Interview: Anna Murray, Co-Founder & Explorer at PATTERNITY Studio

ROCK DAPPLES⠀ #monochrome #geology #texture #contrast #PATTERNITY #noticemore #nature

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 The theme of our current photography competition is ‘Pick a Pattern’ and asks you to develop a new way of seeing, and to open your eyes to the hidden geometry that surrounds us. In order to give you some inspiration before you enter your own images, we decided to consult THE go-to authority on pattern in order to get the inside story on pattern hunting, and the positive and powerful results that this can bring. PATTERNITY began its journey as the world’s leading online pattern image archive and now comprises a pattern research/consultancy department, an award-winning creative studio and a pioneering events and education hub. It was founded in 2009 by ‘cult pattern pioneers’ photographer/art director Anna Murray and surface/product designer Grace Winteringham. PATTERNITY has since received international recognition for its boundless and specialist approach to pattern exploration and implementation and continues to cement its place as the world’s most innovative pattern focused organisation. This makes PATTERNITY the perfect organisation for us to consult and Anna Murray kindly agreed to let us put her in the hot seat.
PATTERNITY Co-Founders Anna Murray & Grace Winteringham

PATTERNITY Co-Founders Anna Murray & Grace Winteringham

You studied Fine Art Photography at University. How did you first become interested in photography and what made you choose fine art?

From as far back as I can remember I was always so inspired by my surroundings – almost obsessively so! My mum was a gardener and she always encouraged me to pay close attention to the world around me on a daily basis, from tiny beetles on a leaf to the branches above my head. I also grew up in Hong Kong and I think that shaped my interest in the contrast between natural and man-made forms. In Hong Kong there is such a stark visual contrast – where mountains, trees and tower blocks collide. Fine art photography felt like a natural step in taking this sense of exploration further, it allowed me to document and share the inspiration I saw absolutely everywhere I went.

How did you meet PATTERNITY co-founder Grace Winteringham & what inspired you to launch PATTERNITY?

Grace and I met through friends at university (she was at Edinburgh and I was at St Martins) – united by our shared visual aesthetic, core values and drive to create something worthwhile with longevity. Pattern was our common language and upon meeting in early 2009, we soon realised our combined force, vision and drive to implement our skills. Crucially, we also wanted PATTERNITY to serve as a platform to showcase work, blur boundaries and to share a positive message – to encourage ‘a new way of seeing’. PATTERNITY has since evolved from something visually engaging (an image archive and products) to a brand that goes far beneath the surface through consultancy, events and special projects with a core mission: ‘to use pattern as a tool to help people better understand life’. We have gone from an image archive to an entire organisation in just over 5 years. It’s been an exciting journey so far.

What is the idea behind PATTERNITY and how has it evolved over the years?

PATTERNITY has evolved since we first set up the blog 2009. Grace and I had a firm idea that we wanted to change the perception of pattern so a simple blog was the most accessible way to stamp our authority and grow a (now 500,000 strong) community, which is at the heart of everything we do. Next came the design studio in 2011 where all the research we had amassed combined with our united skills and mounting industry interest naturally to working on collaborations and products that aim to push the diversity of pattern interest and application. The next step was working on events that took the philosophy of pattern exploration and understanding into the real world, working with the likes of Nike, The V&A and the BBC.

What is it about pattern that you find so inspiring?

At PATTERNITY, our fundamental aim is to promote the idea that absolutely everyone can find inspiration everywhere. We encourage people to be inspired by their surroundings, noting the beauty in the seemingly banal and contrasting the mundane with the magnificent. Everyone can do it! From diesel-doused pavements, where spectrums of colour swirl amongst textured road surfaces below, to the latest fashion show at London Fashion Week or an art gallery, our search for inspiration really is endless. By looking beyond, up, down and around and noticing the patterns that surround us wherever we go, we believe we can gain perspective, remember our place in the now, positively engaging with our environment and each other. Everything we do is a celebration of this.

Can you tell us about your pattern research archive and your global network of specialist pattern explorers who scour the world looking for pattern?

The archive was born from feeling like we are completely overwhelmed by imagery and information. Culturally we are living in the age of digital overload and we wanted to use pattern to firstly put all the inspiration myself and Grace had personally collated into some kind of order. We also wanted to share the way we saw the world with others, showing that there can be beauty in the most mundane things like a shadow or a drain cover as well as a magnificent fashion image or art gallery show. We wanted to show the universal and democratic aspect of pattern, showcase similarities like between a barcode and a zebra or a Marc Jacobs dress. Most importantly we wanted to show that we can all find inspiration absolutely everywhere if only we can see it with a fresh set of eyes.There are thousands of images in our online archive. It’s acts as a visual timeline celebrating life through pattern.

We rely on our network of visual contributors around the globe from Mexico to Margate who send us imagery of patterns they have taken. We are so honoured to have such a global community of pattern hunters and we are always so happy to hear from more! Please get in touch!


