A couple of summers ago, I took a painting class from Joan Anderson, a wonderful painter who also works with textiles and ethnic garment shapes. On a painting break, Joan and I were looking at a book of ancient Asian garments, and many of them had a textile pattern of three dots arranged in a triangle shape. We had a conversation about it; Joan said that it was a common pattern. I remember telling her that it was a motif I'd love to work with, but it somehow seemed too simple. She encouraged me to try something simple, and I made some painted notes in my sketchbook:
Today I was reading old posts on Fibercopia and discovered that the pattern has a name - it's called cintamani, and it has a powerful tradition, especially in the Ottoman Empire, in Turkish garments and decoration. Cintamani means wish-fulfilling jewel, or auspicious jewel.
Then I found this gorgeous fabric at Lost City, the textile design studio I wrote about a few posts ago (and which I believe I also found through Fibercopia, which is a treasure). Here is Lost City's description and photo of their Cintamani design:
Ground Red / 100% Silk
Embroidery Silk / Rayon
Color Red / Rich Yellow
Repeat V 4.6” / H 9.6”
Inspiration 17th C. Turkish robe
Cintamani is one of the most distinctive motifs associated with the Ottomans, a term derived from the Sanskrit for “auspicious jewel”. Three balls are arranged in a triangular pattern and the motif is regarded among the Turkish people as a symbol to ward off evil. Embroidered on a crimson silk ground in bold yellow silk yarn.
As you know, if you've been following this blog, I've been working with shisha mirrors and fascinated by textile traditions that involve metaphysical protection and safety, so I was very excited to find another piece of this puzzle in the cintamani motif. I was both pleased with myself that I'd instinctively recognized something powerful, mysterious, and connected to the other ideas I was exploring, and also annoyed with myself that I hadn't really taken that moment seriously 18 months ago in painting class. But maybe it's all a matter of timing. Even last week, I was thinking about using the round mirrors in this pattern, not realizing that both the mirrors and the pattern, though from different countries, had a common purpose and thread.
It also made me think of the dots that Jude has been working with in her beautiful raw, instinctive, soulful stitched pieces.
So - this felt like a wonderful discovery to me. I knew I liked the pattern, and I knew there was something there for me to use, and now I know it has a name and a meaning, and my instincts were good. And who doesn't need a wish-fulfilling jewel right about now?
I guess this, then, is a story of synchronicity, and a reminder to trust your creative instincts and to never dismiss or discount something that feels too simple or easy. Ease is good, and there's often more to what we see on the surface than we know.