New: Grow House Grow Tiles + Wallpaper

by Grace Bonney

All week I’ve been having a mild case of FOMO while I’m home upstate watching the exciting updates from New York Design Week roll in. I had family in town all last week and friends in town this week, so for the first time in 10 years, I handed over the trade show reins to two of our talented writers, Annie and Emma. They’ve been walking the aisles at the Javits Center all weekend, keeping an eye on trends and great new designers, to bring us fresh posts this week. I can’t wait to see what they have to share, but in the meantime, I couldn’t resist posting Katie Deedy’s newest designs at Grow House Grow. She sent me a little sneak peek and I immediately started figuring out just how much of her new Otomi tile I would need to redo the floor in our tiny upstairs bathroom.

Katie’s new collections for spring 2015 include a stunning Otomi pattern cement tile and gorgeous new wallpaper designs, too. The tile is so special I haven’t been able to take my eyes off it. I keep imagining it in all different colorways (deep indigo, pale pink, gold) and how much it would inspire me to actually get down and clean the tiles in our bathroom. I can’t wait to see these in person, but in the meantime, you can check them out and order online right here.

Katie also launched a new wallpaper line, called Codex, inspired by great historical mythology and mystery. I am still a sucker for a cute eye print and I’ll never turn down a good floral, so both of these are on my instant wish list. Katie’s papers always have such a wonderful story behind them and the patterns balance whimsy and sophistication with ease. Annie got to see these in person at ICFF, so I’m anxiously awaiting her report later this week. If you’re stopping by on the public day of ICFF this year, be sure to say hi to Katie and check out these new designs at the Grow House Grow booth, #2546. Until then, stay tuned for our trade show coverage later this week! xo, grace

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  • Gorgeousness! I am so in love with those tiles and eye wallpaper. Even though I love all the great vendors at ICFF, I find the whole thing so exhausting and overwhelming! I’d be happy to hang out upstate and send someone in my place :)

  • Is anyone else concerned with artists copying Otomi patterns? It seems like one thing to buy Otomi textiles from the Otomi people in Mexico, decorating your house AND supporting those people at the same time. But this tile seems like appropriation and theft of someone else’s pattern. (In this case, a whole culture’s pattern.) If this was Target doing this to Lisa Congdon or something, we’d all be riled up…this doesn’t feel right to me.

    This blog post is interesting. http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/2012/09/mara-hoffman-and-cultural-appropriation.html

    • Angela

      Cultural appropriation is something we talk about a lot here. And to be frank, I don’t have a definitive answer on it.

      The vast majority of patterns that exist in the world have their basis in a religious or cultural reference that doesn’t apply to all of the people currently using them.

      I don’t think theft or stealing is the appropriate term for all of these examples (I read the post you mentioned and don’t think that particular post’s tone is helpful in starting a serious discussion about what is and isn’t appropriation), but I do think it opens up the question of where and when do we draw the line?

      So many Moroccan patterns being used on a regular basis have their roots in deeply religious meanings, as do so many of the popular rugs (Azilals, etc.) and mudcloth fabrics that you see in every home and every shop online right now. When people choose to get upset is always interesting to me. For me, I think if you’re going to take the case of cultural appropriation up in earnest, you need to look into the original roots of most patterns and design movements. Then you need to decide when something is being used because it’s being appreciated and celebrated (which I’m personally ok with, as long as someone acknowledges their influences and sources) and when it’s being cheapened or reduced to an offensive cultural stereotype or reference.

      I’d love to see a roundtable discussion with a wide range of art historians and decorative arts historians to discuss the history and origin of patterns like this and how they’ve been used. I find most people are upset when white people use patterns like this (and I understand why people have that knee-jerk reaction) but it also brings up the question- is it ok for people from these indigenous cultures (or other cultures in general) to use patterns or styles that belong to cultures that aren’t their own, too?

      I think the world is a far less interesting and connected place when we prohibit people from being inspired by and creating work that resembles the artistic traditions of other cultures. That said, I agree with you that it’s a topic that warrants more regular discussion and I think all artists who are pulling from a well-known source of pattern or style inspiration would benefit from being more up front about their sources of inspiration and the tradition behind that work. If people acknowledge where their inspiration comes from and honor its past I think then it’s up to people to decide whether or not they feel comfortable buying that or bringing it into their home. I don’t think there will ever be a definitive answer on this topic, as I’ve seen countless people speak on this issue from their cultural perspective and so often people disagree about whether or not it is helping or hurting their community. I think there’s a case to be made that both (helping and hurting) is true and I hope that the online community can continue to talk about this, raise awareness and celebrate the history of great patterns (we did a pattern series here on DS for that purpose) and the people behind them.


