March 31st, 2021.
Article by Hannah Fellerman
Hi Ezelle Family,
I hope you are all doing well.
Welcome to this month’s article!
Today’s article is the first in a 3-part series discussing cultural diversity. We will be exploring various cultures’ contributions and influence within the diverse historical and present-day world of print, pattern and textile design.
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Celebrating Cultural differences in Print and Textile Design (part one)
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another…” (Qur’an; 49:13)
This is one of my favourite extracts from the Holy Qur’an. It always inspires and motivates me to learn about other cultures; not just for the purpose of respect for others irrespective of their cultures or ethnicities, but to also genuinely learn about and appreciate their cultures and traditions.
Today we will be looking at the cultural diversity of textiles, print and pattern around the world.
We will start off here in the UK, then we will take a trip to each continent, highlighting a few of the most famous artists and works we see within each of them. I hope you enjoy the journey!
The United Kingdom comprises of Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales.
When you think of traditional patterns from the UK; a few styles may come to mind: Tartan, other checkered patterns such as gingham and houndstooth, paisley and chintz amongst many others, made famous by artists and designers such as William Morris, Cath Kidston and Laura Ashley.
Although checkered pattern has strong roots in the UK, interestingly, a lot of UK based textile and pattern design originated in India and other parts of the world.
Chintz in particular which mainly features floral patterns, was at one time banned in the UK, due to it’s copy of Indian textile design.
Paisley print has a complex history too. The Paisley Print is named after a Scottish town, but it’s origin dates back to 2,000 years ago, of the Indo-European cultures where it featured in Celtic art. It then disappeared in the UK due to the influence of the Roman Empire, but the motif continued to be popular in India. It was later modified for the European market (read more).
Wallpaper, which is still popular today in interior design was first invented by China as early as 200 BC. It was later developed by the French and then introduced to England. Wallpaper has a rich history within itself. In the UK, wallpaper has depicted landscape scenes, florals, geometric patterns and abstract repeat patterns. Each type has taken inspiration from many regions around the world, as well as its own countries (V&A).
A personal inspiration to me is the fashion and textile designer Zandra Rhodes. The Kent born designer opened the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, which I have visited myself. Inspired by pop artists like David Hockney and Andy Worhole, she has created various collections over the last few decades which feature prints of varying themes including florals and abstract shapes. She likes working with floaty fabrics like silk and chiffon, showcasing her print designs on textured and ruffled surfaces. You can view her recent collections via her website. Rhodes has been working for the last fifty years, and her bright pink hair is just as iconic as her work, possibly inspiring modern trends much before it caught on more widely.
Today, we have many forms of print, pattern and textile design in the UK. Whether modified from traditional, modern, post-modern or abstract imagery, the UK has a varied mix of patterns. You can see them in art pieces, print and woven textile design, as well as surface design for a wide array of materials such as ceramics, paper and glassware.
The more information I discover about print designs of the UK, the more I realise how integrated with the rest of the world they are. Of course, British colonisation of many countries has had a huge influence in the world of art and design in the UK, but so has the international trade of fabrics and art products.
Moving on, let’s travel to a region known for being home to ‘Scandi’ design; interpreted in different ways most notably within the Interior design sphere. However, Northern Europe comprises of many countries other than Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland in the Scandinavian region.
Northern Europe also includes Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
As part of the Baltic region, Estonian textiles features a lot of knit, bright colours, geometric and floral designs.
An example of an Estonian home is filled with colourful and busy prints set against neutral, plain backgrounds. The juxtaposition of this imagery is quite calming in an unusual way. This home in particular combines their own traditional Estonian artworks with patterns and objects from other countries such as Morocco.
The origins of professional art in Estonia can be traced to the 19th century when the first artist Johann Köler emerged. But unofficially, Estonian art can be said to have begun in the second millennium BC, as archaeological finds tell us (Estonica).
In today’s time, the art and textile design field is flourishing in Estonia. Design students from the Estonian Academy of Arts have showcased works inspired by abstract and innovative ideas.
Also part of the Baltic states, Lithuania and Latvia share some imagery in common with Estonia.
