Posted tagged ‘patterns’

Not so quick update

April 26, 2010

As I imagined things are becoming quite manic now. There are deadlines and things to remember all over the place. But, alas, this is the way of anything that has a specific pressured end such as the project.

Now I have a couple of books I’d like to mention which I was supposed to have done some time ago. Actually one of them I might have already mentioned…but I’m not sure so I’ll mention it anyway (you know, just in case).

The first is ‘Polyhedron Models’ by Magnus J Wenninger. It  contains some very striking,  but kinda complicated models of…yep you guessed it – polyhedrons. For those who don’t know what these are have a look at some of the images below. They look a little similar to the model I made a while back (Icosahedron).

A polyhedron (plural polyhedra or polyhedrons) is a geometric solid in three dimensions with flat faces and straight edges.


Page 21 from M J Wenninger's Polyedron Models

Page 21 from M J Wenninger's Polyedron Models

Polyhedron Models illustrates how the shapes look when flat and then once constructed to their full 3D form. However, I think most of these are beyond my capability to attempt (at the moment at least) but there are some simple ones at the beginning of the book and seem less scary as the associated mathematical formulas aren’t so daunting either. Not to mention some of the names. And you’ve just got to love some of the names – e.g. Quasirhombicuboctahedron which looks something like this:


Quasirhombicuboctahedron - from pg 132 of M J Wenninger's Polyheron Models

And the rhombitruncatedicosidodecahedron:


Rhombitruncatedicosidodecahedron - from pg 30 of M J Wenninger's Polyhedron Models

I did a search on the author and found some fascinating imagea of his coloured paper creations:

3D models of 4D polytopes

3D models of 4D polytopes - by Magnus J Wenninger

Polyhedron from set number 5 - by Magnus J Wenninger

Polyhedron from set number 5 - by Magnus J Wenninger. This one would probably look brilliant if carved from stone, although I can't imagine how it could be done.

Oh and it says on this site that he is a monk. I wonder how much that has played into or influenced his interest in this kind of geometry. Have a look at his web site for more stunning photographs and more on his writing too.

On to the second book. This one is ‘Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art’ by Issam El-Said and Ayșe Parman. Now I heard about this book some time ago but kinda forgot about it then realised it wasn’t newly available and then recently decided to just get a second-hand copy via the net. But it’s totally worth it. If I had this book maybe a yr and a half ago I think I might have done a lot more pattern work. It was Richard Henry (teacher for the pattern-making workshop) who recommended this book to me not so long ago and I can see that it is an immensely useful, practical and encouragingly inspiring one to have. Yes a lot of superlatives but they were all intentional.

Now Issam El-Said died at the age of 50 in 1988 before he was able to finish his PhD. But in the time that he was practising his art and already doing much research into the area of geometry he managed to create some beautiful pieces and publish very informative and educational writing. His work (both academic and artistic) is still valued today and this book is only one example.

Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art by Issam El-Said and Ayșe Parman

Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art by Issam El-Said and Ayșe Parman

Hardback cover of Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art

Hardback cover of Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art by Issam El-Said and Ayșe Parman

The cover itself (hardback version) has gold calligraphy on the front (under the paper cover) which is a nice touch. And then inside there are photographs of geometric patterns from real architectural sources around the world. Besides these photos are diagrams of how those patterns have been constructed. Like really simple ways to construct them!

Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art - pg 47

Page 47 from Geometric concepts in Islamic Art

Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art pg 91

Page 91 from Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art

I’ve realised that with some patterns there are a couple of ways to approach them, one being to create the foundation grid and build that up with a few layers of sub grids. This is mostly useful for when the grids might be used in multiple ways to create a pattern of maybe semi-regular tiling rather than just regular tiling. Well that’s the impression I got anyway. But the construction diagrams in this book cut a lot of the process out and show you how to get  to the final main pattern in the quickest way possible.

Unfortunately, I won’t have much time before the end of the project to try out more of these patterns.

