Anatomy Of A Design: A Closer Look At Taínos From The World’s End Collection

Melinda Marquardt, Founder and Creative Director of The Vale London, joins us to discuss the design process in creating Taínos wallpaper from the company’s 2021 World’s End Collection.

Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this collection?
Melinda Marquardt: At the beginning of Covid in 2020, London went into total Lockdown. I had a lot of time in my studio, so I started designing the World’s End collection. It is the most extensive collection to date, featuring eight new textile patterns across several bold and bright colorways. Four of the designs also come as wallpaper. With travel made impossible, I had so much time to work on it so it kept on expanding.

Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
Melinda: I tend to illustrate objects that inspire me. The original drawings of the Taínos sculptures had been sitting in my portfolio for over a year. I decided to turn them into a pattern. Once I started work on the repeat, it took me only about a week to complete the design.

Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Melinda: A family friend is an archaeologist and showed me these Zemis (stone idols) that she had excavated on one of her digs. These Zemis were made by the indigenous people of the Caribbean and Florida. They depict supernatural deities and spirits in polished porous stone. The Taínos people are descended from Arawak Indian settlers. The flourishing Taíno culture of art, music, and magical rituals was similar to the Mayan civilisation in the 11th century. The zemis themselves are considered among the best examples of New World sculpture, and I just thought they were so wonderful and had to illustrate them.

Example of a Zemi from The Dominican Republic (l); Melinda’s original drawings of the Zemi’s (r).

Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Melinda: For this particular design, I used these wonderful new pencils. Similar to watercolour pencils, they bleed ink when mixed with water. The colours are bright and intense and allow sharper outlines compared with using a traditional paintbrush and ink. I was particularly drawn to the sculptures’ outlines and details, so this was the perfect medium to illustrate them.

Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Melinda: I am asked often if I designed this pattern for kid’s rooms, but that isn’t really what I had in mind. Although the bright colours feel playful and young, I was thinking more about the potential for the wall covering in restaurants that serve Caribbean cuisine. I also thought it would be great for use in a tropical cocktail bar or a residential designer who isn’t afraid of a bold and fun pattern.

Taínos wallpaper and linen in the Caribbean colourway.

Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
Melinda: To expand on the above, I started with dry ink pencils to create the sculptures’ outlines. I then used a wet paintbrush to soften some of the stronger lines and give them some character and life. I must have drawn about fifteen of these before selecting my favourites to stack into a totem-like structure. I loved each drawing in a different colour and wanted to keep that theme for the final design. I scanned each item and adjusted the colours to match the rest of the collection.

Raymond: Did you utilize a new technique or technology to conceptualize this product?
Melinda: Yes, the ink pencils were very new to me. I loved working with them. It’s a very different method of illustrating than my usual watercolours and pen drawings.

Taínos Wallpaper in the Antilles Colourway.

Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Melinda: Initially, I didn’t think the idols would be stacked. I was going to have them placed sporadically on the ground cloth so that they would be used as throw pillows. However, I didn’t like that they didn’t relate to one another, so I stacked them instead to create a ‘stripe.’ They speak to one another more effectively this way. It’s almost like a Taínos party; they feel stronger as a group.

Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos.
Melinda: When I started The Vale, I wanted to create a truly unique collection. I wanted to create fabrics and wall coverings that were artwork for your home. Each piece is drawn or painted by me in my studio. I also think that I have a responsibility to create products that are not harmful to the environment. I use all-natural, sustainable fibres that are manufactured at the best mills in the world to ensure the absolute highest quality products.

Click here to see more of our “Anatomy of a Design” series.

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