What better way is there to develop a unique handbag design than from the master of design and colour... Henri Matisse?


Matisse is known universally as a magnificent painter and sculptor, but I first learned about him from his amazing contribution to decorative arts and architecture, when I was a design student.

To give you an idea of his prolific creativity, he designed stained glass windows, ceramic tile murals, book illustrations, church vestments, tapestries and other textiles. And a stunning minimalist chapel in the south of France!

But what I love the most are his ‘carvings with colour’! These are gouache cut-paper compositions which give a superb introduction to the most basic artistic concepts: colour, line, and form.

His paintings evolved over the course of his life, gradually becoming flatter, simpler and more chromatically pure until they resembled graphic cut-outs.

Exactly what interests me as a needlepoint designer! 

This ‘Under the Big Top’ handbag design was adapted from Matisse’s semi-abstract paper-cut-out called ‘The Horse, Rider and Clown’ from his 1947 book called ‘Jazz’.

You can really feel the noise and excitement of the circus!

This fluid design shows Matisse’s spontaneity, his love of bold colours, and his seemingly effortless ability to capture movement.

To make sure his bold colours adapted properly to needlepoint, I opted for cotton needlepoint yarn for its purity and clarity of colour.

I also added a grey and black border so that the final needlepoint bag would fit with the colours of conntemporary fashion ...always a consideration when adapting a needlepoint design for today.

It was a very easy needlepoint tapestry to stitch because of the pure graphic ‘cut-out’ shapes… thanks to Matisse!

I added a ‘Stem stitch’ to maintain his fluid movement of the ring master's whip, and a ‘French knot’ stitch in yellow to give dimension to the bright circus footlights!

Whenever I wear this needlepoint bag, it becomes the topic of conversation!

This timeless handbag design works extremely well with today’s contemporary ‘casual chic’.

Our model is wearing it on a chain just below her waist…
another handy hands-free belt bag!

But she could also add a strap and wear it as a shoulder bag or why not use it as a clutch bag!

Her grey jersey top and black linen pants are a perfect neutral backdrop to this colourful and bold needlepoint tapestry.


What a pleasure it is to wear something adapted from the master of design and colour… Henri Matisse!


Please go to ‘Four Fleurs’ Small Purse, to see how I used these special stitches in that handbag design.

To learn why I love to wear these small purses as belt bags, and for other handbag designs from the ZIVA Collection, click here

Click here, to learn how to create the French knot or Stem stitch

For other needlpoint designs in the ZIVA Collection, go back to Home Page

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