Back to El-Said – here’s a link to web site ( in which you can read up about his history and achievements as well as find examples of his art work. Here’s one of my favourites (note the combination of Arabic calligraphy and geometry):

Allah, Mohammed (Hexagon) detail Limited edition etching 30x30cm by Issam El-Said

Allah, Mohammed (Hexagon) detail Limited edition etching 30x30cm by Issam El-Said. Image from:

Change of topic now. I’d like to mention the plug my work got on the Eastern Soul blog: It’s nice to have your work appreciated 🙂

The Eastern Soul blog has been created in order to showcase artists and individuals involved in the creative arts who have added a bit of their own Eastern touch. There should be some interesting features on the blog in the coming months…

And finally on to my project developments. These aren’t going as fast as I’l like them to be. I’ve finished the pattern I was working on recently – it looks quite nice on paper and I’m about to move onto making a mirror card prototype of a sculpture using it (God willing). Here’s an image illustrating the stages of creating it:

various stages of creating 12 point star pattern using Daud Sutton's Islamic Design.

Various stages of creating a 12 point star pattern using an example from Daud Sutton's 'Islamic Design'.

I’m now trying to digitise this pattern but have faced a few errors and need to think of an alternative approach to my current one. However, I’ve been mucking about with what I have so far and for those of you who like a bit of colour:

Pat7_Splash courtesy of Sara Choudhrey :)


And finally, we have the date for our symposium (in which all students have to do a 5 min presentation of their project) which is to be on May 5th.

The areas we have been told to cover include:

– Project overview
– Key developments during your time on the course
– Key contextual discoveries
– Post MA developments

I feel comfortable with the topics in general although the 3rd one might be a bit lengthy. We’ll need to include imagery and can either present in person or through a video/podcast. Unfortunately, I will be away the week it is due so will have less time to prepare it the way I would like to. I may have to stick to a good old powerpoint presentation – eww. Maybe I’ll try something in Flash. We’ll see.

Scary vampires

April 7, 2010

After looking at some rubbish web cams which claim to have night vision capability (and actually only have LEDs to light up when it gets dark) I decided to go with a really cheap one from China (through eBay), just in case it turned out to be one of those.

It’s a very small camera which even has a mic,  and works surprisingly well for just £3! It works using Infra-red LEDs allowing it to work in the dark. I was quite sceptical of the quality of the image so naturally I tested it with different variables.

I turned the lights off and only had the light coming from my laptop screen at first and it worked great. I then placed the camera facing away from the laptop (completely behind it) and it still worked well. I stood in front with my little sister and it made us look like really pale vampires with scary shiny grey eyes! We both have dark brown eyes so not sure why that was happening. Anyway, the point is it works and when I use it for my work it will actually be mounted overhead so the problem of looking like scary vampires won’t be an issue.

I then tried to get it working with the OpenCV and processing examples on my PC but to no avail. I keep getting error messages. This is a major annoying factor, but one must persevere! I just have to keep trying to figure it out.

OpenCV - Errors :(

OpenCV - Errors 😦

I have also ordered a large roll of mirror card. It took me some time to track down someone who could sell it to me uncut (as the largest sizes you can get in the shops is A2). This gives me loads to experiment and work with and was a good saving on the usual retail price too.

I have also been looking into metal-cutting companies who not only supply but provide services for cutting metal sheets (aluminium, steel etc) but seem to be doing this mostly on mass scales. Its been another difficult aspect of getting the practical work together but I’m still hoping it can be done as a one-off and at a reasonable price. I’m now waiting for those companies to get back to me with quotes.

So all in all there are many small things going on but all are necessary in order to produce the whole which is probably why I haven’t been blogging as much.

My next task is to choose and complete a final pattern. I want to up the game a bit with this and choose a more complicated one that combines possibly 10 and 5 fold arrangements or 12 and 6. Plus I want to add my own touch to the standard pattern formations. It’s not a huge requirement but would be a nice bonus.

