Skip to main content
Terra Firma rabbit panel

Rabbit in a Terra Firma Art Tile panel.

The rabbit (or hare) is associated with fertility and rebirth. Fishes are phallic and fecund yet, carrying the power of water, are associated with the Mother; the carp or koi fish is common in Anglo–Japanese designs. Stylized cats and tortoises are other popular motifs.

Trustworth Studios

These wallpapers by Trustworth Studios feature bats.

In Chinese, pronunciation of the words for “bat” and “happiness” are both “fu.” During the 1880s, bats appeared in decoration; as the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements grew, bat depictions were not uncommon.

A tile or an embroidered pillow will create a response depending on the creature shown: the mystical raven, a summer songbird, the carefree gull, or a cheery chickadee. And while the ancients associated owls with darkness and death, that changed during the Victorian period, when owls became symbolic of wisdom.

Koi and Dragonfly tile and Night Owl tile by Medicine Bluff Studios.

Koi and Dragonfly tile and Night Owl tile by Medicine Bluff Studios.

Persian Carpet Celtic Knot rug

Persian Carpet's Celtic Knot rug.

The knotted cords, rediscovered during the 19th-century Celtic Revival, show up in Arts & Crafts textiles and jewelry. Modern designers find meaning in the “endless” nature of the sinuous designs. Celtic knots are mathematically pleasing; interlacing makes for good decoration.

Poppy Tile by Motawi.

Poppy Tile by Motawi.

The sunflower and lily beloved of Victorian aesthetes remained popular. (Opium) poppies signify sleep, peace, or death; in the decorative arts, the red poppy flower is more celebratory. The yellow California poppy shows up in American items. The iris, so easy to stylize, has symbolized luck and friendship. The Celtic thistle rediscovered by British Arts & Crafts designer William Morris continues to represent persistence and wild beauty.

Ginkgo runner by The Persian Carpet.

Ginkgo runner by The Persian Carpet.

This sacred tree of the East may live over 1,000 years and is revered for strength and longevity. Ginkgo biloba (i.e., bi-lobed) trees have a notched leaf that is pleasing and easily stylized. Depictions were popular in Japanese art and in Craftsman and Prairie School design.

Carreaux du Nord Garden Spider

Garden Spider tile by Carreaux du Nord.

Spider web, butterfly, and honeybee recur through time, but every culture has loved the iridescent dragonfly, a free creature occupying water, land, and sky. Owing to perpendicular wings, it’s sometimes rendered as a cross.

Highland Frieze Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers

Highland Frieze by Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers depicts a stylized rose design.

An enduring symbol of beauty and grace, the rose merits its own category among flowers. William Morris interpreted cultivated and wild roses in patterns for wallpaper and fabric. Highly stylized, the Glasgow rose of Scots designer C.R. Mackintosh is famous. Petals, buds and full flowers, leaves, canes, and even thorns are used in patterns geometric or sinuous.

Pine Cone tiles by Pratt & Larson

Pine Cone tiles by Pratt & Larson.

The oak tree—mighty trunk —carries ancient symbolism of courage and fidelity. The pine is linked to immortality; the pinecone is connected to the spiritual Third Eye seated in the pineal gland—named for its pinecone shape. The windswept cypress is a popular image of the Arts & Crafts Revival.

Motawi cypress tile

Cypress tile by Motawi Tileworks.

Art + Craft - this week's picks