December 2013

A quick peak behind the scenes of Patternity, one of London's most intriguing creative agencies. How do you make a business out of patterns?

Patternity founders Grace Winteringham and Anna Murray recognise the power of pattern. Since founding the company in 2009 the duo has taken their philosophy – to encourage people to see more by pattern – to new lengths. This has resulted in bespoke creative collaborations, ranging from furniture, rugs, tights and knitwear to events. Along the way they have created a successful business. We met with Anna to chat about their journey.

How did you come up with the idea of Patternity?

After meeting each other through Grace’s brother, we realised quite quickly that our interest in pattern was a real common link.  No one had done anything like it before. We also come from really different backgrounds (editor’s note: Anna is a photographer/art director and Grace is a product/surface designer) but when we got together and our skills were merged, it allowed us to cross so many different things. Initially we just set up the research archive as a way to showcase our research. That was the only time in the business when both of us were still working in other jobs. We just wanted to establish our name as the destination for pattern. But soon people started to come to us for advice on pattern or for collaborations. It all happened quite organically.

What does Patternity consist of?

There are three core parts: research, design studio and events. It was all quite intangible in the beginning, but again, people just started asking us to do things offline. From there it translated into events, workshops and talks that happen in real life and where we could get people involved. We love taking that entire philosophy of encouraging people to see and be inspired by pattern, into the real world.

You are also known for your collaborations?

At the moment the design studio, which is mainly for different collaborations, is the biggest part of our operations. When it comes to collaborations we only work with people who are specialists in their own field or have an iconic product.  With all the projects we do the aim is to apply our philosophy and try to make people see more pattern in everyday things, every day. They are a good vehicle for doing that and often an opportunity to take Patternity abroad.

How do the collaborations usually come about?

It has been a real mixture. Usually the companies find us, but for example Pretty Polly started from our side. We were already making the tights ourselves and because we had so much interest, we wanted to take them to the mass market. We just couldn’t make enough of them.

How has the concept of Patternity developed over time?

We started off with a very visual image of what pattern is, and along the way that has evolved into something a lot more in-depth and explorative. Purely by doing more research you start to dig underneath the surface of pattern and you uncover much deeper things from a scientific, theoretical or philosophical point of view. You can’t talk about pattern without getting into how and why we exist in the world and in the universe. It is quite heavy. We also changed our company from into .org because essentially we want to help people understand and think about the world around them. It has probably changed from something that was on the surface to something that goes beneath. We hope to give back a bit through the projects we do.

What kind of feedback have you received?

We have had people come to our talks and said afterwards that they look at the world differently. Or even after just looking at the research archive, because it just changes your perception of the everyday. I also think people like us because we are quite genuine as a company; it all comes from a very genuine place – not trying to slap patterns on everything.

What has been most challenging part of building Patternity?

The sheer magnetic amount of admin, legal, contracts… Since both of us are from creative backgrounds, it’s been about knowing what support networks you need to get. That’s reality and I’m quite transparent about it. I think many people look at creative businesses and think “oh it must be so amazing”. But it’s a lot of hard work. It was also fairly difficult in the beginning to show what we are about, as people like to pigeonhole you. Only now people are starting to get it because we’ve done rugs, tables, knitwear, events, talks, and consultancy. People have started to understand that we’re more than just one of the parts, that we are a combination of all three of them. That was one of our main ambitions when setting up Patternity as neither of us like being pigeonholed.

What do you see as your biggest achievement?

That we’re still going! Running your own company does come with challenges. For me, our biggest achievement would be our exhibition Pattern Power that we did last April. It was all about celebrating stripes and pattern, and we really pushed ourselves beyond what we thought was possible. Also, some of our collaborations, like working with furniture with Grace’s father, have been amazing. It’s really rewarding to see how people get new interest in their work through our pattern.