It's all in the fist...

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Mar 6, 2013 8:57PM

Posted by Matilda McQuaid, Deputy Curatorial Director and Head of Textiles, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Make a fist. Pound your hand. Chances are, this was how the paisley pattern started—according to Indian textile designer Umang Hutheesing, who happens to know a lot about the history of Indian textiles. On a recent visit to New York City, I asked Hutheesing for his opinion on the derivation of the paisley pattern. The most popular story says that the form is derived from the shoot of a date palm, which symbolizes the tree of life. Hutheesing held up his fist to me and explained that, initially, the pounding of the fist was to create food, which then led to cave decoration and later to what we now know as the paisley pattern. He also mentioned the mango as a third source for the paisley form, since the pattern usually has at least two concentric outlines that relate to the flesh and seed of the mango.

When we look at Maharam’s paisley, we see it all on a massive scale. The repeat is 48 inches vertically, but it feels even larger as the swooping form of the teardrop stands out against a solid black background, giving the pattern a crisp and contemporary flair. When we collect new works for the collection we are always searching for that new interpretation (or reinterpretation) of something historical, like the mid-19th-century Kashmir shawls in the collection. Massive Paisley does just this—it is a contemporary reflection of a traditional design. 

[Re-posted from Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum].

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum