Book Review: The Pleasures of Pattern

The Pleasures of Pattern by William Justema was the book that helped me realize how much I loved patterns. Before that, I hadn’t thought of patterns as separate from the surface they appeared on (like pottery or fabric). When I took pottery classes, my favorite part was creating patterns on the surface with wax resist and glaze. When I got into sewing, I loved looking at fabrics online and in stores. I liked making pottery and sewing, but I think I really loved the pattern aspect of those crafts, and this book helped me understand that. The book is no longer in print but you might be able to find it at your library or a used copy on amazon. 

Throughout the book are tons of example images from art, textiles, and ceramics, with an analysis of what makes patterns visually engaging and appropriate to their context. 

Japanese kimono patterns.

One of my favorite lines from these lessons is that “Every pattern designer requires his own ‘language of flowers.’”

What I love most about this book is the middle section that includes exercises to start making your own patterns. I think these are great exercises! Here are some of my favorite exercises:

  • Cut out strips of paper in different widths (like 1/4”, 1/2”, 1”, 2”) and come up with different types of stripe patterns, like groupings of stripes, evenly spaced, etc.
  • Find interesting shapes around your house (like plant leaves or kitchen gadgets) and try to cut the shape out of paper (like Matisse!). Having a shape model to refer to helps prevent boring shapes.
  • Create a color chip collection, which could include cut outs from magazines, swatches of fabric, or hand painted color chips. Then pick two colors at random. Find a third or fourth color that round out the palette. I wrote more about this exercise in my essay about color.
A very cool kimono design, from The Pleasures of Pattern.

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