Talking furniture: design motifs and their symbolic meaning
I was in Chiang Mai, in the artisan village of Baan Tawai, walked into one of the shops and found myself in front of a fabulous cabinet. I was captivated by a myriad of detailed carvings and elegant oriental lace arches and wondered what the carved patterns and symbols could mean ? What was in the mind of the artisan craftsman when he made this exquisitely detailed piece, what is their story and message that I can be a part of if I take this treasure home with me ?
Traditional symbols are a universal language, floral mandalas, geometric patterns, a multitude of animals have accompanied us on our daily journey for thousands of years. Symbols influence our subconscious and have been documented to affect our emotions and perceptions. For example, a chosen colour and motif can radiate positive energy or contribute to an overwhelming feeling.
The word mandala comes from the classical Indian language Sanskrit, meaning circle, arc, slice or disc. It is also thought to have a meaning related to the mind (manas meaning “mind”). It is often used in furniture designs, the circular shape representing wholeness, unity, togetherness and family.
A mandala is much more than a simple geometric shape. In Buddhist and Hindu culture it has a powerful symbolic meaning. It represents different aspects of the cosmos and is believed to guide the believer through the process of transformation of the universe. In China, Japan and Tibet, it is a symbolic expression of meditation and prayer, showing the way from suffering to joy and happiness.
The mandala is created primarily for meditation, to refresh the mind. The practice of Mandala art therapy allows us to divert our thoughts from negative things and increase the positive energies in our lives. It helps us to focus fully on ourselves as natural human beings and direct our minds towards our set goals.
Symbolic Meaning: mandala helps relieve stress, inspires positive thoughts and renewed energy.
A prominent symbol in universal human cultural history, but especially in Buddhist and Egyptian culture, the lotus is the national flower of many countries. It dates back thousands of years of Oriental history and remains one of the most sacred flowers to this day.
The meaning of the lotus flower is the most meaningful of all spiritual symbols. It is a plant that can emerge from the dark, murky waters each day and offer a magnificent sight.
Symbolic Meaning: the renewal of the soul, learning through experience, self-knowledge, a deeper understanding of things and how to bring them to the surface.
The symbolism of this plant is closely linked to the sun, as the name already suggests. The golden colour and radiant petals make it a solar flower. A characteristic feature is that it turns towards the sun as it grows.
Symbolic Meaning: represents renewal, action and abundance.
The spear or javelin is a masculine symbol. It is a symbol of power, struggle and working towards goals, a common motif on furniture and fences.
Symbolic meaning: protection of our values is expressed in its representation.
The diamond shape is a symbol of space and time, fertility and existence on earth. The 4 equal triangles are connected to the elements of fire, water, earth and air, symbolizing their interaction.
Symbolic Meaning: brings structure and the energy of stability.
The laced arch is a powerful symbol that transcends time. Arches are structures of deep resonance, mythologically representing the doorway between time and space, through which we can enter another world. It is a solar, masculine motif, embodying masculine energies and thus a symbol of creative intent and action. The arch is a symbol of opening up to new perspectives, of seeing the other side. Crossing the arch is a rite of passage, when one leaves the old to discover the new.
Symbolic meaning: the ascent of the spirit and mind towards a higher ideal, a symbol of renewal.
Mosaic symbols represent the part of the whole, unity, togetherness and cooperation.
Symbolic meaning: recalling details and memories of our lives, recognising old patterns and creating new ones.
The peacock symbol is one of the most fascinating motifs in Hindu symbolism and the national bird of India. It also appears in Hungarian folk art in countless places and forms. It has both philosophical and spiritual meanings, symbolising divine grace, beauty and renewal. The peacock’s majestic, masculine, powerful and charismatic life is reflected in many mythological stories and tales; it has inspired many symbols of divinity, kingship, respect and immortality.
If you’re someone who sees luxury and extravagance as a necessity of life, then the peacock spirit may be watching over you. People with this kind of drive have an innate desire to live an extraordinary life and will settle for nothing less. Just as peacocks cannot see their own feathers and so are unaware of their beauty, we can be ignorant of our abilities and the gifts of life.
Symbolic meaning: represents regrowth, rejuvenation, respect, honour and integrity. It is also used as a symbol of beauty, love and passion.
The elephant symbolizes many different meanings, most typically associated with abundance, success, strength, wisdom, independence, power, fertility, piety, serenity and longevity. A powerful and gentle giant, who carries with them the wisdom and intelligence of ages past. Represents facing obstacles and removing them from your path. If an elephant appears in your dreams, it could be a sign that there is an obstacle in your life that you need to deal with and that you cannot ignore any longer. In ancient times, elephants were trained for warfare from a young age, so today we can think of them as a symbol of protection.
Symbolic meaning: elephants are emblems of good luck and prosperity, using their enormous power to remove obstacles and negative forces. They also represent wisdom, longevity, memory and vitality.
Symbolic meaning of the camel: the ability to complete what has been started with composure and serenity on long difficult journeys. The representation of the camel signifies the possibility of accomplishing greater things with smaller means. The camel bears the burdens of life with dignity. It knows how to build up reserves for when times are harder. It has the strength to preserve ancient knowledge for a long time and to use it in the right place at the right time.
Symbolic meaning: teaches us simplicity and moderation, less is more. Take this wisdom, it doesn’t take much to be truly happy.
The horse is a majestic animal, embodying the spiritual power of independence, freedom, nobility, endurance, confidence, triumph, heroism and competition. Its symbolism is associated with strength, courage and freedom. In some mythological depictions, the horse pulls the sun across the sky. Strong, fast and reliable, a true sacred being, man and horse have a special bond.
Horses allow us to do things we couldn’t do on our own, and to go distances we couldn’t go without them. Horses placed side by side strengthen our personal or business partnerships. It is a universal symbol of freedom without limits, as riding gives people the feeling that they can free themselves from their own limitations and plunge into adventure, movement and desire. The horse spirit helps us discover the world around us and the universe within us.
Symbolic meaning: confidence, nobility, courage. Its spirit gives us the inner motivation to move forward, to succeed in our endeavours and to become the best possible version of ourselves.
Fish are symbols of rebirth, fertility, the unconscious or higher self, luck, change, health and emotions. The spiritual meaning of fish scales is protection and strength, but they also symbolize wealth and money, as they look like silver coins. In traditional African cultures, fish are associated with fertility and abundance. Fish scales represent growth in your life, or being content with where you are in life. Fish scales are a good omen!