Pattern Players: PATCH NYC
Shopping for something special? Whether it's a dapper owl coaster set, a beetle-themed throw pillow, skull and bow pearl earrings, or nearly anything in between, chances are PATCH NYC has it... and it's good. After years of admiring the work of Don Carney and John Ross (the creative duo behind the brand), we're thrilled to finally launch our PATCH NYC for Hygge & West collection!
This new wallpaper collection features the ink-style drawings and unusual (but oh-so-chic) color palettes with which PATCH NYC has become synonymous. Combined with our favorite glistening metallics and hand screen printing techniques, the resulting wallpapers are beyond what we ever could have imagined. In honor of the launch of this exciting collaboration, we caught up with PATCH NYC about what inspires them, the stories behind their patterns, and more.
Talk to us a little about PATCH NYC and how it came to be.
PATCH NYC began over 20 years ago when we designed a collection of men’s hand crocheted hats. We used beautiful yarn from the Union Square Farmers Market and my mom, Yasuko, did the crochet work, then Don and I added finishing touches like oversized pompoms. We sold the hats in small specialty shops in New York and they sold well, so we added fabric scarves the following year. We sewed the scarves on a Singer sewing machine from Woolworths and it wasn’t until we were well into production that we learned we were threading the machine wrong. We love traditional hand-detailing techniques like appliqué and embroidery, so we added these details to our scarves. We also scoured trim shops in the garment district for old ribbon, buttons, and random findings and used these to add vintage-inspired details.
We still considered the hats and scarves more men’s accessories, but when we showed the men’s buyer at Bergdorf Goodman he sent us across the street to the women’s buyer. She was really impressed with our hand detailing and asked if we could make handbags to compliment the hats and scarves. Don’t forget, we had just learned how to sew a rectangle of fabric to make a scarf, but we were like, “Sure! We can make a handbag!” We went back to our basement work space in Chelsea and folded a rectangle of fabric in half, sewed up the sides, dropped in a lining, added a handle and, voila—our first prototype. This was a time when simple and practical black bags were popular and here we were with these small, impractical, colorful bags with all this intricate hand detailing. We sold those bags to Bergdorf Goodman and, later, Barneys New York. Once the collection was in Barneys, we were approached by Japanese buyers and that’s when PATCH NYC really took off. Clearly it was an unplanned trajectory for the business, but we really enjoyed designing women’s accessories and that was our focus for many years. It wasn’t until we finally moved to a proper home that we started making more art and designing decorative accessories because we wanted things for our own home. Gradually, the home decor part of PATCH NYC grew and became more of our focus.
How would you describe your aesthetic? What inspires you?
Our name was inspired by Victorian crazy quilts because we love the idea of taking various disparate elements and putting them together in a random pattern to create something entirely new. Our aesthetic is definitely vintage-inspired but, like a crazy quilt, we want the finished design to look new.
Our biggest sources of inspiration are vintage treasures we find or, often times, simply admire. This could be an oil painting or a handmade wooden toy or a piece of beaded fabric or an embroidered lampshade. We have such an appreciation for beautiful craftsmanship and we love the intrinsic history in a vintage piece, the story behind it.
We're so excited to launch your new collection with us, in your inimitable ink-drawing style. What drew you to that style and why do you think it works so well in this application?
Don admires the graphic quality of traditional woodblock prints and this inspired his ink-drawing style. He uses India ink because of its rich blackness and, early on, used different tools from an eye dropper to a wooden stick to apply the ink. Now he uses a fine brush because he likes the control it affords him when creating all those intricate lines. The way Don renders his subject matter—be it a thorny vine, a startled rabbit, or a smoking pipe—allows for creating interesting designs when they are multiplied and incorporated into a pattern, so we were very excited to create patterns specifically for use on wallpaper.
What inspired each of the different motifs you've created for this collection?
Since we started, we’ve turned to nature for inspiration and we love the imagery of childhood stories populated by woodland animals living together in enchanted forests. With Fable, we thought, "How great would it be to live inside one of these settings?"
When developing a collection, we often create imaginary characters to inspire us, and such was the case with The Gentleman. The dapper old man has been a constant since we started… think tweed jacket, leather brogues, and a silk neckerchief, all a bit scuffed and tattered. Perhaps he’s a rare book seller with a dusty shop on a narrow Florence street or an art dealer with a gallery on the Left Bank. In our imagining of this stylish gent, he is rarely without his pipe, a beautiful object of carved wood that fits perfectly in his weathered hand.
We are both fond of classic animal prints like leopard spots, so with Palace we wanted to create our own version using actual leopards. By repeating the motif of the spotted leopard, we created a pattern that combines organic irregularity with a graphic symmetry.
We love unexpected combinations of seemingly disparate elements, like an eclectic mix of art on a gallery wall or a blending of unusual colors & patterns in a textile. With Serpentine, we asked ourselves what’s an unexpected garden motif to combine with a flower and we thought of the coiled snake. Don’s snake drawings always have wonderfully fluid, curvy shapes that add a lot of movement to a pattern.
Fortune was inspired by the 1958 film Auntie Mame. The title character changes her interior decor multiple times, including an over-the-top Chinoiserie-inspired design complete with a smoking dragon front door. The sequence of decor changes is remarkable because each theme is so thoroughly realized and Mame’s home is completely transformed every time. We wanted to create a pattern that would add an element of Chinoiserie to a space. Hopefully we created something Mame would have liked.
One of the things we love most about this collection is the unique color palette. Where do you find your color inspiration?
We love to experiment with color and we aren’t afraid to use all the options in the proverbial Crayola box. We both have color palettes that we always gravitate towards, but we also enjoy mixing and matching. It’s always surprising how a color can look different simply by changing the other colors around it. Since our very first time buying hand-dyed yarn at the farmers market, we have been attracted to creating palettes with colors that are odd and murky, as well as punchy and vibrant.
What are your tips for mixing unexpected patterns or colors?
With pattern and color in decor, be brave and take chances and you’ll end up pleasantly surprised at the results. We do advocate for a sense of balance, so remember a little goes a long way sometimes. For example, maybe it’s enough to put that bold print on one well placed chair instead of all the seating options in a room. For us, an interesting interior is one with personality, and that usually comes from furnishings that were acquired with thought and care; it’s all in the mix and the details.
Hygge is a Danish concept of finding coziness in life's small comforts and simple pleasures. What is hygge to you?
Hygge for us is spending time with the people (and animals) we love and living with our collections of vintage art and objects.