The history of painting on fabrics and textiles began thousands of years ago in Asia, and floor cloth designs date back to the 18th century. Many of these designs were based upon motifs found in nature, or traditional, cultural symbols incorporated into a pattern with geometric motifs. Today the range of textile designs is limitless with diverse interpretations from the world around us and the imaginative world within us.
Wherever I go or find myself, I am always keeping an eye out for floor cloth design inspiration. I am delighted when such an inspiration appears unexpectedly. Sometimes these magical moments occur browsing an antique store where I find an unusual symbol on an old vase, or walking along the beach where I find a lovely design in a shell. It seems I discover some of my best design ideas when I am simply in the flow of life rather than intentionally seeking.
Some of my favorite inspirations for designs come from animals, nature, textiles, sacred or universal symbols and ethnic cultures.
Animals and reptiles in the wild offer exotic design ideas. Though discovering these in the wild personally has some limitations, I spend enjoyable time perusing nature websites or books where I often uncover a rarely photographed creature with an extraordinary design. Once when I was shopping in an open market in Thailand, I came across a most unusual pattern on a pareo. I inquired about it to the sales woman who told me it resembled the skin of a lizard rarely seen in the jungle. I loved that. Snake and lizard skins are widely used today in the design world from snake skin handbags to lizard skin sofa fabric. So many animals can suggest design ideas from the beautiful wings of butterflies to bird feathers, from fish scales to leopards. The brilliance of peacock feathers have made their mark in popular designs with a great variety of interpretations.
The plant kingdom is another amazing resource for ideas. The floral motif is perhaps the most widely used for all kinds of designs. This supply is virtually endless based on all the types of flowers growing in nature, both in the garden and in the wild. Almost every culture has their chosen flower that is uniquely expressed in their textile designs. You can take any flower, and use your own imaginative vision to arrange flowers into a creative design since the flower motif so lends itself to beauty.
I also love leaves for intricate design possibilities. Every leaf has its own shape, color, texture and pattern. Even stones offer one of a kind colors and textures suitable for designs. Then there is the ocean teeming with its own plant life and assorted gems. My window shelves in the studio are lined with sea shells, driftwood, rocks and dried plants. My list of designs to do is infinite from this collection alone. One of my favorite designs resulted when I was chatting on my cell phone, and looked down to observe the delicate patterns in the coral keystone beneath my feet. One of those magic moments of being in the flow brought me a gift.
Even the expansive and obvious parts of nature can provide inspiration. We can interpret the phases of the moon, the changing seasons and sky along with the shifting shades of light and colors on the mountains into special design creations.
Each culture is embedded with its own particular sacred symbols, and many of these translate into timeless, universal symbols. Most often I have stumbled upon these while traveling. But other times I have found them painted on objects, carved into buildings, woven into fabrics or used in jewelry. I am passionate about color and textiles so wherever I travel, I am seeking fabrics in the markets. I have boxes full of textiles I have collected from around the world. I am especially intrigued with African textile designs. It is easy to take just one sacred symbol that speaks to you, like the spiral for me, and create an appealing design.
Textiles, in all their many manifestations, provide yet another limitless bounty of ideas. Traveling gives me the opportunity to collect textile gems like blankets, fabrics, rugs, tablecloths and more. You do not alway have to go far though for such inspirations. Just wandering through rug stores, linen departments, hotels, flea markets and fabric stores can trigger lots of fresh ideas. I often collect small swatches of fabrics, spread them out on my work table and study them until a design idea surfaces. Then there is the wonderful option to take one great design, and using modern digital capabilities, recreate it in a variety of colors.
I am most inspired by ethnic designs I find in my travels. I love how each culture has their own exclusive vision resulting in different uses of color, shape and texture to create uncommon designs. The Mexicans have a pure, fresh use of color with an innocent, child like sense of design. The Africans tend to a bold use of rare color combinations with a primitive, yet complex design style. The Navajos lean towards rich, earth shades in colors with minimal, geometric design sense. It is fascinating to witness all these distinct design trends specific to every culture. Some cultures will focus on just one color predominantly, such as the deep indigo blue, used by the Dogon tribe in Mali. Other cultures will choose a few colors to be essential, like deep red, black and ivory, as seen in Navajo designs. And still others will create extremely ornate, multi-colored deigns while a few will produce very simple, minimal designs. I love them all.
The imagination is boundless. If you keep your eyes and mind open as you journey through life, design inspirations will effortlessly flow to you like a river to the sea. Your only stress will be finding the time to create them all!