The London-based design studio, creative consultants and pattern-hunters talk us through their inspirations, collaborations and working life on a visit to their studio. Photographed by Toby Coulson.
How did PATTERNITY originate?
We met through friends at university (Edinburgh and St Martins) – united by our shared visual aesthetic, core values and drive to create something worthwhile with longevity. Pattern was our common language and upon meeting in early 2009, we soon realised our combined force, vision and drive to implement our skills (Grace as a designer, Anna as an art director). Crucially we also wanted PATTERNITY to serve as a platform to showcase work, blur boundaries and to share a positive message - to encourage ‘a new way of seeing’. It has since evolved from something visually engaging - an image archive and products - to a brand that goes far beneath the surface through consultancy, events and special projects with a core mission - ‘to use pattern as a tool to help people better understand life’. We have gone from an image archive to an entire organisation in just over 5 years. It’s been an exciting journey so far.
How do you begin a working day?
We like to begin our day with a round table ‘PATTERNITEAM’ meeting where we all have a coffee sitting around our large giant striped circular SUM table (a collaboration with Grace’s father and marquetry specialist Toby). The table is formed of two halves that join together, with bold striped lines that converge towards the centre. We like to start each day this way where everyone from interns to our financial team can share new ideas, updates and general inspirations - a symbol of our philosophy - the power of many individual parts coming together to form a greater whole.
Describe the atmosphere of the studio. Is it noisy?
We’re fortunate that our studio is on Redchurch Street - a particularly bustling part of East London - so the noise from outside mixes to create an interesting tapestry of sound. Both Grace and I used to run our own music nights before co-founding PATTERNITY so music is a huge part of our lives. The entire team takes it in turns to curate the music according to our editorial theme of the month on PATTERNITY.ORG - which could be anything from NASA soundscapes to minimal techno to sounds of the rainforest – it all depends on the mood. We regularly have conversation within the room especially if someone wants to share an interesting or happy idea.
Do you have any daily rituals?
I bookend the day with a short 10 minute meditation first thing and last thing at night. It needn’t be stationary (often it’s done on the commute to work) but it always helps to give perspective on the day ahead or to process what has just passed. At the studio we also end the day with a quick list of 3 things that went well that day – they can be from something very mundane such as spotting an amazing shadow on a lunch break – to an entire new project launch.
How do you compile your pattern research archive?
What is posted in the research archive online is only the tip of the PATTERNITY iceberg. Although the process of what we post from week to week is very much about intuition the foundations to our research is firm – with an expertly organised and tagged image archive that ranges from science to art, fashion to nature, food and space… Since we began PATTERNITY, we have never aimed to be of the moment, though featuring fresh talent is very important to us. Pattern curation brings together old with new, the mundane with the magnificent, the macro with the micro – it highlights the endless and intriguing coincidences that make up the world around us all. Sources are as varied as NASA, National Geographic and the Cloud Appreciation Society, to global fashion and photography agencies such as CLM, or a visit to an art fair. Where possible our research is conducted first hand, we also have a global network of specialist PATTERN EXPLORERS who fastidiously scour the world for patterns daily.
Where do you find inspiration?
At PATTERNITY our fundamental aim is to promote an awareness of finding inspiration absolutely everywhere. We encourage people to be inspired by their surroundings, noting the beauty in the seemingly banal and contrasting the mundane with the magnificent. From diesel-doused pavements, where spectrums of colour swirl amongst textured road surfaces below, to the latest fashion show at London Fashion Week, or an art gallery - our search for inspiration really is endless. With all the projects and products we work on, we aim to go beyond what’s on the surface, using the research, design and application of pattern to add substance and relevance to the aesthetic.
Can you cite your favourite pattern-loving artists?
It would be impossible to talk about pattern in art without mentioning the multidisciplinary 2D and 3D works by New York based visual artist Tauba Auerbach, the installations and conceptual film works by Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama or the wearable sculpture and dazzling prints by British fashion designer Gareth Pugh, and of course historically, Sonia Delaunay. Currently, we’re particularly interested in artists who are merging the worlds of science with creativity; RCA graduate Shelley James has worked on several collaborative projects with scientists, exploring the intersection between material and virtual space. Architect, educator and designer Richard Weston whose personal archive of meticulously documented mineral scans has been translated into scarves sold at Liberty. Also we are hoping to work on a collaboration soon with interactive tech specialist Evan Grant who recently collaborated with Bjork on her latest project Biophilia - Grant works in the field of cymatics - visualising frequencies of sound into incredible patterns and formations.
When did you last visit Tate?
The last time we went to Tate we were actually running a photography PATTERNITOUR along the Southbank which ended at the Matisse show last year. We took a group of participants along the river to look at and document the patterns ‘from the mundane to the magnificent’. Looking up at the triangular light blocks in the ceiling of the Turbine Hall or simply down at the waves in the Thames, then ending by observing the meticulous cut out shapes showcased at the gallery. It was about encouraging a mindful approach – encouraging a way of seeing and experiencing the surroundings and seeing them with a fresh set of eyes, seeing the everyday as excellent.
How do you plan to spend this afternoon?
We’re currently in the final touches of making our first PATTERNITY book which will be out in September this year. After over a year working on the book we’re now thinking about what’s coming next so today and the next few will be spent planning the next year. This could include anything from new PATTERNITY collaborations, consultancy projects, educational events or editorial content for our new PATTERNITY news platform which launches this spring.
When does the work day end?
Often the PATTERNITY working day blurs into the evening as we often attend pattern related talks, workshops and launches in the evenings. Allowing flexibility and freedom is key to us as a company though so despite the fact there is often a lot to do, we try to let people be in charge of their own time at PATTERNITY as long as the work gets done. We work around key meetings so if people are more night owls than early birds we try to respect that and allow that flexibility within their work life - working to their own pattern rather than trying to force a one-size-fits-all approach.
What’s the most useful thing you learnt at art school?
Collaborate. I wasn’t sure if I chose quite the right course at University (Fine Art Photography) so I just made sure I spoke to and mixed with people doing completely different courses to me. We worked on projects together and I combined sound and poetry and film into my photography work which is a philosophy that has carried on throughout my creative career. It also created the foundation to some of my firmest friendships that have strengthened over the years.
If you could offer your student-self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Keep things in perspective. It’s very easy for things to scale out of perspective when you make mistakes or feel like you might be going down the wrong path. Accept that each mistake or meander along the way can be a positive learning if you allow it to be. Strive to stay positive and grateful and even when things don’t go to plan see that as guidance towards a different approach – just trust that pursuing what you truly value and believe will help you find the right path.