SPIRAL SPOKES at @foam_amsterdam #interior #spots #spiral #lookdown #amsterdam

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You believe that a shared awareness of pattern has the power to positively connect us to our environment and each other. Can you explain this?

Pattern underlies every aspect of our lives, as well as being part of the basic structure of the body and mind. It’s a universal language that communicates a message that resonates with us all on a very deep almost subconscious level. Pattern is such a powerful commonality, it exists throughout space and time across the entire universe, from a tiny spiralling sea shell to a giant swirling galaxy or even our own hair growth patterns. Pattern is curious and it’s embedded into our lives in such a positive and enduring way. It is this deeper aspect of pattern that we love to explore through more in-depth research and events that explore the patterns that often go unnoticed, including the patterns of thinking and behaviour that shape how we live our daily lives.

LAYER CRATE #patterninspiration #diamond #lookdown #mundane #noticemore #orange #glasgow

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You have previously said that part of the focus of PATTERNITY is to challenge the perception and understanding of pattern worldwide. How do you go about doing this?

Our research underpins everything we do at PATTERNITY. We are not just about patterns on the surface but all our projects dig deeper into the historical, scientific and theoretical importance behind patterns. We work on projects and collaborations with other brands, organisations and individuals, collaborating on meaningful projects, we are guides on how to use pattern in positive and worthwhile ways.

You see pattern as a vehicle to tell a story. Can you explain this?

For example we have worked with Historical organisations like the Imperial war Museums looking at the history of camouflage, we have talked at the V&A with scientists about hexagons in design – from bee hives to architecture. We have worked on a collaboration about the structure of chocolate with chocolatier Pierre Marcolini and Wallpaper* magazine on a luxury sculpture inspired by the molecules of raw chocolate and we have run meditation events where we have focussed on the fractal patterns of a broccoli. We have created entire fashion (knitwear) collections (with Chinti and Parker) based on the patterns that surround us in our everyday urban environments. We love blurring boundaries and exploring collaborations across all worlds. All united by pattern and the educational stories we can tell with it.

What are your top tips for getting inspired by, and capturing great photographs of pattern?

See things a’new. Don’t be overwhelmed – do what you love and categorise!

We are living in a time of visual overload. It can be hard not to feel overwhelmed by what others are doing and looking around at how well everyone seems to be doing with their work and projects. Just remember you are one important part of a much bigger picture and just focus on what you love to do and in time that will come to fruition. I find it helpful to put my ideas into categories and focus on one area at a time. That always helps me when there is SO much inspiration around!

Immerse yourself in nature – take time out to pause and reflect.

I love living in a city and find so much inspiration everywhere! But I also increasingly find that I need to spend time in nature to top up my creativity. There’s something very peaceful about feeling connected to something far greater than myself. Being fully immersed, and remembering our deep connection to nature is so important for that. It widens my perspective and makes my day-to-day concerns fade away.

Tune into your values – ask yourself WHY? A lot of the time we are so focussed on the WHAT or HOW of what we’re doing we forget the WHY. Listen to what you’re drawn to visually and see how that resonates with your deeper values and how you feel about your role in todays world. We’re living in a time of such change and it’s important to listen to the signs of why we are drawn. It’s getting increasingly important to ask ourselves ‘how can we use our creativity to contribute TO the world rather than take from it?’

Remember it should be FUN!

It’s also important to keep things light, experiment and be playful with taking imagery. Nothing is too small or insignificant to document and imagery doesn’t need to be grand or high production value to have strength and beauty. I have a personal collection of road rainbows I have documented that I just love…just because. There is such beauty in the banal everyday world around us.

You recently released your first book ‘A New Way of Seeing’. Can you tell us about it?

The book is really a collation and celebration of our first five years as an organisation. It’s a 225 page hardback that takes the reader on a visual and theoretical journey through the inspirational power of pattern. Through visuals and essays it digs beneath the surface of pattern to explore how we can learn from it to positively shape the future. In it we share our first five years of research and explain the concepts behind a lot of our projects. We also expand more on the PATTERNITY philosophy and story, how and why we started and a nod to where we’re headed too.

The book is structured into three core sections:

1. CURIOSITY – How can we encourage a more positive and mindful way of experiencing the everyday world around us? In this section, we focus on man-made patterns from our urban environments.

2. COLLABORATION – How can collaborations between different disciplines and ways of thinking lead to positive cultural change? In this section, we share a lot of our favourite studio projects and those by other people we really admire, from art and design to science and nature.

3. CONNECTIVITY – How can feeling more connected to something greater and more permanent than ourselves drive more enduring happiness and contentment? In this section, we journey into the world of pattern in the natural world, looking at the patterns that shape our lives and environment and how feeling more connected to nature can positively shape our perspective and actions in a rapidly changing global landscape.


 Images featured in this post were sourced from the PATTERNITY Instagram account with the express permission of PATTERNITY co-founder Anna Murray.

To be in with a chance of winning your own copy of the PATTERNITY book, enter your pattern-inspired images into our ‘Pick a Pattern’ competition.