As an artist working in a new medium, block print, I am on the hunt for inspiration. Despite the fact that I have studied art history on my own for years, I seem to need to see it all again and dig in a bit to the history.

As a production artist, I look for ways to build on a body of work, to create a collection. This is an opprotunity to deep dive into a style or idea and create many things around that idea.

As potters we would challenge ourselves every quarter to come up with 5 new pots as prototypes and see how well they did at art shows before we would introduce them at trade shows for our retailers.

I love the mathematical aspect of the designs you find in Marrakesh. I am horrible at math. Thank goodness for quick books and excel. The patterns play back to the principles of design, creating rhythm and harmony with its repetitive nature. I love the idea of the patterns encouraging prayer. What a wonderful concept. I have been reading a lot on Buddhism lately and there is the sound of the bell that is supposed to bring us back to a level of mindfulness. These patterns make me feel the same way. gazing on them slows my mind, brings me back to the present and serves as a higher purpose than simply being pretty. That’s what good design is all about elevating our experience in every day life.

“Historically, Islamic patterns emerged around the 7th century, when craftsmen borrowed designs from the Persian and Roman cultures and adapted them as ornamental decoration in places of Islamic worship. In religious spaces, Islamic art does not represent religious figures as seen in idolatry but instead uses shapes and figures in repetitive patterns and calligraphy to inspire prayer. The abstract repetitions got especially popular during the 8th century Islamic Golden age, a period marked by major achievements in math and science. Sophisticated geometric patterns like floral and vegetal motifs were seen repeating endlessly on carpets, textiles, and tiles designs.

Tessellation: Arrangement of Patterns

Many Islamic designs are arranged in beautiful patterns called tessellations. There are three common shapes that can form regular tessellations: the equilateral triangle, square, and regular hexagon. Any one of these three shapes can be duplicated infinitely to fill a plane with no gaps. Everything starts with a circle that can be drawn with a compass and split into parts with a ruler. How it is split however will determine the style and design. Most circles are split into 4,5, or 6 equal sections. Each division stylizes the pattern. You can determine if the design is based on 4, 5, or 6 fold symmetry by finding the star in the center of the tile and counting the number of rays and petals around it. A star surrounded by 6 rays belongs in the 6 fold category, a star with 8 petals will have 4 rays and it belongs to the 4 fold category.

Tessellation is based on mathematical elegance. Regardless of how elaborate the designs look, they are always based on hand-drawn grids. Furthermore, Islamic design is based on Greek geometry which has a fundamental belief that complexity can be achieved with simple tools.

Beyond Islamic architecture, tessellation can be found in everyday goods: oriental carpets, quilts, origami, Islamic architecture, and the artwork of  M. C. Escher,  who made tessellations with irregular interlocking tiles in the shape of animals and natural objects.”

An interesting fact that most people overlook when studying Islamic patterns is that there is an abundance of stars. Many researchers on Islamic culture and architecture believe there may be a symbolic link to the star shapes and astronomy. Morocco is a Muslim country with a call to prayer five times a day, stars are believed to exist as to provide the direction to Mecca; star gazing acts like a compass. Muslim cultures are also home to nomadic tribes who live in remote mountainous regions and also the Sahara Desert, therefore star navigation has an important skill READ MORE