Uncovering Motifs: Fleur de lis

This week, I’ve been focused on learning about the fleur-de-lis. It’s not a motif I’ve ever had much interest in, but the more I learned, the more interesting it became. 

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Sketching and reading Textile Design by Susan Meller

The fleur-de-lis has been around so long that whatever the symbol originally represented is unknown. Most scholars seem to agree that it is a stylized flower, probably an iris or lily, however, there have been arguments for it being a bee, a frog, a bird, or even an axe or arrowhead.

Examples of the fleur-de-lis can be found in numerous civilizations around the globe. From Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, through in Europe during the Middle Ages, and on into Modern times.

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From sketch to vector illustration

The French have strong ties with the fleur-de-lis. There is a legend dated to around 500 CE about King Clovis and the fleur-de-lis. While looking for a place to cross a river on his way to battle, a deer jumped across and showed him the way. Upon getting to the other side, Clovis picked a yellow iris and wore it in his helmet, thus starting a tradition of wearing the fleur-de-lis as a symbol of royalty, power, and strength. 

Playing with the shape, I made a stencil and then experimented with placing it over different images and objects around the house.

In the 12th century, the fleur-de-lis was used as a heraldic shape on the seals of the kings of France, and later became incorporated into family coats of arms. The 1300s through the 1600s saw three golden fleur-de-lis gracing the French flag, and Joan of Arc was said to have carried a white banner with golden fleur-de-lis.

Today, the fleur-de-lis can be found on buildings and ironwork, as logos for sports teams, universities, and even various scouting organizations.  It is also used in pattern design!

After a week of studying, drawing, and playing with this motif, I am really excited to have completed this pattern for my shop.

This first week was both fun and challenging. I’m feeling great about this project so far and I’m ready for next week. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be focusing on the pattern designer Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel and the Weiner Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop). You can follow me on Instagram for daily doses or come back here next Thursday for a complete post.

Thanks for visiting!


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