What is so special about this curious bean shape, this twisted tear drop, this “Persian pickle” as 18th century American quilt makers called it? In the album ‘Around the World In A Day’ by pop icon Prince, the first single is called Paisley Park which appeared in an organic interlocking paisley printed record sleeve. With paisley typeface. It was a fashion hit with Frank Sinatra. And Sherlock Holmes. And the Empress Josephine, first wife of Napoleon. It was born in Ancient Babylon though some say Iran. But gets its name from the small textile town in Scotland – Paisley. It appears in Celtic design. In Chinese. In Indian and Middle Eastern.
What fascinates me, particularly, is how we accept so readily a pattern as a fait accompli. It is everywhere – on shawls, cushion covers, sarees and for some strange reason extremely popular on men’s house robes. Now, after many years of paisley I want to get better acquainted. It turns out the house robe – paisley connection isn’t strange at all. Paisley, because of its sacred origins and associations (more on that later) was used to decorate ceremonial robes. It stands to reason the modern day application would become more informal and find itself on the more domestic variety of robe lending it, albeit, a regal note.
A no frills person myself, I was surprised by my very positive reaction when I came across a wallcovering in a bathroom – swooshes of paisley, each one a different shade, a tumult of pop colours as varied and as cheerfully clashing as parrot green, orange, pink, turquoise, red, ochre and purple, all interlocked in an exuberant embrace, creating a happy surge as immediate as a three year old’s birthday party. I liked it a lot.