PATTERNITY, originally set up by artists Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham as a pattern archive, is now a globally influential style brand. We talk branding, partnerships and seeing beauty in the mundane…
Anna and Grace founded PATTERNITY in 2009 and have since transformed from a simple pattern archive to educators, collaborators, events organisers and a busy creative studio. Here’s their story…
What time were you up this morning?
Anna: This morning I was up at 6:30.
Grace: I woke up at 7am (I’ve been using sleep cycle app – it works on airplane mode, and is great for bringing you round gently)
How did you feel?
Anna: A bit fuzzy around the edges but also expansive. I live on the 13th floor of a tower block so one look out of my window and there was this incredible mist over London that was pretty magical.
Grace: I feel good this morning, having worked all day Sunday, coming in on Monday is all about sinking my teeth back in where I left off.
What did you do first thing?
Anna: This morning I had a super early morning cup of tea with an ex intern of ours who has gone on to great things. It was so lovely to see how he’s been evolving and working on exciting projects.
Grace: I love listening to music in the morning, so the first thing I did was listen to a song called melody for dynamism (this changes regularly depending on my mood!), then I did a 10-minute meditation, quick shower, breakfast was a herbal tea and eggs, spinach and parsley on toast, and then it’s a lovely 20-minute cycle through Victoria Park for my journey to work.
Where is your workspace, and what does it look/feel like?
Grace: Our studio is on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch. We have turned a tired and disused print studio into a calm and welcoming environment. We have many plants, interesting objects from our various travels and experiences, tibetan cedarwood incense and relaxing music. We have created a peaceful sanctuary amidst the mayhem of Shoreditch, it’s really lovely.
Most productive working hours
What are your most productive working hours?
Anna: I used to say very late at night when it’s quiet and I feel like the world isn’t switched on anymore but that’s increasingly starting to change. I find the early hours now even more productive as I am free from emails and can enjoy getting the day underway. I start by setting intentions for the day, a green juice, a short meditation routine then I can get cracking – I have a pretty strict to-do system so enjoy getting stuck into that as early as possible!
Grace: My most productive working hours are early in the morning or at the weekend when it’s quiet. I like getting up and getting on (and I love an early night so don’t usually work late). I work from home regularly and find blocking out chunks of time is best for me. I’ll often do three hours in the morning and then do something else for an hour, like read, or go for a stroll and then another few hours, and same again. I find this less disruptive, but I think it depends on the nature of your work. It takes me a while to really connect with a task so if I’m designing or working on a concept, I try to give myself space for thinking and doing time, which usually equates to a couple of hours.
You launched PATTERNITY in 2009, as a pattern archive. How did you come up with this idea together?
Anna: PATTERNITY started out with a very simple concept really – we wanted to inspire people to find more wonder in the everyday. Grace and I had both come from quite different creative backgrounds – mine in photography/ art direction and Grace in surface/textiles design. We had both amassed so much research that spanned the worlds of art, fashion and architecture to science and nature but pattern was really the common language that linked it all.
We started the archive simply as a way to start to share that research; to offer a way of looking at the world and to promote the amazing pattern makers we were inspired by. Fundamentally we wanted to start to showcase our philosophy – on using pattern to encourage people to be inspired by the curious interconnectivity of the world around them and see the everyday with a fresh set of eyes.
You’ve worked with the BBC, Clarks Originals, the V&A, Nike, Bompas & Parr – and other major brands. How do you ensure that when collaborating, your own (PATTERNITY’s) values aren’t compromised?
Grace: We don’t say yes to everything for a start. We are quite selective with who we work with and how we collaborate – we work closely with all our partners to develop concepts that feel true to both parties. For us it’s important that we collaborate with partners who share our values of inspiration and education or heritage and craft. Anna and I truly believe in gut intuition and this has served us well to date.
One of our favourite quotes is: ‘When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.’ Tuli Kupferberg (1923–2010), counterculture poet. Because we are so clear on our core values, the foundations are in place so we can build on this by working with interesting partners or working in new ways. We would never compromise our values, but we are always open to new ways of working.
The Telegraph voted you one of the world’s ‘Top 10 Most Influential Style Blogs’ – what endears people to your brand?
Anna: I think people are drawn to PATTERNITY because more widely speaking there is something really positive and powerful about pattern, it’s so deeply embedded in our way of being that it’s something people seem incredibly drawn to it on a very human level.
We’ve worked very hard to stay true to our core philosophies and values as we’ve grown the business over the years and I think that authenticity and devotion to something greater than ourselves has been something people have respected along the way.
I think we’ve managed to strike the balance between the bold aesthetic and taste level we’ve become synonymous with, with the ethical and environmental standpoint that underpins everything we do. We’re definitely in it for the long haul as there are just so many fascinating avenues to explore with pattern!
Becoming a cool brand
Is ‘cool’ something brands strive for, or is it something that is attributed by others/happens naturally?
Grace: I thought I would open this with the Oxford dictionary definition of cool: ‘Free from excitement, anxiety, or excessive emotion’ – drilling down on this, I think most brands and humans(!) like to be perceived with this level of composure. We were invited to speak at Riposte Magazine‘s ‘Working Smart’ talk last week and one of the fellow panelists (Joan from Frame) explained the importance of never getting too high, and never getting too low – being cool is about creating balance and building trust.
Often the brands that we perceive to be coolest are the ones in which we (as individuals) feel we can trust, these brands are consistent in what they stand for and what they put out there. It comes back to values – if you have a good value system that manifests as something with greater purpose, and for the greater good, then you are cool.
You’ve expanded beyond the pattern archive and now organise events, do pattern research, consultancy, educational workshops and run a studio. How gradual has this expansion been, and do you ever feel concerned that you might lose focus?
