In case you hadn't noticed, I've been making a lot of patterns lately. I've been participating in Anika Starmer's #BacktoPattern challenge and am just loving patterns in general. I plan on doing a separate post about my process for making patterns, but I wanted to share a little bit more in detail about the inspiration and meaning behind this pattern in particular.
I recently read The Lie Tree by Fances Hardinge, which is a historical fiction novel about Faith, a 14 year-old girl in the late 1860s who wants to be a natural scientist. At the time science was not a career option for women and Faith is explicitly and implicitly told that she will never be a scientist, and that her interest in science is strange, laughable, and unseemly. She has to work to suppress her interests and pretend not to care.
Faith struggles with feelings of frustration, desperation, self-hatred because of her intellect and curiosity. She is made to think that there is something wrong with her, or evil about her because she is interested in science. Reading from Faith's point-of-view made me think about how we celebrate women in history who have been able to transcend these restrictions and do great things (which is incredibly important), but that there are so many more women whose potential was quashed, who were told that their brains were too small to follow their passion and weren't able to do anything about it. And it made me think about how even since Faith's time, women have continued to face this type of uphill battle as they are barred, discouraged, and turned away from their areas of interest in overt and subtle ways.
I was thinking about all of this when I read this passage in the book (after the men and women have separated for after-dinner socializing)
"Likewise, here in the drawing room, each lady quietly relaxed and became more real, expanding into the space left by men. Without visibly changing, they unfolded, like flowers, or knives."
I absolutely loved the image conjured by that passage. The idea of women being given the chance to expand as they wished. Comparing 1860s ladies to knives and switchblades. Flowers. And the idea for this pattern came into my head pretty much fully formed. Flowers and switchblades together, both in various stages of unfolding. Thin red linework on a pink background. I could pretty much see it all in my head, which doesn't happen to me often. Usually, I have a general idea for a pattern, but it becomes much clearer and more developed as I work on it. I usually play around with the colors quite a bit, but I knew exactly what I wanted for this pattern.
I immediately started drawing switchblades and peonies in various stages of "unfolidng." I chose peonies as the flowers in the design after some research because they looked closed to what I envisioned and they unfold in the way that I was thinking of. There are 7 switchblades and dozens of different peonies in this pattern so it took quite a while. One change that I did make from my original vision was to eliminate the extra leaves and vines that I thought to include. You can see the sketches of them here.
Then I scanned in all of the sketched images and digitally put the peony and switchblade elements together into individual pieces.
Then I put the individual pieces together into the final pattern. All of the digital work took about a day, but I was just so excited to be working on this pattern.
So there you have it, the finished product. It has a lot of meaning for me, about women being strong and sharp and beautiful and soft. About being all of those things out of necessity and desire. For women who didn't get to do what they would have loved and been good at.
I feel like this idea can be developed so much further, but I'm pretty head over heels for this pattern right now. This pattern is available on prints, pouches, mugs, and other products in my Society 6 store if you are too.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my thoughts on this print. It means a lot to me! And if this has interested you at all, definitely check out The Lie Tree, there are a lot of feminist themes, a pretty interesting mystery, and obviously some beautiful writing going on there.