Archive for November 2009

Oh so busy

November 29, 2009

Unit 1 assessment is due on December 8th. I’ve started a draft for the curation page for this. So far it’s going ok. There’s a lot that needs to be said but I can’t make it too lengthy so need to word things wisely and use the space efficiently with only those posts linked in it that will best illustrate my progress and developments.

Oh and it’s Eid – so obviously I am planning to take it easy for a couple of days.

I am currently in the middle of making the larger Icosahedron. I’ve had to rack my brain about what pattern will work the best and in the end after spending ages over-complicating things for myself I decided to just do a very simple one for now. Then if/when this turns out ok I can concentrate on trying a more complex one.

Icosahedron prep

Using the Icosahedron template I downloaded...

I created a larger version on some really thick card. Its A2 and will hopefully hold together much better than ordinary paper or card

...I created a larger version on some very thick card. Can't remember the GSM but believe me this stuff good make a shelter. Each face (triangle) is aprox. 13 cms on each side.

On another note:

The Saturday workshops are now down to the last two sessions. We have chosen our final mediums for applying our patterns to. Adam Williamson and Lateefa Spiker (see examples of her work here: demonstrated the many practices we could employ for our work. Amongst these were ceramic tiles, plaster sculptures, stone carving, veneer marquetry (I think that’s what it’s called), and gilding or painting on glass. The following images were taken in the workshop and some of the work is from current or past students. I do not have their names and so cannot state what belongs to who but just be aware that it is the work of students attending the workshop and applying patterns that have been taught by both Richard Henry and Adam Williamson (you can find out more about the classes here:

Plaster casting

Plaster moulding and carving

Stone carving examples

More stone carving

More stone carving

Stone carving by Adam Williamson

Carving of arabesque design in stone by Adam Williamson

cutting veneer

Cutting veneer using templates

Veneer marquetry

Veneer marquetry

Tile making

Tile making and a semi-glazed example

Tile making 2

More tile making

Examples of wood carving

Examples of wood carving

An icosahedron!

An Icosahedron! This one is made from MDF, the pieces cut at an angle to allow the to slot together nice and clean

Zilij tiles

Zellij tiles. I can't imagine how a beginner would achieve breaking the tiles using the chisel and hammer to 'smash/cut' the individual shapes from each piece that would then fit together to create the pattern. Very hard work.

I couldn’t decide which to go for, as there were so many options. But with only a few hours on three Saturdays, I felt as if whatever I chose I would have to rush it. So I thought let me just go for something I may not get another chance to do for a while – stone carving! lol I don’t even know if my biceps are up to it but I’m going to give it my best. So I chose the weave pattern I did a few weeks ago (see here) and so far have transferred it on to a chunk of stone. This is some lovely soft stone that is relatively easy to carve and has a smooth surface and a slightly creamy colouring. It looks really nice so I’m hoping I do a good job of it.

On top of all this I need to do some final tests with the sculptural pieces for the Unit One assessment. So far I have the reflective work but I want to create a 3D shape version to see if that will work in a similar way to the flat/curved sheets I tried a few weeks ago. I’m hoping the Icosahedron will not take too much longer as that will form the basis for my next set of shapes which will also be using reflective sheets.

I have also decided that after this assessment I will concentrate more on the lighting aspect of the installation. I haven’t looked closely enough at this area and feel there is more room for experimentation. As my current time is being occupied with creating patterns and applying these to different materials I need to set myself a deadline in order to keep that work contained and not spend too long on it. I do really enjoy this part of the work a lot though. So once I have pinpointed the lighting sources with satisfaction, and if I have time I will return to the patterns and materials to hopefully produce some interesting and perhaps more complex constructions.

I am also really intrigued with the possibilities that are emerging with combining 2D and 3D shapes. The work has potential in many subject areas so even this is making me think too much.

Anyway I’ll stop it there for now and get back to finishing that Icosahedron.

Rumi style pattern-making

November 29, 2009

It’s been a few weeks but it’s never too late for an update.

Here are a few images showing how we produced a border using the Rumi pattern with Adam Williamson in the saturday workshops. My instructions are probably not fit to be followed so please ignore anything that sounds odd:

rumi pattern making

Creating a square using geometric construction of circles

rumi style pattern-making

Add rumi style shapes along central horizontal and vertical lines and add spirals in each division

Next stage - highlight rumi (sort of paisley) shapes fitting on those already drawn

next stage add smaller Rumi shapes on top of the larger ones - using their outline as a guide for placement

rumi pattern making

Starting to fill in spaces in and around the main shapes and the spirals with petal like shapes

rumi pattern making

Here are two similar versions of the same pattern but doubling the line to make it look more 3D. I considered cutting it out but haven't got the time at the moment 😦

rumi pattern making

Using just the top half of the assembled pattern - we extended the square by half and using the same spiral forms we continued the pattern to create a corner. I used the one at the bottom as my final choice

rumi style pattern border

And here is my final version. Using the tracing paper it's easier to keep drawing on to another sheet especially as you flip it over from one side to the other, that way there is always pencil on each side to transfer on to the sheet below. The lighter shading was initially due to the fact that my rubber would erase some of the colouring from the card too (which was from the inside of high street paper bag as I had no A2 size paper/card at home). I then decided to continue erasing the colour as a kind of effect and it didn't look so bad.

