August 16th, 2021.
Article by Hannah Fellerman
Hi Ezelle Family,
I hope you are all doing well.
Welcome to this month’s article!
This is the second part of a series where I talk about the beauty of cultural diversity. We will be exploring different cultures’ contribution and influence within the diverse historical and present-day world of print, pattern and textile design.
We will continue our journey across Eastern and Southern Europe.
Please read part one first (previous article) if you haven’t already done so.
I have decided to break this series down into five parts instead of three, to make it easier to digest and fully appreciate the vast amount of information along this journey!
If you would like to contribute to our blog, please email us with the subject “guest writer” to firstname.lastname@example.org with some detail about yourself and your writing experience (all experience levels welcome).
Take care and enjoy the article!
Eastern Europe is made up of Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and Serbia.
You may have heard of Russian dolls, and maybe even collected them as a child. The dolls are carved out of wood and often depict traditional Russian dress. The first Russian nesting doll set was made in 1890. Just like the dolls, traditional Russian fabric uses bright colour palettes and features floral and animal motifs, as well as geometric folk patterns.
Similar patterns are also seen on ceramic and porcelain ornaments including tea and dining sets. The delicate style of the motifs and shapes of the objects compliment each other well. You can have a look at a range of traditional and modern designs on this website where you can purchase authentic Russian porcelain products.
When I look at these charming designs, I can’t help but think about the Alice in Wonderland tea party!
Although traditional art is still largely celebrated in Russia, modern art is very much alive including in Runway Fashion. Current Russian fashion designers have chosen to use simpler colour palettes, larger and more abstract motifs, or delicate yet quirky patterns within the print designs showcased in their work. You can see some examples here (The Culture Trip).
The 1920s and the 1930s was the golden era for Czechoslovakian art and design (Maharam.com).
During this time, textile designer Antonín Kybal started to develop his work. He began as a painter in the 1920s, but started designing textiles shortly afterwards. He founded his own studio and workshop in 1928 and produced textiles to conform to the design requests of modernist architecture, which was the country’s main way of displaying modernist ideals.
Among his first mass-produced items were pillows made up of linear motifs, color fields (tate.org), and nets that corresponded to contemporary abstract paintings and Functionalist architecture.
You can still purchase vintage homeware items which are attributed to his work. However, as he had a great influence on his students, they may have designed some of the items you can find for sale today, such as this rug.
Now when I look at similar patterns, I will remember what I’ve learned about this influential designer.
Poland is a country that has a rich history with pattern-making. One form of this is Wycinanki (pronounced vee-chee-non-kee) was originally a paper-cutting folk art, but later transitioned to embroidery (craftsy.com).
The folk art form focuses on motifs of florals and birds, combined with a bright colour palette.
Today, polish embroidery is not too different from the original style, but has also been implemented into modern fashion design. Joanna Galica, an embroidery designer who has been working for the last ten years in the highland region of Poland, takes inspiration from traditional Polish folk design and combines it with influences from nature and other cultures (spot the paisley pattern in her work). You can read more and see examples of her work here (polishfashionstories.com).
Modern day Croatia is made up of three distinct regions (Croatia proper, Slavonia and Dalmatia / Istria). All three areas have their own distinct cultural crafts but Croatia as a whole has a large practice of embroidery which has been influenced by three other regions; Turkey, Venice in Italy and other Slavic countries. The Turkish influence in particular came from Turkish carpet weaving, which took place during and after the time of the Turkish Empire. Even though Croatia was under Turkish rule for much less time than other areas of the Balkans including Slavonia, it was always on the border of the Turkish empire, so would have been naturally influenced by the culture of carpet weaving which spread throughout the Balkans during the Turkish occupation (fibre2fasion.com).
Croatian embroidery would often be incorporated into woven work. Design motifs and patterns still displayed some traditional visual aspects which were seen across the whole of Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
This is a prime example of cultures merging together to create beautiful designs. Not only do they serve as historical artefacts, but they continue to flourish today!
Naomi, blog author of almostbananas.net, showcases an array of photos from an annual folk festival in 2017 which has been ongoing since 1965. Naomi, originally from Canada with a Japanese father, married a man from Slovakia and uses her blog to communicate to the English speaking world what life is like in Slovakia, focusing on its distinct culture.
The festival focuses on folk costume, textiles and embroidery as well as some other crafts such as wool art, woodwork and lace.
The embroidery patterns in particular are versatile, ranging from large and small floral motifs, to different sized geometric patterns. Colour palettes are also broad and include monochrome, jewel colours and bright primary colours. At the same time they have their own distinct style which to me has a fairytale, whimsical feel.
