! Just? some food for thought in case you are feeling stuck in a design rut lately as one of my local friends told me that she feels very caught up in a sea of popular designs and would love to expand but isn’t sure what exactly to do next. Hopefully this will encourage you if you have been wondering…
So that was what I did on Monday evening — relaxed in a colorful atelier around layers of raw silk, IKAT, vintage ethnic fabrics, beads from Morocco and Istanbul, silver linens, tassels and sipping ceylon cardamon tea from London, eating double pistachio Turkish delight from Istanbul… yes, inspiration truly comes from nature for me, especially the two-legged variety — human companions. Developing meaningful friendships, and learning from others (including the popular motifs from their native country) can really inspire.
Now go made things, decorate, be creative! :)
(images from holly becker for decor8 and selvedge magazine)