“History Repeating” by Quinn Papazian
January 11, 2017
Artists are always seeking new inspiration—from natural forms to urban cities, historical objects to contemporary design—and when you find something that truly resonates with you, it sticks for a long time. Quinn Papazian is the Design Studio Manager at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and has been cataloging patterns she finds via Instagram. Here she shares her experiences of being exposed to so many historical objects in hopes to inspire SDA members with their beauty.
As a pattern lover, I am fortunate to have close-up access to incredible works from one of the most comprehensive art collections in the world. My position as the Design Studio Manager at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (the MFA), allows me to roam every day through empty galleries before they open and see masterpieces before they are displayed under glass. I hope sharing my discoveries will inspire new projects and enrich your design process.
A few years ago I started graphic design school at night and the museum was my classroom while I worked during the day. What began as a desire to document the colors and patterns around me evolved into a bigger project of sharing my art inspiration with others.
@museummosaics on Instagram is now the home for historical pattern photos I discover during my work and travels. Instagram is a wonderful platform for designers—I have so much fun curating my posts and connecting with other creatives. On a personal level, the project reminds me not to be complacent after nine years at the MFA; I must get away from my desk to see the artwork. It also deepens my knowledge of art techniques, mediums, and history, which have enriched my designs.
As I collect more photos to form a library of patterns, I am struck by the universal nature of pattern types. Connections between particular color schemes and motifs span centuries and continents. Is there anything more timeless than zig zags?
The patterns in my first Mini Mosaic Movie all share a central medallion pattern, yet they range from the 800s to 2012, from Iraq to Nova Scotia, and from weaving to furniture making.
In the same way that many surface designers build digital patterns starting with a single square, I use Instagram’s default crop of a square to frame the most interesting compositions.
The square crop is also useful for capturing a swatch of a large repeating pattern so I can deconstruct how the pattern was designed. Squares are the building blocks of most repeating patterns.
Sprawling floral patterns are so much fun to photograph, and they might be the most universally adored motif that I find. Whimsical flowers and vines appear in almost every period and culture of art history.
These images are meant to be enjoyed as pops of color and works of art, but I also hope that surface pattern designers dig deeper. Identifying trends among centuries of pattern design can provide inspiration and insight into our work, enrich our process, and help us connect to the long line of designers before us.
I’d love to hear from you—please find me on Instagram and share your thoughts!
Quinn Papazian is a freelance graphic designer and Design Studio Manager at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She studied anthropology at Tufts University and graphic design at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Quinn posts photographs of art museum patterns on Instagram. Her website and blog can be found on http://quinnpapazian.com/.
*All photos by Quinn Papazian. Photos were taken at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston unless noted otherwise. Artwork rights belong to credited artists. Please do not reproduce without permission.
Sherry Leary says
January 12, 2017 at 9:16 pm
Thank-you for the reminder that inspiration is everywhere! sml
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