Playing with Pattern
Have fun with art and maths


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Tap on a motif
that is repeated
in this design!

Tap where
the vertical line
of symmetry is!

Tap on the
tulip rotated
by 90 degrees
is used here?


Tap on an

Daisy William Morris, 1864

William Morris was such a good designer; it is often hard to spot where the repeat starts and ends. Look closely at the Daisy pattern, can you see the repeats?

This is a very early design and the first one to be made into a wallpaper. It has a repeating pattern of clumps of white, red, yellow and blue flowers, with a background which looks like grass. The daisy motif was also hand painted onto tiles and, when multiple tiles are arranged together, the overall pattern gives the impression of a country meadow. In mathematical terms the repeating of an image or motif, without changing its form, is called translation.

Can you see the motifs repeating in this design?

Persian John Henry Dearle, 1905

Symmetry was an important organising feature of the Morris & Co designs. In many of Morris’s designs it is possible to identify clear lines of vertical and horizontal symmetry. In mathematical terms symmetry occurs when one half of an image is a reflection of the other half.

This pattern features a variety of flowering plants and foliage, in shades of pink, blue and green on a pale background. It was designed by John Henry Dearle, who began as a shop assistant and then apprentice of William Morris. He became chief designer in 1890 and when Morris died in 1896, Dearle was appointed as Art Director of Morris & Co.

Can you see the line of symmetry in this design?

Ceiling William Morris, 1877

Rotation is when an image or design has a central point that stays fixed and everything else moves around that point in a circle. A full rotation is 360°

As the name suggests this square repeating pattern was intended for the ceiling. Whilst many of the Morris & Co tiles would be rotated to create decorative effects, we don’t often see motifs rotated in Morris’s wallpaper designs.

Can you see how the tulip motif rotates 90° 180° 270° in this design?

Wandle William Morris, 1884

Every pattern has a framework, that holds all of the elements together. Frameworks can sometimes be seen in natural forms, such as the direction a river flows or that branches grow.

Some of the frameworks that William Morris often used in his designs:

This pattern is named after the River Wandle than ran near to his workshop in Merton Abbey in Surrey. Thirty-two printing blocks were required to print this design.

Can you spot the framework in the pattern?

Rose William Morris, 1883

William Morris was influenced by Eastern and Islamic patterns. For example, ogee curves (like Islamic arches), foliage such as lotus flowers and arabesques (intertwining stems) are used to build up the pattern.

This design features roses and tulips. The roses are easily recognised however, the style of tulip is the pointed tipped, Eastern type not a rounded, English type.

1. Can you see an arabesque? Hint: Look for the pink intertwining stems, covered in green and blue leaves.

2. Can you see an ogee? Hint: Look for the yellow stems with an orange rose at the top point.

Trellis William Morris, 1862

Now you can recreate your own version of a well-known William Morris design.

The pattern features the squared trellis, on a grid framework, covered in roses, insects and bird motifs. Select the motifs you would like to include in your own version of Trellis. Remember to use some of the maths concepts you have been learning about.

Trellis was the first wallpaper William Morris designed. He had recently moved into Red House in Bexley Heath and couldn’t find any wallpapers that he liked enough to use in his new home. He was inspired by the rose trellises in the medieval style garden at Red House. Trellis is still one of William Morris’s most popular patterns, but it wasn’t a success at first. Many people preferred patterns with realistic looking flower motifs and they felt that the Trellis design was too simplistic.