In present day Hungary, fibre artist Eszter Bornemisza who lives in Budapest, creates beautiful, unique patterns and textures using recycled paper, textiles and other soft materials. She uses a variety of techniques including stitching, painting and printing to develop her work. A lot of her inspiration comes from urban city life and maps. From what I’ve observed, the colours she uses are based on what you’d most find in nature. Click here to view her work and read more about her (The 62 Group of Textile Artists).
Her work truly stands out, and I personally relate to her love of texture and layering in her pattern-making.
Romania has a rich history with pattern, particularly on textiles and clothing. This blog post excellently describes the symbols used in traditional and modern-day Romanian fashion; on clothing as well as accessories (Ammalya.com).
The patterns are heavily inspired by traditional religious and spiritual motifs.
A balance of geometric and floral patterns can be seen across many of Romania’s textiles and fashion designs.
Moldova, once part of Romania also share some of the same pattern inspirations, as the above linked blog post points out. However, they have their own distinct styles too. You can see an example here.
Traditional folk costumes in Serbia, heavily features embroidery, inspired by cultural and religious beliefs (Google Arts and Culture) of the region, which include Islam and Judaism alongside the Christian majority made up of Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism (Wikipedia).
Today there are many contemporary Serbian artists and designers who showcase their individual styles and influences (Singulart). One example is Serbian painter Nemanja Vuckovic. Born in 1990, Nemanja produces stunning expressive abstract paintings, full of explosions of colour which are so calming yet soul-stirring to look at. At first glance, his paintings remind me of sea life, the cosmos and the dream world. Looking closer, I see names like “Under the Sea”, “Illusion”, “Internal state of mind”, and “Dream” to describe his works which depict exactly what I was thinking.
As a print designer who loves playing with texture and colour, I truly appreciate the passion and effort that have gone into his paintings!
The region of Southern Europe comprises of fourteen countries; Albania, Andorra, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Gibraltar, Greece, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Vatican City.
Albania is famous for many things. Amongst these, the country has only one Nobel Prize winner; Mother Theresa. Quite surprisingly, nodding and shaking head gestures mean the opposite to a lot of other nations’ understanding (The Telegraph).
Albania also has a long tradition of textile design. One woman in particular, Tereze Gega, was nicknamed “The queen of Albanian textiles” by The Balkanista, a blog about everything Albania. Tereze creates beautiful patterns all by hand, using weaving and embroidery. She focuses on traditional intricate Albanian patterns, as well as some minimalistic ones. Tereze sells her work, but also employs local women in her workshop who want to up-skill and are looking for a way to sustain themselves and their families.
You can view her Instagram page here.
Andorra is a small, independent country in between France and Spain. It’s official language is Catalan but French and Spanish are also spoken. The country has no rail system but has good road links to France and Spain (Britannica).
Although the country is small, it has a thriving art and design scene and boasts many art galleries and museums (The Culture Trip). At these galleries and museums, you will find a range of artwork including sculptures, paintings, photography and textiles from local and famous artists.
Andorra’s Catalan culture is a mix of French, Spanish and Portuguese cultures and their art is heavily influenced by the Romanesque style in architecture, sculptures and paintings (World Atlas). It is difficult to find many visual findings via online research, so perhaps a physical trip to Andorra could be something to add to your wish-list?
Bosnia & Herzegovina is a country with a rich diversity of culture. The population includes people of Jewish, Albanian, Romanian and Turkish background. They all live peacefully alongside each other, despite different beliefs, cultural festivities, music, art and cuisine (iexplore).
One visual example of the cultural melting pot of Bosnia, is their carpet weaving industry (Islamic Arts Magazine).
The Ottoman Empire’s conquest of the region brought with it their religious and cultural influences, which included that in the form of the kilim – a traditional woven carpet produced in the former Persian Empire and the Turkic countries of Central Asia (Wikipedia). The carpets also were used as prayer rugs in the country amongst the Bosnian converts to Islam.
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory (one of 14), and is situated at the end of Spain. It is a country comprising of a multi-cultural and multi-religious population. Their official language is English but many people speak Spanish or their local language called Llanito. Gibraltar is also famous for its macaque monkey population, which total about 300 (Time Travel Turtle).
Past and Contemporary artists in Gibraltar have been influenced by Spain, Britain and Africa (The Culture Trip).
A website dedicated to artists and designers from Gibraltar, ‘Gibraltar Artists’ – is a great place to browse and purchase photography, artwork, homeware and fashion accessories. Here you will find a huge collection of beautiful work inspired by many cultures and the surroundings of Gibraltar.