I am also aware that I had set myself the goal of having a proto-type ready by the end of March. Unfortunately there have been a huge amount of things to do which has slowed my progress down. And more things keep coming up! I do sometimes wish I could work on this project full-time but then again the other things going on are not bad things or are things that are about progress in life in general and so I wouldn’t sacrifice those either.


March 5, 2010

I’ve been experimenting using some good old reflective card to create 3D shapes that could mirror well as collective components to a larger shape.

I started off with just the outer shell and got a bit carried away with this initial shape and how it worked with my reflective pattern sheet:

This is a head-on view looking into the pyramid shell, the inside is reflective the outside just white

This is the pyramid before adding the back panel. The pattern is mirrored in interesting ways. The top bit looks like a scary eye!

Pyramid - top, angled view. Placement of the top of the triangle means the pattern is better tessellated and therefore works better in creating an infinite pattern within the pyramid

Invisible pyramid - reflective panel added to outer wall

This one is my favourite because with the addition of the outer reflectivity an illusion is created whereby only the edges of the 3D shape is visible. The rest of the shape looks like it’s semi-transparent and showing the underlying pattern when it is actually a reflection of the pattern around all sides including the inside. I really like this aspect and would love to play around with it some more if I get the time.

Moving on, I started making smaller pyramids to fit inside the large shell to try and recreate a tesselated look without a 2D pattern.  Here’s how I constructed it:

Construction process for reflective pyramids structure

And here’s a better view of the final structure – a sort of open-ended pyramid filled with smaller pyramids which were also open-ended:


It’s nothing major and only a small tester model but on a large-scale I think it could look really good. I noticed that with there being gaps between some of the edges it wasn’t such a bad thing as it allowed light to come in through the back and illuminate the inner space and so allowing the reflections,  symmetry and geometry to show more clearly. It’s especially nice to look closely as if being enclosed by the reflected walls and getting an impression you could be encompassed by this structure. If it was life-size, sitting inside would be quite entrancing I think.

In a way it would be really good to be able to create many different pieces that reflect the developments in my research but that would be like setting up a massive exhibition of my own! (Maybe one day)

We still don’t know for sure how much space we get for our individual work in the end of year MA show. I’m hoping to get a proto-type completed soon so that I can not only know for myself what scale would work best but also use the proto-type to indicate scale and usability to others.

Material matter

December 15, 2009

Here is some very interesting, beautiful and inspiring work from various artists around the world. You’ll notice their work is very hands on and they utilise materials which require skills of labour not just thought and planning.

Firstly, this link was sent to me by Isaac (fellow student from MA:  The following images are just a few of the pieces created by Cal Lane who I believe is still based out in Putnam Valley, New York, United States.

Shovels by Cal Lane

Patterns plasma-cut into steel shovels by Cal Lane. Image taken from

Wheelbarrow by Cal Lane

Plasma-cut steel wheelbarrow (2007) by Cal Lane. Image taken from

Cal Lane

Large piece by Cal Lane. Image taken from

Although Cal has chosen industrial purpose objects, they were redundant till she took them on for her work. So oil cans and large barrels now become her medium for art. In high contrast to the very masculine and rough materials and surfaces she works with, Cal applies very feminine and elaborate patterns, cutting them out to look as if she has just embroidered lace.

The dark colours and rusty look and effect of these materials creates another aspect to her work which reminds me of henna/mehndi. This is a natural dye which when applied and left to dry leaves a dark orange stain to the skin. This is usually applied with ornate patterns to the hands and feet on special occasions in the Indian-subcontinent and Arab nations:

Traditional Indian style Henna/mehndi applied to a hand. Image taken from

To read more about Cal Lane and how she makes these amazing pieces please visit her web site where you’ll find loads more exhibition work, background info and reviews:


Colourful blasts of geometric sculptures by Jen Stark, another discovery but this time from browsing through google images. The below are just a few sample of her vast work which also includes a couple of animations and drawings.

