Sara Baume on understanding America, one pattern at a time





The notebook is hand and hard-bound. The cover marbled light and dark blue with a bold red spine. I started filling its unlined, unruled pages shortly after my first book was published. I intended it as a diary, of sorts. Because my published book was generating opportunities beyond my maddest expectations; because my sentences were suddenly being called upon to serve something they’d never had cause to before: a career. And so, I needed some other means by which to record, to retain. Inside the white square of each page, I traced, as a template, a line around a roll of Sellotape. Template by template, inside each line, I copied a configuration of shapes. Stripes, swatches, stipples, diamonds, dots.

This is how the patterns, and their book, began.

The tiles of the kitchen floor were my first page. The kitchen of the terraced house I rented with my boyfriend on the harbor-facing main street of a village in rural Ireland. The floor which sloped seawards and was prone to tidal flooding. The tiles small and square, glazed a misty brown to match the stained grout separating them. We had lived there five years when, one night, in the living room, I asked my boyfriend what color the kitchen floor was.

“Black and white,” he said. “Or maybe gray. Or, hang on, are you sure it isn’t lino?”

Read Sara’s piece on Literary Hub here