Corner border detail

Detail of border pattern

I now want to apply this pattern on other materials. It would look really good as a border for a mirror or as a frame for something. But I’ll have to shelve that idea for now as there is too much to doooo…

testing video

November 18, 2009

It’s not great but I hope it illustrates some of what I was trying to explain in my previous post in regards to experimenting with light, shadows, reflection and the patterns. Just to remind you it’s the PIR unit I’m using as the light source and it turns off when it cannot detect movement hence it going dark a couple seconds into the video:

PIR lights

November 16, 2009

The small magnetic lights arrived from Hong Kong but they don’t work all that great. They are supposed to work with a magnet that once pulled away from the unit cause the light to switch on. They are advertised to be used in say a cupboard where the magnet would be attached to the inside of the door and the light would be attached to the underside of the top of the cupboard. So when you open the door the light turns on. However, they seem to be a little temperamental and have either stopped working completely or decide to switch on or off in an erratic manner unrelated to the location of the magnet. They are also actually much smaller than I thought. But then that’s the risk of purchasing something from ebay I guess. They only cost about £4 so it was worth the risk.

Small lights activated with magnets

Small lights activated with magnets

Anyway I thought they could be used in some inventive way. I thought of maybe attaching the magnets to wands and getting people to turn the lights on from hidden places under my possible sculptures? Or some other hidden form of physical interaction where the person wouldn’t know a magnet was involved and would just assume it was all touch based. Hmm, if only I could create something touch based – but I’ve realised my skills in programming will not be advancing any time soon.

I’m actually quite wary of even going down that route – not only because I know I am not going to have time but also because I think I can find alternative solutions that allow more time for experimentation and proto-typing instead. Plus the pattern-making takes up the majority of my time. I don’t mind this as I still enjoy this very much, but it means I need to manage my time especially efficiently.

The disappointment of these small lights led me to Maplin where I purchased a much chunkier light which actually uses PIR (passive infra-red) to detect movement and so turns on automatically. This is designed for in-door/garage use and works well for what it is. The light seems to have a bit of a blue tinge to it though.

PIR light

PIR light - you can see comparative size of this to the smaller lights and the small pin I left on the desk but which highlights the scale of proportion

The down-side is that there is no flexibility in terms of how long the light stays on for (dependent on movement being continuous) and it has only 3 modes:

– On all the time,
– Off all the time,
– or automatic activation which only works in the dark and when movement is detected.

I did a bit of testing with this and it turns on as soon as you get a few feet near it. But the light doesn’t reach far enough and this I think will pose safety issues unless I have some other dim but permanent source of light also in the room/space I exhibit it.

During my tests I stuck my reflective cut-out onto the ceiling near a corner at a curved angle so that it looked like a web hanging down.

Shadow_vs_reflection - hanging pattern

Hanging reflective pattern cut-out. This was with the light on - one side shows the reflected pattern and the other shows the shadow - both stand out very well

I then switched the lights off and used the PIR light as if it were a torch moving around with it. The cool thing about this is that it deals with a very strong aspect of the interaction I was hoping for.

(I have a video of this but it’s a bit jumpy and has me having a conversation over it so I need to remove the audio before it can be viewed. As soon as it’s sorted I will post it up so be sure to look out for it as I think it’s come out quite good).

Here’s a shot before I made the video – not the best but conveys how it looks in the dark (light source being the large PIR unit I mentioned above):

Shadow_vs_reflection - hanging pattern

Once again shadow vs reflection - a nice line of symmetry shown here

I wanted the light and work to be affected by the motions of the viewer. Carrying the source of light means that the light is in constant motion and as it reflects off of the surface of the work the projected reflections as well as the shadows are also in constant motion.

SO I think this is a significant development – and although it seems a bit funny when I think about how someone new to the work might view it in a physical sense, I also think it will be quite fun.

So my objectives for the next week or so is to think of ways to present this light source to the viewer, look into how they may use this, carry it, interact with it and what the dangers of this might be (if there are any).

I also need to speak to Andy about how dark I can have the space in which I install my work and what restrictions I may face.

As for the actual sculptural materials – I am currently seeking advice on what can and cannot be laser-cut, what is flexible enough to be re-shaped or moulded after having been cut and how I might be able to mount/display these.

