Word Play : Pattern



Take a word as common as ‘pattern.’ Look up the definition or consider how you naturally use the word in different contexts… It’s easy to find references to various ways it can be interpreted and called into meaning.

  • Pattern as in designs and motifs.

  • Pattern as in templates or prototypes that act as guides.

  • Patterns in what we notice, find significant, our habits and behavior.

Years ago I read and reread a short book of essays, On Looking, by Lia Purpura. It blew me away. The essay Recurrence/Concurrences specifically resonated deeply and was fuel that I savored, and kept for myself for some years. It put words to something that felt so real, yet had been intangible.

What catches my eye over and over again? What aligns? What were the patterns the overlaps of where I found beauty?

I’ve previously written that for me this word, ‘pattern’, is a wonderful jumping off point and guide for experimentation and discovery. I’ve found this to be true in my studio practice as well as in my teaching.

I made a whole body of work, Seeing the Familiar, that was an inquiry into myself in relation to above the questions and, more recently, it’s been the anchor for my workshops. 


I’ve learned that I move easily between flexible/creative thinking and orderly/rational thinking and ‘patterns’, with all its various meanings, can hold space for both those states. I’ve learned that the classroom is a thriving environment when I share with students both tools to investigate and familiarize themselves with personal creative process and straight forward, hands on skills in metal fabrication. 

While the parameters of each workshop vary due to length of time, location, facilities etc., the baseline is the same. This summer I’ll be teaching a two and a half week workshop at Penland School of Crafts, one of the most incredible places I know (up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the setting is a place to retreat and focus intensely.) There are still some spots available. Join me! Or perhaps encourage someone you know to.

What do you think of when you ponder the word ‘patterns’? Leave a comment or email me your thoughts.