      • Hi, Angela! I’d love to comment, too–though I think Grace did a wonderful job. This isn’t an ideal place for a long discussion, but I wanted to add a few things.

        All of my artwork is inspired by narrative–each pattern has a specific person, place, or thing that it is based on (my background is illustration, my mother is a professional storyteller and children’s book author). It’s often informed by months and even years of research, love, and appreciation for whatever subject I’m creating from.

        For example, our Spring 2014 line is inspired by different Sister Cities from around the world, and incorporates different imagery and design themes from each place. To give you an idea, our Marseille : Marrakech pattern is cicadas (the symbol of Provence) laid out in a Moroccan-like tile formation. For these wallpapers, the places and cultures inform the final pattern in each case.

        Our Otomi tiles are based on the same sense of appreciation. Our new Codex Collection is inspired by old manuscripts, codices and libraries, and after months of research, it surprised me how few manuscripts I was finding from Central and South America. I eventually stumbled upon some old Otomi manuscripts (you can check one or two through the link here…they’re wonderfully stylized and stark compared to many of the Aztec manuscripts I found: http://libweb5.princeton.edu/mssimages/meso-garrett1.html) and I fell in love. Very few Otomi manuscripts still exist, and most that I found looked little like the traditional artwork the Otomi people are known for. The decision to create an Otomi tile was inspired by this research, and is a dedication. The choice of putting the pattern on tile handmade in Mexico is obvious, and of course the pattern is named “Otomi” because…well…that’s who I made it for!

        Finally, I am Cuban, not Mexican–or Moroccan, or French, or Scandinavian (etc., etc.). However, the unending inspiration that I find all over this planet is absolutely overwhelming, and I know it will continue to excite me and find its way into my work.

        I really hope this helps put perspective on this particular case, and like Grace, agree there is always room for this discussion. I am happy to be a part of it!

  • Thanks for the thoughtful response.

    I think the “tone” of that post was essentially, “I’m really hurt and angry that a white person is ripping off my culture and profiting from it,” so I’d argue that it’s actually very helpful. We need to listen to that anger. People are really hurt by this stuff, and they get to lead the discussions.

    I guess my issue is with the term “inspired by.” It’s one thing to look at Otomi prints, be struck by their simplicity and color, and create something quite different that evokes those things. But that’s not what this tile is doing. It’s lifting the exact style and even the name, and selling it for profit. Same with the Mara Hoffman dress in the blog post. Why not collaborate with the Otomi people? Why not let them profit from their own designs?

    I don’t think these people are bad people, or intentionally set out to hurt anyone. But we can’t deny that we white people have a habit of traipsing through the world, taking anything we want from any culture and making it our own.

  • The Otomi case is very interesting. Setting aside the cultural appropriation arguments for the moment (which are indeed quite complex), there remain some troubling copyright/market issues. If Katie had copied the work of a living North American or European artist for these tiles, she would almost certainly have needed to license it under current copyright law. That the patterns were copied from old codices presumably in the public domain (though here we raise cultural appropriation questions again) might *technically* release Katie from copyright infringement liability. However, fair use criteria, at least in the U.S., also include the crucial tests of commercial use and market infringement: namely, (1) is Kate making money selling these patterns? (2) If so, could that money be seen as cutting into the market share of the Otomi artisans (their ability to make money from their own patterns)? On the pro-infringement side of the case, we have the obvious profitability of Katie’s project, the fact her patterns are marketed in the same (Internet) market as Otomi textiles, the fact her pattern is indistinguishable from currently marketed Otomi patterns, and the fact she calls them “Otomi” tiles, thus potentially leading consumers to believe the Otomi licensed and/or produced them. On the pro-fair-use side, we have the fact that the Otomi artisans do not typically work in tile and that their textile patterns are indistinguishable from ones in the public domain. It’s a complex and fascinating question, and of course I realize I’m applying U.S. copyright/fair use guidelines to a global case. But I believe the case could tip toward infringement if we were dealing with U.S. artisans. Here’s a nice, cogent review of two cases in which American Indian tribes in New Mexico successfully stopped private interests from utilizing indigenous symbols/patterns in various media: http://www.weil.com/~/media/files/pdfs/GreerArticle.pdf.

  • Those tiles are perfect for a bathroom! I love the floral motives, they help bring a relaxing atmosphere to the room, which is exactly what you need when you’re taking a bath. You definitely can’t find such nice tiles in a regular store. I wonder, what material are they made from and are they glazed? They don’t look to be, but for the bathroom it’s best if they are.