And finally – we have our Unit 1 assessment due in early December which is when we not only have to have a proto-type ready but also have an online curated page which illustrates how we have met the learning outcomes for that Unit. I’m pretty sure the curating part will not be too difficult in terms of finding content, but it will be tricky deciding which posts are most significant in conveying my developments. This will be the true test to see if all my tagging and categorisation was done well.

On an unrelated note but one that is concerning me is that I realised I didn’t put enough quotes in my essay. Actually I am shocked at the lack of them and can only imagine I was out of my mind at the time not to have done so. Now I just want to hurry up and know my marks so that I can stop worrying and move on.

Further experimentation

November 8, 2009

Guess what?! For those who haven’t heard, we didn’t get to do our presentations in the end. Just a few minutes before we were about to start we were asked to evacuate the building because of a suspected gas leak. I swear it wasn’t a set-up 🙂

I wasn’t as prepared for my presentation as I would have liked to have been anyway (having been ill the night before) so maybe it was fate. We were not able to get back into the building for the rest of the day so I went home to finish my large reflective sheet cut-out.

Here are the pictures of the final stages of this:

Partially cut reflective card

Partially cut reflective card

cut-out pattern

Cutting completed - my A4 cutting mat looking very small in comparison to the A2 card

Layering reflective sheets

Here I layered the cut sheet on a regular sheet of reflective card - already the effect of the lighting can be seen on the wall next to it. I also like the fact that it looks like the reflection is coming from a pool of water

Projection with reflected light

By slightly curving the sheets the projected pattern forms wave-like shapes and also reflects the light at sharper angles. The layering combines the reflection of both the cut-out pattern as well as the blank sheet beneath

Layered projection

This time I placed the top sheet facing down - the effect creates a more solid pattern as this blocks the reflection from the bottom layer

I’m really pleased with how these reflected patterns have projected. My next mission is to find a way to animate the projection – if I can. The curved shape reminds me of waves or ripples and if I can get the sheet/s to move in a similar way then that would be really cool. I can just imagine some kind of handle that you would turn in a circle to get the wave into motion but I have no idea how I would build it. I guess its to do with mechanics and carpentry? I can imagine it being like an old wooden toy. However, it’s not a digital solution which is what I would prefer, but does it matter?

In my workshop this morning we looked into Arabesque, Islimi, biomorphic patterns. These terms are only slightly different in meaning but can generally refer to the same type of floral nature representative patterns. Adam Williamson (see his web site for an idea of his vast skills in this art, including hand-carved stone and murals :  is teaching this part of the short course. He  showed us a few slides of wave formations and diagrams that illustrate the movement of water behaving like a spinning spiral and the same can be seen in a vortex. He also showed us this video of Reuben Margolin who builds kinetic sculptures that recreate natural movements found in waves and even caterpillars: Maker profile of Reuben Margolin

Just a coincidence?

Nb: one of the first machines shown in the clip is the handle being turned to make the wave motion – that’s exactly what I was thinking!

Reuben Margolin - Kinetic sculptor

Still from video by Make Television on Reuben Margolin's Kinetic sculptures. Here you can see the wave in motion being turned using wooden handles

How am I going to make that? lol I think it would be a tad bit too ambitious to even go there. But I do need to keep thinking and experimenting to find alternative solutions…

Content for presentation

November 4, 2009


Understanding the origins, influences and contemporary developments

  • What is Islamic Art?
  • A brief history of Islamic art and the early influences on this art
  • Establishment of traditional Islamic Art
  • The movement of Islamic art practice from the East to West
  • The rise of contemporary Islamic Art

“The term ‘Islamic art’ refers not only to the art made for Islamic practices and settings but also to the art made by and for people who lived or live in lands where most – or the most important – people were or are Muslims, that is believers in Islam. The term is, therefore, used somewhat differently than such comparable terms as ‘Christian’ or ‘Buddhist’ art: Islamic art refers to the arts of all Islamic cultures and not just to the arts related to the religion of Islam.”

Islamic Arts (Art & Ideas), Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair, Phaidon Press Ltd (Jun 1997)

Figure 1 - leaf from Kufic Qur'an folio,  manuscript on vellum. First half 10th century

Figure 1 - leaf from Kufic Qur'an folio, manuscript on vellum. First half 10th century. Christie’s auction catalogue: Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, London 31 March 2009, pg 3

Figure 2 – Qur’anic manuscript on buff paper, late 15th century

Figure 2 – Qur’anic manuscript on buff paper, late 15th century. Image from Christie’s auction catalogue: Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, London 31 March 2009, pg 11

Beautification of the Qur’an was encouraged with the repeated mention of perfection and beauty in the Qur’an. And the reported saying (Hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

“Almighty Allah is Beautiful (splendid in His perfection) and loves beauty.”