Spectral Zenith by Jen Stark. Image taken from

I’m not sure I need to spend much time explaining why I like them so much. But I must mention that they are made using paper. Yes, I know, they are cool simply based on the fact that they are hand and crafted to create and produce extraordinary shapes and designs.

The use of colour is great and something I feel I cannot dwell on too much for my own work just yet. But perhaps for a future project I will be gladly looking to her work for inspiration on colour coordination.

Radial Reverie by Jen Stark

Transfixed by Jen Stark

Eureka by Jen Stark

Eureka by Jen Stark - a monochromatic piece

I cannot recommend enough that you should have a look through Jen’s site at ALL her work not just some of it. You will be amazed:


And finally – I accidently came across Sahand Hesamiyan‘s work whilst browsing through some Iran based art sites.

My favourite pieces of Sahand’s are the ones I’ve chosen to display below. This is because they have been created with an underlying structure of geometric shapes that when contemplated further can be identified as those that appear in traditional Islamic patterns.

Untitled, composite and brass (2007) by Sahand Hesamiyan. Image taken from

Shams Ι (Sun Ι), Black Oxidised steel (2007) by Sahand Hesamiyan. Image taken from

Eastern Sun, composite and Aluminium (2007) by Sahand Hesamiyan. Image taken from

I got in touch with Sahand and he has very kindly replied to my enquiries about his work methodology. I sent him a few interview type questions and he directed me to this statement which he did as part of the Magic of Persia – Contemporary Art Prize 2009 of which he was a finalist:

He mentions some great points about why he has chosen to focus on a sculptural presentation of these shapes which are familiar and close to the people of Iran where he is from. Here is a point he makes which I think is very significant:

The aim is to understand geometry as sculpture, which in traditional arts have always been trapped on the surface and didn’t have the possibility of presentation in the shape of independent sculpture.

I feel as if I can really relate to his aims as we both make use of shapes and forms which are closely connected to traditional Islamic patterns and yet we present them in work which is unusual for the Islamic Art scene.  I hope I do achieve my goals as well as or close to how Sahand Hesamiyan has. I find his work very inspiring and it’s great to see that he has considered the historical relevance of his work from a cultural perspective.

Have a look through more of Sahand’s work on his web site where you’ll find a range of installation and sculptural pieces and some interesting photos of how he constructs his larger pieces:

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.

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.

Workshop pattern

October 29, 2009

The following images show the stages gone through in order to produce the final cut-out pattern seen at the end of this post. The steps in creating this classic 8-fold rosette tiling were set by Richard Henry in the Saturday workshop.

I completed this partly in the class itself following a worksheet he provided and then finished it off at home. I’m not even quite sure if I tiled the final stages correctly but I have to admit I am quite pleased with how it turned out 🙂


First few stages is getting the overall block shape of the Khattam down (two slightly rotated squares - one atop the other)


Using the shapes produced within the larger tile walls we found where the octagonal shape is formed, and then the 8-fold rosette within this (dashed lines)


At home I continued by re-producing the rosette in four other squares by tracing the orginal one to retain accuracy

Each stage was done on a new sheet of tracing paper as I like to preserve the stages. This also helps me to remember how I got from one stagee to another if I need to recreate it.


I then created thicker edges by adding two lines on the outer and inner sides of all existing lines that form the rosette petals. This adds a thick border to allow for a weave effect


Using another sheet of tracing paper I went over only the outer and inner lines but weaving each under and over the intersecting lines.

Detail of weaving - was a bit tricky at some points but still fun trying to figure it out

Detail of weave effect - was a bit tricky at some points but I really enjoyed figuring it out


I photocopied the final pattern and cut it out to create a stencil. This is the photocopied cut-out against a black background


I then used the stencil to draw and cut out a black sheet filled completely with the pattern


And this is the final black cut-out of the full pattern repeat. Can you see the cube that is formed in the centre?

A very busy few days but worth the effort.