The Permanence of Pattern
Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself since graduate school: How do I make a living doing something with my talent that asks the right questions, starts a dialogue, engages an audience and does something good? The short answer hit me while installing our Arabian Nights wallpaper at the Lake Forest Showhouse last summer.
You may not have heard the entire story about the second collection, but each of the patterns is inspired by one of the countries on the No Travel Ban List that Donald Trump put into effect last year. The impetus for me designing wallpaper around political events was when last spring I was asked to design a space at the Lake Forest Showhouse. The pattern I created for the upstairs hallway and stair was Arabian Nights. “Arabian Nights,” or One Thousand and One Nights, is one of the oldest stories in history and it seemed fitting since it’s a tale within a tale, and the Showhouse was like a storybook with many chapters; each room told by a different narrator (designer).
The overall response was that the paper was “whimsical” and “organic.” The deer made it feel somehow historical and the colors were calming. People loved it.They still remember it to this day.
It was at that time, I was admittedly excited about the subversive nature of getting people to love and appreciate foreign cultures by way of patterned wallpaper. If I could sneak in a global dialogue into every home that our papers landed in and that the homeowner would learn to love this pattern, then I could inadvertently get people to love and accept Iranian culture or some other place that he or she may never visit! How often do we hear something good about the Middle East on the news? When the Middle East was the birthplace of myriad religions, where geometry and mathematics began, where poetry and astronomy were invented!
My point is that the dialogue I’d like to have through my art form — wallpaper — is that of tolerance. Acceptance. Love. Admiration. And hopefully, support. That we can welcome these places into our daily lives by buying pretty wallpaper and pasting it on the wall and just … living with it every day. So here I am to express my interest in a new place: Sudan.
Pattern Inspiration: Sudan
I realized after researching Sudanese textiles and pattern design, that there was a lot of redundancy between Sudan and other surrounding Islamic countries (tile, garments, and calligraphy). What was truly unique about Sudan is something I didn’t expect to find. A type of textile, I suppose… a pattern. Worn on the skin. In South Sudan, the Nuba People have a complex, culturally specific, ritual that has lost popularity over the past couple of decades called scarification, or “Gaar” in their language. Scarification isn’t for the queasy or faint hearted. Parsing out the humanity of these body altering procedures is a nuanced conversation that, while important to have, is not the main thrust of this short article. But, the fact of the matter is that this tradition lives on today as a way to showcase one’s tribal affiliation, to cover the body in small “brush strokes” or “dots” and create an overall texture on the skin is a symbol of beauty here and a rite of passage.
As much as we can talk about living with pattern (Rebecca Atwood wrote a whole book about it!) the Nuba People actually live with pattern, and not just in their homes and on their garments, but permanently present on their bodies. So, when a client is telling you that their wallpaper is a very tough decision because of it’s permanence and they’re just not sure if they can live with it forever, or that it’s a hard decision… think in your mind about the ways in which we choose to showcase these spirited details of ourselves. At least they’re not wearing it on their sleeves. Introduce them to Sudan by way of the Gaar design and know that 1% of every purchase goes to refugee communities abroad and at home, thanks to our partners at Heartland Alliance.