The word 'paisley' is world famous as the name of the teardrop or tadpole shape pattern, used on everything from haute couture to a whole range of everyday domestic goods and gift items. It is perhaps less well known as the name of a large burgh or town in Scotland. The pattern did not actually originate in the town, and only became associated with Paisley, Scotland after a long journey through time and across oceans and continents.
It can we traced back to the Indo-European cultures of 2,000 and more years ago. In Britain the pattern is represented in Celtic art, which died out in Europe under the influence of the Roman Empire. However in India the motif continued to flourish in many different art forms. It was first used on shawls in Kashmir, and examples of this work were brought back to Britain by the East India Company in the mid 18th century.
Shawls quickly became the vogue, but they were in short supply and enormously expensive! As a result, they were imitated by British textile manufacturers who sold them for a tenth of the price. The Indian motif itself was reinterpreted and developed to conform to European taste. The impact was dramatic. Imitation Indian shawls were so popular that the weaving centres in Edinburgh, Norwich and Paisley were swamped with orders. For seventy years the patterned shawls remained fashionable, and the term 'paisley' became renowned throughout the world.