Lithuania is known for ‘X shape’ patterns, and Latvian textile weaving depicts similar shapes but with its own distinct style.
The rest of the countries in Northern Europe from the Scandinavian region as mentioned above are famous for using simpler colour palettes and botanical illustrations. They are colourful but not extremely busy in style. You can see some examples here (A Beautiful Mess).
Although when you first think of ‘Scandinavian’, neutral colours may typically come to mind, but actually, Scandinavian pattern can be very much bright and colourful, as pointed out in the blog post linked above. Their unique style lies in the motifs chosen and the simple lines used in their artwork.
For me, Scandinavian print design tends to evoke a sense of timelessness whilst at the same time being modern, playful and cheerful.
In the 1930s, Austrian born textile designer Joseph Frank, moved to Sweden and worked on a series of print designs which were influenced by many countries around the world like India and China as well as other artists like William Morris. Despite working through the Second World War, he produced some of Sweden’s most colourful artworks. Each of his designs included nature-based motifs, but each one was also very different in style and mood.
This continent is full of contrasting imagery and styles and many of its patterns proudly project their different heritages and cultures, whilst also embracing modern ideas.
Aside from the UK, Western Europe comprises of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands (Holland) and Switzerland. Some of Italy is also considered part of Western Europe whilst some of it is considered part of Southern Europe.
Italy in particular is famous in the world of fine art for introducing the ‘Baroque’ style, which first originated in the 1600’s and its popularity lasting until the late 1700’s. Baroque eventually also transitioned into textile and surface pattern design, as well as architecture and sculpture (V&A).
The style evoked a sense of drama and opulence at the time. In terms of decorative ornaments and textiles, motifs used were based on nature in general.
Austria is known for a famous painter and textile artist named Gustav Klimt born in 1862. In his paintings, his main subject was the female body – something he was criticised for at the time. Klimt was inspired by Japanese art as well as landscapes and created many textile print designs in addition to his paintings. The motifs he chose for his print designs were abstract in style and the colour palettes were simple yet vivid (see examples here).
He had great success with his “golden phase” paintings which included gold leaf.
Klimt influenced many later contemporary artists who came after him, including runway fashion designers in the last ten years.
In contrast, Anni Albers, born in 1899 in Germany is a famous textile designer known for her geometric and bright weaving and print designs. Albers “became the first textile designer to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City” which was a huge deal at the time (Lauren Lesley Studio).
Her designs and writings helped shaped the world of design history as a serious academic subject.
19th Century French textile pattern designs were quite varied in nature. I came across this series of textile print design samples by a company called Robert Miason, based in Paris in 1863.
The imagery used in each design ranges from geometric shapes, to florals, straight lines, circles and intricate borders. The colour palette is quite simplistic, using only four or five colours; some quite saturated and others which are less saturated.
Belgian textile designer Marc Van Hoe based in Brussels showcases his work in a number of exhibitions worldwide. Focusing on florals and geometrics, he would sometimes spend up to 7 days on one design, before transitioning to digital methods in recent years. He also has an interest in collecting designs from past designers from the 19th century and has opened up an archive for other designers and artists to gain inspiration from. The samples include highlights from the Art Nouveau and the Art Deco periods. His work is a beautiful mixed collection of different motifs, colours and styles. You can view some of his designs and archived samples here.
The Republic of Ireland is home to the famous print, textiles, interior and fashion designer Orla Kiely. The Dublin born designer’s homeware designs can still be purchased, where you’ll find one of her most famous designs featuring a repeat stem pattern. However, the fashion side to her brand sadly came to an end in 2018.
Inspired by the designers of Denmark and Finland, her love of simple yet striking shapes and bright colours has made her work so distinct that you’ll instantly know when you look at one of her designs that it’s hers. Her designs are almost always based on motifs taken from plants and nature. To me, they are reminiscent of the sixties’ and seventies’ prints in the fashion and interior worlds and capture the essence of artists such as fashion designer Mary Quant and knitwear designer Patricia Roberts.