Anna: Good question! Because pattern is literally in everything and it’s so exciting areas to explore it can go into so many worlds, meaning there is a danger of losing focus and confusing people about what we do. We’ve always been a bit of an industry anomaly! Having started as an archive in 2009 then a creative studio in 2011 and finally expanding into events in 2013; it’s been a very natural and evolving process.
Despite the fact our services and products are quite broad they all stem from the same values and niche pattern focus and our mission to use pattern positively whatever platform or outcome that project might take. Whether it’s a photo shoot, a product collaboration or a new event partnership we always come back to the same working process and lead question: how can pattern help us to connect better to our environment, each other and ourselves?
We’ve got some exciting things on the horizon but ultimately everything comes back to the same source. Overall we like to see PATTERNITY as being one giant project – really all we’re doing is hosting a series of experiments to see what is the best way to communicate what we’re about and where we’re headed. It’s quite a flexible way of looking at things but that suits us currently and the size of our team.
How big is your team, and how do you find it managing employees?
Grace: Our immediate team is four (including Anna and myself), and then we work closely with a range of freelancers as our projects and events are so varied. One week we’re working with set builders and architects and then the next it’s with psychologists and sound therapists.
As a millennial business we are passionate about finding new ways of working. We’ve all read many business books about optimising operations and ecosystem restructuring, the key is to take the relevant bits to create your own pattern in business. We encourage a culture of self management and are flexible in allowing each other to work in the way that best suits us as individuals.
How do you make your partnership work?
Anna: It’s not always been the easiest road being in a partnership but I feel hugely grateful that we are! As we’ve grown as a business we’ve also grown as individuals and that is an ever evolving thing that is an honour to experience. We both read a LOT of similar types of book, business and personal development – from neuroscience to spirituality and sustainability. These have strengthened our support as we are so aligned on our core values and vision for the future. Not losing sight of that – communication and trust are the absolute bedrock to making any partnership work; whether at work or in a romantic relationship. And gratitude! I am supremely grateful to Grace and the adventure we have shared together so far.
Grace: We’re good friends as well as partners so it’s a pleasure to be creating together. I am so grateful to Anna for all she has given to the business, I know there is a mutual respect there. We have a shared goal for the future which makes the day-to-day seem simple and it keeps us pushing forward together, side by side. Most importantly we can always laugh even during the most stressful times. Each time we send out our newsletter we play Kool and the Gang: Celebrate and wheel around on our office chairs…
What three tips would you give to someone starting a creative company, like yours?
1. Enjoy the journey – ‘from the mundane to the magnificent’
Running your own business/brand entails so much of the mundane boring stuff. You have to be prepared to tolerate – even celebrate – the everyday mundanities as well as the magnificent!
2. Have a core philosophy beneath the surface
In a world saturated by brands it’s crucial today to have a vision that you believe in behind your brand. You can spend more time at work than you do with friends and family so in order to keep going it’s key to truly believe in what you’re doing both on and beneath the surface.
3. Keep things in perspective and make mistakes ‘ from the macro to the micro’!
It’s very easy for things to scale out of perspective when you make mistakes. Accept before you set out that you will make mistakes, but that each one can be a positive learning along the road if you allow it to be – stay positive when things don’t go to plan.
1. I am only speaking from experience, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to set up a company alone. You don’t necessarily need a 50/50 ‘partner’ but you do need a network of people who can give guidance. Off the bat, I would say – someone good with numbers (if you’re not), someone who understands marketing and pr (and has contacts there) and a mentor or someone with experience in running a business, even it’s from a different sector – wisdom is priceless.
2. Set a long term goal early on. This helps keep focus and gives you purpose beyond the daily grind.
3. Take time off. You are your business and if you don’t work on developing yourself or your ideas then the same comes true of the business. In whatever form this takes, give yourself time to think and time to be inspired.
You recently hosted a Mindful Marbling for Kids workshop. Mindfulness is referenced in your manifesto, how does this fit in with the other work you carry out at PATTERNITY, and what inspired you to arrange this event?
Anna: Really mindfulness is fundamentally about bringing awareness to the present moment – and encouraging us to pay more attention to our patterns of thinking or behaviour. It’s only through becoming more aware that we can start to live more fully and engage more positively with daily life.
At PATTERNITY we use pattern to help us to do that and ground our experience – whether that’s through a design, our image archive or an event. Our use of visuals and tactile experiences and designs help us to explore this more deeply and bring us back to the present moment. We work very hard to find simple ways to communicate these relatively complex ideas.
The mindful marbling was a great way to demonstrate capturing moments in time, we also encourage our participants to switch off their screens whilst they engage with these crafts and experience new techniques. It made sense to design an event that truly represented this idea – and could result in meaningful artworks for participants to take away.
What else is in the pipeline for PATTERNITY, and what’s the dream from here?
Grace: We have some exciting projects in the pipeline this year – working more in depth within design and development. We’ll be using our pattern research to create products and places for positivity and productivity. We’re always happy to hear from people who have an interesting craft, material or innovation that they want to bring to life – we can help tell the story through pattern.
Our long term dream is an educational institute of pattern where design, theory and experience all come together under one roof. We are very fortunate that our skill can be applied to all aspects of life – whether this be data vis for government, product collaborations with charities and brands or in-house events and experiences reconnecting people to their inner creative. Pattern is a wonderfully diverse tool.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Anna: One of my favourite places to explore on this wonderful planet we call home is India. I have spent several months over the last few years there exploring the landscape and culture. I would love to wake up to a wide view of the sea or mountains. Perspectives like that are so humbling and remind me of my place within the much bigger tapestry of life.