Pattern and decoration are all around us in our everyday lives. Any examination of any aspect of nature will throw up multiple patterns. We see man made patterns on wallpaper and textiles as well as decoration on buildings and functional objects but have we ever really examined why it is there and how it works?

A lesson plan inspired by the Arts Council Collection exhibition Criminal Ornamentation.

Key Stage:

KS 3&4 Art and Design


This lesson plan can be used: As an introduction to pattern and decoration.
To develop ideas and understanding of processes and materials.
As part of study of any artist using pattern and decoration in their work.
As part of individual study

Criminal Ornamentation

Arts Council Collection use their works to create different exhibitions. Criminal Ornamentation is an exhibition including work from lots of important British artists all about pattern and decoration. We sent a group of students to look at the exhibition and express their views. Watch the film and then discuss the difference between pattern and decoration.


What is it?
Pattern is a repeated decorative design and ornamentation is decorative elements added to something to enhance its appearance. The idea of decoration for it's own sake fell out of fashion in Europe during the second half of the twentieth century after the excessive decoration of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. Modernism rejected the idea of applied decoration.
<b>What is a Motif?</b>

What is a Motif?

In wallpaper or textile design a motif is repeated across the design sheet. A motif can be anything you want but many artists designs are derived from nature perhaps most famously designer William Morris. Morris was a leading force in the Arts and Crafts Movement of late Victorian Britain. In this wallpaper design we have highlighted the repeated motif.
<b>Design a simple motif</b>

Design a simple motif

Based on nature, design a simple motif. We have made a simple drawing of a water lily as our motif and then repeated it using the half drop template.

Design a wallpaper design with half drop

Repeat your design in the squares by drawing it in every box or by tracing it. You could photocopy your motif and then collage the design. Whatever suits you best.

Download half drop template.pdf
<b>Add colour</b>

Add colour

Colour your design and add any additional detail to your motif that you want and then remove remove the lines of the template to give you your finished pattern with a half drop repeat. If you drew the template you could rub the lines out. If you used our printed template, you can scan the design and the lines out in photoshop or another editing tool. You could even whiten over the lines and photocopy your design. The choice of technique is yours but the principle is the same.

Coloured paper collage

Now use scissors to directly cut shapes from sheets of coloured paper. Then collage together the shapes to make a design that is less rigid than the formal half drop pattern. Watch this very short film to see a group try this workshop. We gave this group of Year 9's less than an hour to create a large collaged design.

Inspiration sheet

Our group had a sheet of images including William Morris and Henri Matisse to inspire them. You can google those artists or you can download our sheet of artists using pattern here. All the works are on Art UK and you can see a wider selection by using this link

Download Designs with pattern sheet.pdf

Development Activity:

There are a number of other resources on CultureStreet about artists using pattern and decoration in their work that can be used to support this lesson plan.  You could start with Yinka Shonibare who curated the Criminal ornamentation exhibition for Arts Council Collection. There is also a simple Silk Painting workshop from the Bowes Museum in which students produce pattern designs inspired by their collection. Sculptor Halima Cassell uses Islamic type patterns in her ornate carved sculpture and there is a lesson plan Carving Clay inspired by her work.

Learning Objectives:

Pupils should increase their understanding of the use of pattern and decoration in art and design.
In addition students can gain knowledge and understanding of the work and approaches of artists, craftspeople or designers from contemporary and/or historical contexts, periods, societies and cultures.
Students can refine their ideas as work progresses through experimenting with media, materials, techniques and process.

Research, Notes and Links:

Download this lesson plan