As my recent work has been very pattern based, Ian told me about a group of designers called Timorous Beasties. I had a look at their website and really loved their work. They produce contemporary fabrics and wallpapers reminiscent of Toile de Jouy wallpaper from the early 1800s. At first glance their patterns look like elegant panoramas, but look closer and the images are a grisly depiction of Britain today. They want to explore social and political issues and don't hold back on their subject matter. Prostitutes, tramps and drug users all feature in their controversial patterns, with crumbling buildings and seagulls serve as a backdrop. Once described as "William Morris on acid", the Timorous Beasties aren't afraid to explore taboo subjects, but by cleverly 'disguising' them in a traditional wallpaper style they have managed to create an extremely successful business.
Just to show a couple of examples, these are their London Toile and Glasgow Toile. The first image shows how 'normal' they look from a distance, whilst the second images are close ups which reveal their hidden meaning.
I think this is how to take my work to the next level; through letting my patterns be informed by themes and content. In the next project this is something I'd like to explore, it would be a good way to challenge myself and create work with a more serious content.
P.S. This is a really good video I found of Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons (the founders of Timorous Beasties) discussing their working method and the ideas behind their work.