London-based graphic designer and illustrator, Pearl Ivy never expected her AncestryDNA results to be the catalyst that unlocked her design block. She told us more about her experience, and how she used her unique ethnic roots as inspiration for her new collection.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Pearl Ivy, I’m a London based graphic designer and illustrator. I have an online store – pearlivyshop.co.uk where I sell, cards, prints, stationery and accessories. I also do exhibitions across the UK, including the Tate.
Why did you decide to take an AncestryDNA test?
I took an AncestryDNA test in April this year. I’ve always been a curious person and a heavy researcher, and I wanted to further my knowledge in genealogy. I’m of Jamaican descent and I already knew the history of my culture, from slavery to independence and my family coming here to the UK. Growing up as a child, I would ask my parents about my great grandparents and generations before that. Through what my family have shared, I knew that I was a mix of Spanish, Irish and Arawak Indian.
What further motivated my decision to take the test was simply watching people around the world take the test on YouTube! I’ve watched 500 videos over the past three years – I loved watching their reactions.
How did you feel before you took the test?
I was excited to do my own, but also a little nervous. I wanted this year to be a year of no procrastination, so I brought the test. My final thought was that, I know that my ancestors were African, but through this test I can finally get some of my unanswered questions answered.
What did you do when you received your results?
When I received my results in May, I was fascinated to find out I was 81% African and 19% European. I thought to myself, now what do I do with this information? Should I travel to all of these countries? Share it with my future children? I then had a light bulb moment and I thought with my creative brain and decided to create a mini collection.
For the past 2 months I’d been in a design block. I’d been brainstorming on some new ideas for my business as I wanted to go in a new direction. I thought of many ideas, but have always loved fashion and textiles so I researched the traditional patterns and fabrics for each country or continent and used it as inspiration to create my own patterns. From these I made a line of greeting cards and notebooks.
Tell us more about your AncestryDNA-inspired designs.
In my Ancestry collection, there are 8 designs in total. I decided to group my results based on regions and countries. I researched the traditional patterns, fabrics and textiles and the meaning behind them. I wanted to interpret my findings and incorporate aspects into my own designs, as my style of work is bold, colourful and abstract.
West Africa – I was inspired by the Yoruba Adire textile patterns, traditionally found in south-western Nigeria. There were two that stood out to me – ‘Long Life’ and ‘Talking to Drums’, as it’s like communication through fabric. I wanted to showcase a form a good messages through my own design. Another inspiration for this pattern was the Ghanaian Kente which has intricate woven lines and means ‘basket’ in Akan / Ashanti dialect. I used blue as the main colour for the design as it represents, peace, wisdom and good fortune.
Southern Africa – One word, ‘ndebele’, was the first image that came to mind. I’ve seen these beautiful designs featured in documentaries and the infamous photo with model, Iman. The traditional houses were a big inspiration – I loved the striking bold lines with the coloured accents. They’re very simple and but so powerful.
Northern Africa – The Moroccan textiles mostly inspired me. The geometric motifs are what captured my interest as the shapes really wove and complemented each other. A lot of the designs consist of repetitive motifs, and are commonly found in palaces, mosques and madrasas.
Great Britain – Through my research, I found of that one of my surnames ‘Bogle’ originates from Scotland, so I though that it was fitting to use the iconic woven plaid, tartan.
Iberian Peninsula – I was inspired by the azulejo pattern used in the Spanish/ Portuguese ceramics and tiles. The patterns I found are quite similar to the Northern African style which makes sense as they are so close to each other.
Western Europe – In my AncestryDNA results, it specified Germany, France and other places in that region. I focused my source of inspiration on the French fleur-de-lis symbol, meaning ‘lily flower’. I was inspired by parts of the flower and shapes, and created a geometric print.
Scandinavia – I’ve known Scandinavia to be very clean and calm, and it translates in their designs. ‘Hygge’ in Danish culture essentially means ‘cosy’, and jumpers with neatly woven decorative design came to mind. I choose red as the main colour, inspired by the Danish flag its representation of bravery and strength.
Greek – Meander, named after river Meander is the most iconic Greek symbols. It’s also known as the Greek key and symbolises infinity. I thought it was quite suiting as Greece has thousands upon thousands of years of history and the patterns are found in numerous temples and buildings. I created a sequence of Greek inspired patterns, similar to what I’d see in pottery and clothing.
Have you used your AncestryDNA results as inspiration for your hobbies? Tell us about them below in the comments.