I recently had the good fortune of spending two fantastic weeks in Taiwan. Although my time there was too short for such a fascinating and varied place, I did manage to spend time in the capital city of Taipei, Hualien on the picturesque East Coast, including the nearby Taroko Gorge (a natural wonder), historical Tainan and arts-filled Kaohsiung. Rather than simply outlining my travel itinerary, I wanted to show you some of the things this surface pattern designer found particularly inspiring, and that I’m sure will inspire some new pattern designs! I hope they inspire you too! Here they are in no particular order…
The 15000 Temples of Taiwan
Yup, apparently there are 15000 temples in Taiwan devoted to Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism! We visited famous Longshan and Bao’an Temples in Taipei, of course, and numerous others, including small neighbourhood temples that are absolutely everywhere. It’s hard to walk any distance without passing a temple, and you will always spot several in every town you pass by on the high-speed rail. The bright colours and shimmering gold, large-scale paintings, tilework, glowing lights, carvings and sculptures of gods, heroes and animals, and hand-embroidered robes and banners (more on this below) are jaw-dropping.
See more Temple pics at my Instagram post HERE.
I searched out one of the small shops that still hand-embroider the magnificent robes and banners that embellish Taiwanese temples. Here are pics I took at the Tainan Kuang Tsai Embroidery Shop, and an example of a finished robe spotted in a temple. Common motifs include temple buildings, dragons, Chinese calligraphy, clouds, animals and flowers, and are often “3-D” and wrapped in glittering silver and gold threads. Wow!
Taiwan Glows at Night
Taiwan's fantastic cities REALLY come to life and sparkle at night...From modern architecture lit up in bright colours, including Taipei 101 (once the world's tallest building) and dusk views from its 91st-floor Observatiory watching the city lights blink on; to public sculptures that light up arts districts (sometimes with music!); to glowing temples and historical shops open late; to bustling night markets and neon-lit places to eat, drink and socialize...Fantastic!
You can see more Taiwan At Night pics at my Instagram post HERE.
Taiwan is so FULL of colour and charm, evident in all the characters I spotted around Taipei, Hualien, Tainan and Kaohsiung...Some of these are honest-to-goodness "public art", while some are "just" storefront or restaurant mascots. But whether they're art pieces commissioned to be installed in Taiwan's numerous "creative and cultural parks" or temples, or cute kitsch designed to attract customers to a shop or restaurant or to endorse tourism, I LOVE THEM ALL!
There's more Character pics at my Instagram post HERE.
Colourful Paper Lanterns
Just SOME (and I stress, SOME) of the paper lanterns I spotted while wandering the streets, small traditional shops and magnificent temples of Taiwan.
See more of these colourful Paper Lanterns at my Instagram post HERE.
Jimmy Liao: Taiwanese Children’s Book Illustrator
The huge Jing Si Hall in Hualien has a wonderful bookstore, and it was here that I discovered the Taiwanese children’s book author and illustrator Jimmy Liao. On further research, I’ve learned he is an internationally-acclaimed illustrator. Even though the 3 books I bought are all in Chinese, I couldn’t resist his beautiful sweet images. I’ll just have to fire up Google Translate! Check out his beautiful illustrations on Instagram at @jimmy_liao_official.
The Colours Of Taiwan
When I return to the studio after a trip (especially one as colourful as this one!), I often use my travel photos to develop new colour palettes. With this process, I always try to first pull out the brights (just because I love bright colour!), then I add in some of the more neutral, earthier and muddier colours to round out the palettes. I find that this is a fantastic and useful exercise: it’s a great way to understand your own colour “style” and to develop colour palettes that are uniquely your own. See below for examples.
I’ll Have To Go Back!
