Monday, 8 December 2014

Planning your patterns - icon guru & hero (8) Lewis F Day

Lewis F Day (google him!) was an English decorative artist and designer, and a one-time vice-president of the Society of Arts. He wrote several books and even contributed to the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. I have a copy of his book 'Pattern Design'. I love this book. I go back to it again and again, sometimes learning, sometimes just enjoying and being soothed by the diagrams & illustrations before I go to sleep.

My sister bought it (on request) for my birthday last year but I never imagined what a joy it would be. It was written in the 1880's so the language can be a bit archaic, long-winded and hard to get your head around. He covers squares, triangles, octagons, circles, how patterns evolve, borders, planning, drop repeats and 'scaffolding' - among others.  It is full of the most wonderful (black and white) illustrations - the dotted diagonal lines on this one indicate how the pattern was formed on a diamond shape.

And it's also full of wisdom ("If you would avoid the unforeseen in your completed work - and the unforeseen reveals itself often in the most unsatisfactory manner - system is essential"). Yes, some of it has been eased or even superceded by technology. But that doesn't mean it's irrelevant. And some of the language might even be thought beautiful. Consider this:

"Painters unpractised in design assume sometimes that they have only to repeat at given intervals no matter what study from nature, and make good the connection between the repetitions of it, and the trick is done. It is not quite so easy as that.......The natural lines of a flower, determined by no thought of repetition, are scarcely likely to bear repetition very well, and the difficulty of working up to nature, and comprehending such naturalistic details in any satisfactory scheme of composition is extreme. If anything results that way which goes for ornament, it is by accident and not design. Emphatically that is not the way to set about it. A designer makes his flowers grow his way."

Today's design challenge theme was 'ding dong'. As in 'Merrily on high' I assume. I don't have a bell but we do own a wrought iron triangle which gets rung on a daily basis to bring everybody down for dinner. So here are some sketches inspired by our triangle and tomorrow I'm going to try to create a pattern planned in a way of which Lewis F Day would approve!

Researching Lewis F Day, I started to want to see and read some of his other books. I've just made the most amazing discovery - you can download them free from this website.

Go on - spoil yourselves!



  1. Thanks for reminding me of (what a wonderful resource) and recommending the pattern design book. I had downloaded the The grammar of ornament - Jones, Owen, 1809-1874 recommended by Michelle Fifis from the Patternobserver site. Now I have another book to add to my design references.
    Can't wait to see your pattern from your triangle motifs sketches.

  2. Hi Myriam
    I hadn't heard of the Grammar of Ornament - must take a look - thanks. I'm afraid my pattern will have to wait a little longer - chest infection! Normal service to be resumed as soon as I can.



I'd love to hear what you think and what you're up to, creatively. Feel free to leave me a message. Thanks, Catherine