Design Inspiration: Urban Brazilian Birds

About a year ago, I read about some Brazilian birds.  Regular birds.  Birds hanging out on telephone wires, as birds will do.  A composer, Jarbas Agnelli, saw the photo in a newspaper and decided to see what tune the birds made.  I like that- have you ever looked up at a similar sight and wondered the same?

Agnelli sent the tune to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who gave him the uncropped photo to work with and helped the tune go viral.

I like this song, and I can’t get it out of my head even a year later.  (Not that I want to!)  Sometimes it makes me smile, sometimes I feel unaccountably sad while listening.  Mostly I love the fact that this recording captures a fleeting speck of someone’s day and renders it into an enchanting sound.  It’s easy to overlook secret, small and lovely things, like birds arranged to make a tune.

I wanted to paint a version of this photo, but that felt like “copying.”  For a while, I toyed with the idea of an art quilt, but once I completed the drawings and some of the templates, I decided against it.  Months later, I was playing with Seamless Studio and decided to make some Birds on the Wires fabric through Spoonflower.

Seamless Studio has its limitations, so I didn’t replicate all of the birds- just 13 of them.  I built them from circles, triangles, and even forks to make their little legs.  As much as possible, my birds resemble the ones from the photograph.

(Click the banner to visit my Spoonflower shop, now with the welcome mat rolled out.)

Once I started with the birds, I played with a few other black and white designs. (Fish Kiss dress coming soon!)  I have a few ideas in the works for a “dressmaker’s range” of fabrics.  Quality quilting fabrics are designed in easy-to-mix ranges; I want to make ranges for dressmakers.  For now, I’m just playing with blacks and whites but I have some designs in the works for cool and warm skin tones, to help take some of the guesswork out of wardrobe sewing.

Do you use Spoonflower fabrics?  Have you heard the Birds on the Wires music before?  What do you think of “coloring” coded fabric ranges for clothes?  What do you look for in a patterned fabric?

(Many apologies for the slow-down on pattern uploading.  Thank you so much for your kind words and support for this project, it means a LOT to me!  I suppose Christmas time was a bad time for me to choose to focus more strongly on my blog, silly me!  But the shopping is done now, and the pretty Christmas cookies, so I can “catch up” tomorrow!)


  1. No I hadn’t heard of the birds on a wire music before. It’s beautiful, sort of oriental. Great idea to make it into a material too.

  2. I never got round to posting on your last post – but I meant to say how cool the fabric is and how I love the sleeve with black binding. You are so creative, and now I read that you are going to extend that creativity and I can only applaud.

  3. Pingback: Design Inspiration: Urban Brazilian Birds | urban ecological design |

  4. It’s so lovely! This gorgeous top is not a t shirt, Steph, that’s like saying that a pair of Jimmy Choos is a pair of thongs! :) Fab fabric too!

  5. I really like the idea of doing fabrics for warm and cool skin tones. I just recently realised that the reason I never wear a couple of things I made is this problem.

    • Ooooh yeah… I remember lavishing hours upon hours of time making a skirt from a 40’s pattern in organic cotton, so pleased with the construction… And I almost never wore them. I can’t wear brown or anything that goes with brown… ;)

  6. Pingback: Organic Cotton- Because It Feels Divine « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  7. This is amazing, thanks for posting it. I was just talking to someone who is making a documentary about steel drummers in Tridad, and apparently they would use a spider web to plot out where the different musical tones would fall on the drum. Nature is making music all around us, we just have to be crafty enough to notice.

      • Darn I dont. :( This was at a party after a couple of rum and eggnoggs and I am afraid the details are fairly hazy. The documentary is about the history of steel drums, and while that is pretty interesting I thought he was kind of burying the lead on the spider web thing.

        Also, I loooove your birds on a wire fabric. I have been skulking around spoonflower for years, and your fabric may finally be the one.

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