This is just a small compilation of some of the design and arts inspirations I saw during my trip to Taiwan. But Taiwan is full of natural wonders, wildlife and flora; layers of interesting history including colonization by the Dutch, Spanish and Japanese whose legacies still colour present-day Taiwan; and delicious and unusual foods (stinky tofu anyone?!), drink (it is the birthplace of bubble tea!) and desserts (my favourite is matcha shaved ice!) offered in numerous small neighbourhood eateries, high-end restaurants, and bustling neon-lit night markets. I’ll just have to go back!
Many years ago, I lived in Berkeley and regularly took the BART into the City; and more recently, I’ve visited SF with my family, so I’m familiar with many of the tourist “greatest hits” already. But this time I had 2 ½ days completely on my own, so I decided to focus on feeding my surface pattern design soul. I thought you might want to follow along with what I did and saw. I walked everywhere, wandering into awe-inspiring places of worship, fun shops and parks along the way. The weather was superb, luckily. It’s hard to eat badly in SF. Google maps was my friend.
8:30 Coffee and a pastry at the Ferry Building, sitting in the sun and watching the water ferries.
10:00 I am of Japanese heritage, so I wanted to check out Japantown. Had a great chat with a curator at the National Japanese American Historical Society and then headed over to the Kinokuniya Bookstore in the Japan Center Malls. Bought some books that would be pretty hard to find where I live (limited myself to just 2).
12:00 Lunch at the Chao Pescao Latin Caribbean Kitchen, with a table looking out onto the Tenderloin People’s Garden, located just across the road from the Asian Art Museum.
Spent hours checking out the rest of the fantastic Asian Art Museum. Took SO many pics, including the ones below just because I loved the faces, they look so kind to me.
4:00 Headed back to the hotel with lots of stops along the way, including at the Gump’s Holiday Shop (now open temporarily just down the street from Gump's San Francisco) and checked out all the ornaments.
6:00 Italian dinner in North Beach.
8:00 Coffee and a pastry at the Ferry Building (again).
9:00 Headed out to the Mission District.
11:00 Tour of the Heath Ceramics Tile Factory and Clay Studio. In addition to seeing how their made-to-order tiles are formed, glazed and fired, we also got to see where the studio manager works. In his studio, he experiments with new ideas and forms, and prepares for upcoming themed shows. All the tables and counters were filled with these experiments and examples from past shows. We weren’t allowed to take photos here, sadly, but trust me when I say it was wonderful. Heath Ceramics has a great Shop and Magazine Stand too!
12:30 Instead of having lunch at the Tartine Manufactory outpost of the famous bakery (which is in the same building as Heath Ceramics), I instead wandered over to the original Tartine Bakery on Guerrero Street.
1:00 Checked out the murals of the Clarion Alley Mural Project.
Headed up Valencia Street to stop in at the Nooworks shop. I love this fashion brand famous for their super colourful prints and wanted to see them all in person. Wouldn't it be fun to design patterns for them?!
Checked out more interesting-looking and vintage shops along the way.
3:00 Complete inspiration overwhelm in the San Francisco Design District, centered on the San Francisco Design Center. Huge interior design showrooms, strangely nearly empty of people, but completely FULL of every kind of gorgeous patterned fabric in giant swatches, often organized by theme, colourful modern furniture, and the newest rug designs. All the drool-worthy designers are represented here and you're free to walk around and drool…Who knew?
5:00 Back to the hotel. Dinner at Kaiyo Rooftop (excellent Japanese-Peruvian food and cocktails), and then finished the evening at the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar in the Fairmont Hotel. More cocktails!
DAY 2 ½:
9:30 A bit of a rocky start (I blame the Tonga Room).
10:00 Headed off to the SFMOMA. Unbeknownst to me, it was Community Day so admission was free! I also didn’t know that the “Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love” show which encompasses two of her famed Infinity Mirror Rooms was on. I managed to snag one of the limited number of same-day tickets (otherwise tickets are sold out through November). In my opinion, SFMOMA is a must-see museum on any trip to San Francisco. If you’ll be there anytime soon, book ahead to see the Yayoi Kusama show!