The Isle of Man is home to some of today’s most talented artists and designers. Sarah Brown in particular is inspired by so many cultures at once which makes her work stand out. She is inspired by Islamic, Mughal, Celtic, Vedic and Greek traditions and studied Celtic and Islamic Geometry at The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts .You can read more here and view her work on her Instagram page.
It was discovered recently that Jersey’s artwork can be traced back to 15,000 years ago during the Magdalenian period (The Guardian). Engravings in stones were discovered by archaeologists and are said to be basic depictions of herbivorous animals.
Today Jersey is an Island filled with many artists who use several methods to create an assortment of striking artwork. Within the arena of surface pattern design, artists such as Lauren Radley, who creates hand illustrated contemporary maps printed onto textured paper, or Yvonne Wright, who produces large floral, landscape, still life and abstract paintings using a limited colour palette and floating shapes is an indication that Jersey has become a world of multifaceted creative expression. You can discover many more artists of Jersey via the Jersey -based Victoria Art Gallery website.
Liechtenstein is Europe's fourth-smallest country.
Most of the population speak an Alemannic dialect of German which is linked to an ancient German tribal confederation known as the Alemanni. Alemanni is a name meaning “All Men” or “Men United” and their first historical record was in 213 CE. They also practiced a pagan form of Druidism and later converted to Christianity between the 6th and 8th centuries CE (World History Encyclopedia).
Today, Alemanni is a linguistic term which no longer represents a confederation of tribes. Nevertheless, some of their artistic artefacts can still be seen at the Alamanni Musem in Germany. Alemannic jewellery and carvings can also be seen on Pinterest. From what I’ve seen, the imagery conveys mythological warriors, and circular patterns based on the sun, which the pagan Druids worshipped amongst other elements of nature. You can still find products with their imagery today.
The art of Luxembourg can be traced back to the Roman times, and the country is famous for mosaics and landscape paintings.
A Mosaic studio based in Luxembourg owned by Marleen Lacroix runs workshops and courses for those interested in learning how to create artwork using mosaics. The students works can be seen on their website. You will find designs of landscapes, geometric patterns, abstract motifs, sea life and still life amongst many others. The versatility of mosaics is pleasantly surprising!
Monaco is the second smallest country in the world. Yet, it has come to be known as one of the wealthiest countries in the world (Business Insider).
Monaco is home to a number of art galleries including the Monaco Modern Art Gallery. Here, many artists’ work is exhibited, including the work of Philippe Pastor. His recent work is a series of textured sculptures based on the theme of water, deforestation and sea pollution. Using a limited colour palette mainly made up of different shades of blue, he creates all over patterns and a model of Monaco, capturing the intensity of the damage done to our natural environment whilst also maintaining its beauty. His work is inspiring and is a great example of art with meaning.
The famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh was from the Netherlands. His work was part of the Post-Impressionist movement. What you may not know is that Gogh was influenced by Japanese art and would pin pieces to his wall.
“Vincent adopted these Japanese visual inventions in his own work. He liked the unusual spatial effects, the expanses of strong colour, the everyday objects and the attention to details from nature. And, of course, the exotic and joyful atmosphere”. (Read more)
Although not a pattern designer, Van Gogh’s paintings have inspired many modern forms of design including many Runway fashion designers’ textile prints featuring swirling patterns, bold and abstract florals.
Switzerland is a country known for it’s chocolate, cheese, watches and Swiss Army Knives. But did you know that the country also has a rich art and design scene?
One surface pattern designer living in the Italian part of Switzerland is Anne Bomio. French by nationality, she studied in Paris, but also worked in New York before later moving back to Switzerland. Because her mother is Danish, she also spent a lot of her childhood in Denmark so her work is heavily influenced by Scandinavian design. Her work mainly uses motifs based on nature but also some abstract shapes. You can view her patterns here. Her simple colour palettes, clean lines and mix of large and small scale structures makes her work extremely versatile.
End of part one.
What are your thoughts on what we’ve covered so far? Please leave your comments below.
All references to this article will be listed at the end of part three. Please tune in next month for part two of this series, where we continue our journey across Europe then visit the Middle East and Africa.
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.