Greece’s official name is Hellenic Republic, has 250 days of sunshine per year and speaks one of the world’s oldest languages. These are just a few of the many interesting and fun facts about Greece (Definitely Greece).
Greece is also known for its decorative borders and patterns called meanders, mainly used in architecture (ICAA). If you are a pattern lover like myself, you’ll instantly recognise a Greek pattern when you see one! These linear patterns have hugely influenced modern-day fashion and textiles as well as homeware and stationary, which is probably why meander patterns have become so distinctive and memorable.
Italy, the home of pasta and pizza, is a country we also know to be a significant contributor to the worlds of fashion, architecture, art and design.
Famous artists of Italy include Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Bernini amongst many others (Britannica).
Textile patterns in particular, play a heavy role in the manufacturing of luxury fabrics for the fashion and interiors industry. Khoro, a well known Italian fabric supplier, produces sustainable, luxury fabrics which include jacquard patterns – a technique where the designs are woven into the fabric rather than printed on top. This technique was originally invented by French weaver, Joseph Marie Jacquard (Wikipedia).
Jacquard designs emit a feeling of opulence which is great for certain sectors of the luxury designer market.
Malta is a country made up of a set of islands, located in the Mediterranean sea between Sicily and North Africa (Holidays In Malta).
Malta is enriched by many different cultural influences; both historically and contemporarily (Britannica). Today, the Maltese culture is a reflection of different societies that interacted with Malta over time which includes Latin, British, Arab, Turkish and Sicilian. The Maltese language is also the only Semetic language written in the Latin alphabet (malta.com, Wikipedia).
The main religion practiced in Malta is Roman Catholicism but there are a small number of other Christian denominations and other religions including Buddhism, Judaism and Islam. For the small Muslim community in Malta, there is only one official Mosque, but there are also other Muslim places of worship (Wikipedia).
Because of the diverse cultural influences, the art and design of Malta is also diverse (Lexema).
A modern-day example of the Maltese diversity in art, is displayed in the work of Stephanie Borg, a surface and pattern designer. The designer was born in Malta but also lived in many places around the world, including the Bahamas, Italy, Florida and Oman. It was her 6 year stay in Oman which influenced her Middle East collection, showcasing bright images of the people of Oman, particularly focusing on their dress.
Amongst her many other collections, Borg’s love of cement tiles growing up, inspired her to create a collection of tile patterns applied to coasters, gift boxes and key chain's to name a few.
Like Malta, her work is a true reflection of various cultural influences, incorporated together with an incomparable visual style.
Montenegro is another country that holds a melting-pot of cultures, which include “traces and influences of Mediterranean, Central European, Eastern European and Oriental civilizations from various time" (Adriatic opportunities Ltd).
Many notable painters, illustrators and sculptors of the last century were of Montenegrin origin (Wikipedia).
Montenegro boasts many contemporary art galleries. Although not many visuals can be found online, I’m sure they hold some impressive artistry including pattern-work. Another destination which can be added to the real-life travel list!
Portugal is the oldest country in Europe, and they were also the first of the European countries to reach Japan in the 16th century. They also hold the world’s oldest book store. A Portuguese explorer was also the first to complete a full journey around the earth. (Trafalgar).
In addition to these outstanding facts, part of Portugal’s identity is within its traditional art, most notably, the azulejo – a form of Portuguese and Spanish glazed ceramic tile work. An interesting array of imagery is depicted on these tiles; influenced by a merge of cultures including Islamic, Christian and Flemish (Belgian) as well as art styles such as Baroque and Art Nouveau. You can view a detailed online exhibition of the art-form here (Google Arts & Culture).
From my observations, azulejo tiles are a direct reflection of Portugal’s historical and cultural influence. They also have developed over time, adapting to each era seamlessly. Portugal’s approach to this art-form shows that they aren’t afraid of embracing others whilst also showcasing elements of individuality.
San Marino is one of the world’s smallest countries, it has never lost an invasion, and former American President Abraham Lincoln was granted honorary citizenship (The Culture Trip)
San Marino is the home of native Sammarinese and Italian citizens. Even though the country is heavily influenced by the surrounding Italian culture and the Italian language is spoken, the Sammarinese have maintained their unique culture and identity which they are proud of (everyculture.com).
The indigenous language spoken is Sammarinese, which is spoken by 83% of the population. The Sammarinese also speak English, Esperanto and French (Wikipedia).