Other MUST-SEE shows at SFMOMA: the Pacita Abad retrospective (images below, until Jan 28 2024), and the musical video installation "Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors” (until Oct 13 2024). This last was probably my favourite of the entire museum. I haven't included images here because you really just have to stand in the space and experience it for yourself!
1:30 Relaxing lunch on the museum’s Café 5 outdoor terrace.
3:00 Back to the hotel to pick up my bags, and then off to the airport!
I’ll be back, so if you have any suggestions for NEXT time, please do direct them my way!
The last few weeks in The Colour Gang, a members-only online community, has been all about trends and colour! It has been great reading all the trend reports generously provided to Colour Gang members by WGSN and designing to them. Here is a sneak peek of a brand new pattern collection (just the beginnings!), which I designed with one of the trends in mind. Unfortunately, I can't share the reports, but be assured they are soooo inspiring! Which do you prefer: Yellow/Green or Pink/Blue??!
I've been playing with my newest pattern designs the last few days, and visualizing them on pillows and fabrics! I think my Far East Collection would look gorgeous on a set of pillows; my Fanciful Collection would be great for quilters or girl's dresses; my newest tropical patterns, including my Botanical Gardens Collection, Celestun and Hibiscus, would cheer up any wardrobe or interior space, and I think my Koyasan Collection would be so calming in any room! What do you think?! Can you envision these designs on other products? Let me know!
Thought I would share one of my latest pattern designs today! This month's theme in The Colour Gang, as I've mentioned in previous posts, is travel inspiration and I chose Japan as my inspiration (since I was fortunate to have visited there last summer!) So here is my "Edo" design named for the name of the ancient Japanese capital where Tokyo now stands. The temples, castles and torii gates are amazing and are part of everyday life all over Japan. I MUST go back! Although I posted them in previous posts, here also are the other two designs in this collection, "Kimono Ladies" and "Cherry Blossoms".
Ohhh, I'm going to like this month's theme in the Colour Gang--Cultural Influences! I love to travel, and was fortunate this summer to visit Japan, so I'm going with Japan for the first January Colour Challenge. Step 1: create a colour palette inspired by Japan! Using photos from our trip, I created two, deciding to forgo the more "traditional" images of Japan (kimonos, temples, gardens, etc.) and focusing on the less traditional. The first moodboard, "Neon Nights, is all about the "wacky" side of Tokyo/Osaka...neon lights, Robot Restaurant, Kawaii Monster Cafe (google it!) The second one, called "Warm Fantasy" has scenes from Tokyo DisneySea which my kids (and I) thought was beautiful, particularly the Arabian Coast area and Magellan's Restaurant (with Ariel's Playground in there too). Colours are amazing in Japan! Next step: some new pattern designs!
Hello! It's been awhile since I posted here because my family and I were fortunate enough to travel to Japan for an extended summer vacation and I just got back. Japan is inspiring, wacky, efficient, spotless, sparkling, colourful, calm, ancient, cutting-edge modern, delicious, solemn, thought-provoking, mysterious...in a word, MARVELOUS! I have travelled quite a bit over the years, and I have never been anywhere quite like it. The food is outstanding, the people are wonderful, travel is easy (once you get the hang of it!), the design and art are utterly fabulous. It gave me all kinds of design inspiration: from flea markets full of fabulous "junk", antiques and kitsch; food markets filled with all kinds of seafood, grilled things, perfect fruits, beautiful sweets; temples, gorgeous gardens and incredible architecture everywhere; and shops, selling wares that they have been making for generations or fabulous modern design I haven't really seen anywhere else.
I am eager to start designing new patterns inspired by this amazing country! Here is just a sampling of the hundreds of photos I took, in no particular order (check out all that wonderful surface pattern design inspiration!)...If you want to see more of my Japan photos, I invite you to check out my Instagram feed!
Jackie Tahara of UnBlink Studio