Beginning My "Paradise Fusion" Design

I am embarking on the exciting challenge of creating a repeating design intended to be printed on home furnishings fabrics. I’ve decided to document the process in order to shed some light onto how one develops an idea, researches it, whittles down the vast amount of inspirations available, begins to sketch, and finally fully realizes a finished design.

The impetus for setting out to create this design came to me mainly from a passage that I read a couple of years ago in Brunschwig & Fils Up Close: From Grand Rooms to Your Rooms by Murray Douglas. The excerpt discusses the origin of repeating printed textiles, stating that “the grandfather of printed designs was the tree of life (le grand arbre) […] This design had been formalized in India by the seventeenth century — and probably before. […] Endless variations were possible, depending on the imagination and skill of the artist.” Ever since then, I’ve come back to ponder that fact somewhat regularly, challenging myself to find traces of this design’s legacy in all of the vast variation of patterns that followed.

A typical Indian Palampore depicting the Tree of Life from the first quarter of the 18th Century, intended for a Sri Lankan market. From   The Metropolitan Museum of Art  .

A typical Indian Palampore depicting the Tree of Life from the first quarter of the 18th Century, intended for a Sri Lankan market. From The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Brunschwig’s “Bellary” Cotton Print

Brunschwig’s “Bellary” Cotton Print

The second layer of my idea came from thinking about the influence that the idea of paradise, specifically a garden of paradise, has had on design. I began thinking about this after reading in How to Read Islamic Carpets that the Ottoman saz style is “named after a mythical enchanted forest of leafy plants […] the promise of God’s bounty in the world to come.”

Contrary to our contemporary notion of paradise which has been altered by Indo-European meanings, it was “originally referred to by a single noun signifying “a walled-in compound or garden”; from pairi (around) and daeza or diz (wall, brick, or shape).” Geometry, design, and layout have been directly linked to the idea of paradise in Islamic art and architecture for thousands of years. The Persian paradise garden was highly influential in Rome, and thus spread throughout Western Europe, evidence of which is clearly visible in Renaissance paintings. An attempt to depict a higher state of being through the depiction of paradise is present in numerous cultures, and has been incalculably formative in what is now seen as commonplace design.

The Schwarzenberg Paradise Park Carpet, 16th Century Iran, from   The Museum of Islamic Art

The Schwarzenberg Paradise Park Carpet, 16th Century Iran, from The Museum of Islamic Art

Little Garden of Paradise, German, between circa 1410 and circa 1420

Little Garden of Paradise, German, between circa 1410 and circa 1420

With all of this in mind, I was inspired to create my own interpretation of a tree of life/paradise garden design that gathers together the myriad of global styles that have tackled this same subject matter for thousands of years.

How does one go about this? There are many steps ahead, including layout decisions, motif selection, medium/style choices, and palette creation — all of which I will be detailing in future posts.

Hopefully you will be as inspired by the process as I am.