Nicoletta Ceccoli, a San Marino born artist, is famous for her dream-like illustrations (Wikipedia). Although her focus is on creating stories and not necessarily pattern, there are elements of pattern and texture in the details of her creations.
In this interview from 2016 (where you can see examples of her work), she explains some of the inspiration behind her surreal and detailed imagery. Her works always depict one or more young girls who are “half woman-half monster” and are a visual depiction of her “alter ego” – created to feel a connection to others who don’t feel like they fit in with society, something she has always felt since adolescence (WOW x WOW).
The characters are in fairy-tale surroundings, often with overtones of sadness or horror. The 3D aspect of her work reflects her background in animation.
Her pieces are very intriguing to look at, both from an artistic perspective and a sociological one.
Slovenia is one of the worlds most environmentally friendly nations, has a love of bees and is also home to Europe’s cheapest ski resort (The Telegraph).
Visual arts in Slovenia became recognized worldwide via the works of 20th-century Impressionist painters like Anton Ažbe, Ivan Grohar, Matija Jama, Matej Sternen, and Rihard Jakopič. Early visual art in Slovenia is depicted through many paintings, carvings, and sculptures in churches and monasteries across the country, mostly dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries (Britannica).
Today there is a large contemporary fashion, textiles and arts scene in Slovenia with many emerging artists and designers.
Petja Zorec, who studied in the University of Ljubljana is a fashion and textiles designer, producing men's, women’s and unisex clothing.
She uses print and pattern in most of her work. Browsing through her fashion collections, I can see she implements a lot of repeat pattern, lines, texture, abstract imagery and photography in her fabric designs. The colours she uses range from bright and warm tones, to cool and muted tones. Her ready-to-wear designs have been stocked in Wolf and Badger.
I admire the way she has been able to implement unusual garment shapes and still make them very wearable, whilst also utilising a mix of subtle and bold surface designs.
Spain is the second largest country in the EU, has the second most widely spoken language and has the fifth largest population in Europe (expatica.com).
Spanish art as whole is very diverse and has had many cultural influences throughout history. These include Islamic, Roman, Gothic, early Renaissance and Baroque (Wikipedia).
Pablo Picasso is one of many famous Spanish artists and one of the most famous worldwide of the 20th century.
Picasso’s unique work, ranging from painting, lino prints and ceramics helped to create cubism and collage styles. His work revolutionised art as we know it today.
The cubism style has influenced modern graphic and digital design, which you can see notable examples of here.
The bright colours and angular shapes of cubism bring a distinct and memorable flavour to graphic art. This would probably not have occurred if it wasn’t for the existence of Picasso and his iconic work!
Cubism has the ability to be applied in a versatile manner, which makes it a great style to use across a number of designed objects such as posters, packaging and garments.
Macedonia, officially the Republic of Macedonia is situated in the Balkan Peninsular and until they received independence in 1991, was previously part of Yugoslavia. It is a striking inland country that has copious mountains, lakes, national parks and ancient towns with Ottoman and European buildings. Amongst the long list of astonishing facts about this country, it was the first country to have a full wireless broadband connection in 2006 (traveltalktours.com).
Macedonians are a South-Slavic ethnic group and speak their own language called Macedonian. Because of its rich historical interactions with surrounding nations, their genetic lineage can be traced to countries such as Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Greece and Romania (Wikipedia).
Nikola Martinoski was a Macedonian painter and considered a founder of contemporary Macedonian art. His style was influenced by medieval fresco art; a technique of mural painting using lime plaster and water. His strongest work are portrait paintings. (Wikipedia).
His paintings have distinct features within their use of colour and shading, which you can see here.
When I look at some of his portraits of women, they immediately evoke a connection to fashion illustration (V&A Museum). Perhaps they were of some influence to some artists throughout time!
Vatican City, our last stop for today; is the smallest country in the world, and is governed by an absolute monarchy with the Pope at its head. It gained independence in 1929. Most of the countries 600 citizens live abroad. The Vatican Observatory also owns a telescope in Arizona (history.com).
Christian-centred imagery make up pretty much all the artwork in the Vatican City (theromanguy.com). These mainly consist of paintings and sculptures but also textiles and tapestries (museivaticani.va).
Vatican city boasts many art and design galleries which no doubt must be an inspiration to many others around the world.
End of part two.
Did you enjoy today’s virtual travel experience? Please leave your comments below.
All references to this article will be listed at the end of part five. Please stay tuned for the next part of this series, coming soon.
Hannah Fellerman is the founder of Ezelle, who started the brand to combine both design and social change as these are two of her biggest passions; you can read more on our about page.
All photograph based images used in this article are Royalty Free.