Patterns found in nature have influenced human creativity for millennia and continue to inspire designers today. Can you guess what natural forms were used to create the designs in this pattern book?

Published in Kyoto by Unsōdō in 1913, its bold calligraphic lines, sweeping curves, and organic forms share characteristics with both Japan’s Rinpa and Europe’s Art Nouveau movements.  However, these shapes were derived in a new and unique way by a scientist, not a designer.

Yoichirō Hirase, a prominent malacologist (mollusk scientist) in Japan, collected over 3500 seashells, 1000 of which were new discoveries. Hirase explains in the introduction on this book that he is not a designer or artist, but that he came up with the idea for this book while researching shells and cutting them at various angles.  He found the cross sections so strange and interesting that he used seal ink to stamp them on paper.

These “inside wonders” created interesting patterns which he further explored with illustrator Jun Nishikawa.  The result of their efforts, Kaigara Danmen Zuan, has over fifty pages of designs based on the cross sections of 12 different shells.  One hundred years later, these designs still embody a timeless and modern feel that continue to capture the imagination and inspire new creations.

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