However, the ban against using imagery with people or animals originates from the following Hadith where the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported to have said:

“The most severely punished of people on the Day of Resurrection will be the image-makers, those who tried to imitate the creation of Allah.”

As Muslims adhere to the teachings of both the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the actions and sayings of the Prophet), the above comment becomes quite important in a religious context.

Figure 3 - Early Islamic High tin bronze ewer, Central Asia 8th/9th centruy

Figure 3 - Early Islamic High tin bronze ewer, Central Asia 8th/9th centruy (Image from Christie’s auction catalogue: Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, London 31 March 2009, pg 32)

Detail of calligraphy and patterns on Dome of the Rock

Detail of caligraphy and patterns on Dome of the Rock - Image from Salaam web site: (last accessed 14/09/09 00:35)

Arabic Calligraphy

Proportioned alphabet in Arabic calligraphy

Proportioned alphabet in Arabic calligraphy - Image from (last accessed 15/09/09 01:18)

Kaf ha ya ayn sad, by Osman Waqialla

Kaf ha ya ayn sad, by Osman Waqialla - Ink and gold on vellum laid down on cream coloured paper, 1980 (Image from,_kaf_ha_ya_ayn.aspx, last accessed 031109, 23:23)

Fine Art

Ghost by Kader Attia

Ghost by Kader Attia

Ghost by Kader Attia

Ghost by Kader Attia


Geometry and pattern-making

Illustration from Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Daud Sutton

Illustration from Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Daud Sutton, pg 8

Illustration from Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Daud Sutton

Figure 13 - Illustration from Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Daud Sutton, pg 9

Desert Rose by Zarah Hussain

Desert Rose by Zarah Hussain, Hand-ground watercolour on Khadi paper, 50cm x 50cm (2004) - Image from (last accessed 041109, 00:32)

Still image from Beauty of abstraction installation by Zarah Hussain

Still image from Beauty of abstraction installation by Zarah Hussain (Image from (last accessed 041109, 00:40)

Digital art

Digital print of canvas art by Sara Choudhrey

Digital print of canvas art by Sara Choudhrey

Space, shape and light by Sara Choudhrey

Figure 18 - Space, shape and light by Sara Choudhrey

Image from Reflective Light series - Sara Choudhrey

Light projection with reflective layer - Sara Choudhrey

Gold pattern cut-out

Gold reflections - Sara Choudhrey

Layering reflective sheets

Layering reflective sheets - Sara Choudhrey

Ripples - Sara Choudhrey

Ripples - Sara Choudhrey


Light projection with reflective sheets - Sara Choudhrey

Charles Avery and presentation prep

November 3, 2009

My presentation prep is as of yet nonexistent. However, I have decided that I could not bear to put anyone through me reading out the essay. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone.

So what I need to do is highlight those points that I feel are most significant and important, make a page with all the images so that I can show those as I speak, and sort out a better organisation of the content. I looked through my essay earlier and realised I could have perhaps re-organised it for better reading. But then again that’s what happens when you keep going back and looking at the work you’ve already submitted and it being too late to make changes. ‘Tis not good for one’s stress levels.

The presentation is on Wednesday so an update will be up by the end of the week (IA).

Now to the work of Charles Avery. A kind friend from my saturday workshop sent me the link to the ‘Walking in my Mind’ exhibition site: as she found it very interesting to see some of the art works.

One of the artworks was the Untitled installation by Charles Avery which is very unusual and I couldn’t possibly explain it so here are the words from the exhibition site  (

Charles Avery creates drawings, charts, sculptures and texts that combine to form installations. Since 2004, his work has focused on a single, epic project, The Islanders, an encyclopaedic investigation of an imaginary island and everything it contains – its people, customs, mythology, topography, human history and bizarre natural history – as seen through the eyes of an anonymous explorer.

The image that caught my eye was that of the Eternity Chamber:

Eternity Chamber by Charles Avery

Untitled (Eternity Chamber), 2007 - by Charles Avery (Image taken from web site)

Now, I’m sure if you have seen my recent posts you will recognise this set-up. It looks like that human kaleidoscope image with the kids playing around inside (see post Excitement begins). I like how the pattern has been placed above and below the mirrors to create the eternity of colourful triangles using a geometric grid. This is very close to an idea I was contemplating to create, except with my own patterns which have more detail and will possibly look much more complex when mirrored in such a way. I would also probably create it at a much smaller scale. But I still need to figure out how to build the thing! It’s cool to see this and the use of colours is something to consider.

So far I have kept my work black and white and I think I will continue to do so as the effect of light and shadows is very important. These effects are more visible in high contrasting colours such as black and white. But if I have time I might dabble in some coloured pieces – see how they look.