Have you ever looked at a chevron-patterned armchair and thought, "Ah! The chevron is the modern-day descendant of the ancient Egyptian Nile motif. How interesting to see how it has evolved over the ages!"?
Unless you are me (or another sleep-deprived interior design student) chances are that you haven't had the above experience. But, believe me, seeing how patterns have evolved over time due to various cultures and social circumstances is actually pretty neat. (really, I promise). We'll be starting with the patterns of early indigenous Indonesia and Polynesian cultures, and in future installments traveling through ancient China, medieval Europe, colonial America, the arts and crafts period, the swinging sixties and ending with current day. Enjoy the journey!
Patterns of Early Indonesia
Indonesia patterns are typically known for their vibrant colors and floral designs. The batik (a traditional method of resist dyeing) textiles from this region are as highly sought after today as they were when trade routes first opened up in the region. Indonesian designs typically derive from nature and have strong symbolic meaning. The examples above feature delicate flowers, which were all painstakingly hand-dyed, indicating refinement and prosperity for the owner.
Patterns of Early Polynesia
The patterns of the Polynesia Islands rely heavily on geometric designs, and heavily influenced later cultures that adopted similar geometric designs. Grid patterns, seen here in the top two examples, are common in Polynesia patterns. The bottom left example shows a leaf design - vegetation and aquatic life are also commonly used motifs. Compare the top right and bottom right examples. The top right is a traditional star-shaped Polynesia design. The bottom right is a later (much later) version of the same traditional star-shape incorporating muskets and using the star-shape to represent musket fire. Even within this one culture, we can see how patterns evolve to fit changing societies.
*Photos are courtesy of 1000 Patterns: Design Through the Centuries, ed. Drusilla Cole