damask onion motifI’ve had a lot of confusion about the difference between damask, ogee and related patterns. I realize now it’s because I spend so much time online, and it turns out that damask, by definition, does not translate well to the digital world.

I had pretty much given up on finding anything that clearly explains and differentiates the historic roots of damask. Then I found an excellent article with a brilliant collection of images, by KT Doyle.

Damask is a weave. A texture. A process.

It’s a 99% tactile experience we quickly forget as we share images — even 3-dimensionl images — via the 2-dimensional viewscreens of our smartphones, computer monitors and televisions.

As a person who revels in abstract ideas, I haven’t felt particularly hamstrung… except at moments like this.

I’ve been calling it damask, but it turns out I was wrong. I hope someone will comment and correct me, but I think damask is a structure while what I am focused on is a motif. Right?

I’m not thrilled (very not thrilled) by the idea of treating the two concepts as separate. From what I’ve seen, one can slip into being the other quite easily, even magically. For now, however, I’ve moved on to terms like ogee, and—probably most straightforward—the onion motif.

I find it half fascinating, half maddening. It can be bulbous and comical or elegant and mysteriously harmonious. Its leaf-like form and the fascinating ways it can tightly repeat make it seem archetypal. One site’s onion is another site’s paisley, ogee or persian pickle, and the meanings of all those terms overlap and blur.

I’ve explored damask/ogee/onions before, with some success. This time, I boiled it as far down to its essence as possible and discovered a shape that’s less onion, more leaf.

Once I had a fundamental form I liked, I developed a few different patterns that remain mostly simple, and barely damask in structure. Here’s the full set from this project, available as downloadable AI, SVG and PNG files on Creative Market (click here for more details, and to see more samples).

damask or ogee seamless pattern by penina

A set in pastel blues is also available (click the image to purchase and download, or to just learn more).
damask or ogee seamless pattern by penina


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