Using pattern to see the world differently

Thinking about the world differently comes naturally to Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham who founded conscious creative organisation PATTERNITY in 2009. They set out to find patterns in everyday life and now they’re inspiring others to be more creative. We caught up with them to find out more…

What exactly does PATTERNITY do?

We see pattern (both seen and un-seen) as a common universal language that connects us all. Our core mission is to use pattern as a tool to inspire more mindful and positive living and help people better understand life. We first started out as a digital visual archive sharing inspirational images across the worlds of fashion, design, science and the natural world, that demonstrated the wonder and beauty of pattern found everywhere and in everything. Over the years our research and philosophy has evolved in to the multidisciplinary creative studio we are today - every day is different, we could be hosting a Hands-On Pattern Making Workshop, designing an installation, working on our latest pattern product collaboration or writing a book to inspire positive patterns of behaviour.

We want PATTERNITY to serve as a platform to give pattern a new voice, blur boundaries between disciplines and to encourage ‘a new way of seeing’.

How do you find inspiration in patterns?

From barcodes and road markings, to zebra’s stripes and speckled starry skies, as humans we instinctively make sense of the chaos around us through pattern. Observing and understanding pattern helps us to navigate and make sense of the world. At PATTERNITY we find our pattern inspiration everywhere - in both the mundane and magnificent. At first, we noticed the fundamental structures that we ‘see’ around us – circles, lines, triangles and squares that construct the static buildings and the shadows of our city. In addition to the visual world we also find inspiration by looking deep within ourselves at the inner patterns- the rhythms and textures that shape our experience of life – exploring the habits, thoughts and behaviours that affect how we engage with our inner and outer world.

Our pattern designs are very simple but there’s a lot more to them than what you see on the surface. So much of what we are about at PATTERNITY is exploring interconnectivity and encouraging people to be more mindful of the fundamental shapes and textures that make up life here on planet earth. Whether you look through a telescope or a microscope life is really made of fundamental forms and shapes that repeat and repeat – it’s a wonderful and curious thing.

How do you find new and original ideas?

We're always reading, listening, looking and learning. We find a lot of inspiration by unifying the worlds of creativity, science and spirituality – looking at the intersection between ancient wisdom and modern scientific discoveries and really pondering the wider cultural patterns of our times. We don't see anything in isolation and this cross-pollination is key and hugely inspirational. As a team we also try to break the 'busy' pattern of constant 'doing' mode by taking time to switch off, slow down and take time for quiet creative reflection and looking deep within ourselves. The natural world is always our ultimate inspiration and source of creative nourishment so rather than scouring the internet for inspiration when a deadline is looming we often opt instead for a simple walk along the canal. A meditative moment in the park or simply watching the patterns of the clouds passing by can often spark a new and unexpected idea.

What one tip do you have for people who are experiencing a creative block?

In order to let creativity flow we need to allow space and time which often feels counter to our cultural conditioning. This is a big element of the experiences and immersive events we host. Sometimes the pressure to get results overwhelms the creative process and sends us too much into our rational, outcome focussed heads and disconnects us from our inner intuition and creative energy.  If you're experiencing creative block we'd suggest simply slowing down for a few minutes and taking some time to reconnect back to your body. Get away from your digital devices and leave the office or studio to immerse yourself in something nourishing. Tuning back into your senses is a great place to start - It could be as simple as just coming back to your breath and observing the rhythms and pattern of your lungs, or perhaps taking a mindful walk around the block to notice the stripes, grids and spots of the city or closing your eyes and tuning into the smells and textures around you. Just five minutes of this mindful awareness can totally transform your experience and reconnect you back to your inner creativity and source of inspiration.

What tips do you have for people who work in workplaces that aren’t full of exciting designs and may be uninspiring? 

When we wrote our Gratitude Journal 'Be Great, Be Grateful', it was with the attitude that everybody can find more joy, creativity and wonder in their daily lives through small but regular acts of appreciation.

Start by waking up and making a note of how you feel and ask yourself the question - what would make your day a great one? It could be on your phone but we recommend handwriting in a notebook (or better still our journal!)

Bring nature in to your workplace with a plant on your desk or share a bunch of flowers out amongst your colleagues. Appreciating our connection to the natural world can have positive and powerful results and help us keep some much needed perspective when things scale out of control!

Break your 'busy' patterns by step out of the office when you can and re-connecting with your body and breath. Perhaps that informal catch-up with a colleague could be lying in the local park or a spacious walk round the block, instead of in a meeting room?

Try an alternative route home from work and whilst you're travelling take time to notice and appreciate new things – observe the shapes and patterns of the environment around you, ask more questions and re-discover that childlike curiosity we all had before we 'grew up'! 

Before you go to sleep right down three things that your grateful for that happened that day - it could be a cup of tea shared with a colleague, or an inspiring reflection you saw in a puddle - start seeing and experiencing the new positive patterns!

What unexpected solution has design/patterns lead you to?

There are so many examples but if you take spiral pattern as one, you can start to see the curious connections between micro and macro scales. How a spiralling helix DNA connects with a sea shell and a spiralling cosmic galaxy and to the spiral growth patterns of a hair follicle in our own bodies is so inspiring! Pondering these deep connections is such a powerful and humbling way to remind ourselves of the interconnectivity we have with the natural world and our part within a beautiful web of life. We approach all our projects with this understanding of interconnectivity and balance, and try to encourage others to find more sustainable and mindful ways of living…. It's a way of both seeing – and being.


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