Islamic Geometry: Adding Pathways

Once you’ve figured out a few geometric basics, you’re ready to learn all about pathways: those lines that go over and under each other to create a three-dimensional effect.

Drawing pathways is a labor of love, but – to me – worth the extra work when you’re playing with a design and want to emphasize the lines rather than the shapes.

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Islamic Geometry: A Rosette Tile from The Alhambra

A friend recently shared a picture with me from a visit they made to The Alhambra in Granada, Spain, a few years ago.

After playing with it for a few hours, I fell in love with this deceptively-simple rosette.

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Islamic Geometry: Five-Fold Model

You are no doubt an excellent constructor of four- and six-folded bases by now. It’s time to move on to something just a bit trickier: five-fold patterns. Constructing a five-fold base can be infuriating, but with a little practice, you’ll figure it out in no time. Don’t

You’ll notice that the instructions here are repetitive up until a point; this is so that anyone can start on this page without having to reference anything else.

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Islamic Geometry: Four-Fold Model

Now that you’ve learned how to make a six-fold model, you’re just a few steps away from turning your mother circle into a four-fold foundation. Four-fold patterns often contain shapes like squares, diamonds, octagons, and wonky forms with curvy lines.

You’ll notice that the instructions here are repetitive up until a point; this is so that anyone can start on this page without having to reference anything else.

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Islamic Geometry: Six-Fold Model

If you’ve liked diving into Islamic geometric patterns, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the underlying armature before going further. Today, we’re going to talk about how to construct six-fold divisions of a circle. It’s called six-fold because it has six mirror lines. To put it another way, if drawn on paper, this pattern could be folded six different ways to create symmetrical halves.

Six-fold patterns will often contain triangles, hexagons, and dodecagons, since 3, 6, and 12 are divisions and multiples of 6.

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Islamic Geometry: A Window from Ibn Tulun Masjid

Since we started with the first geometric pattern that I learned, I thought we’d jump right on over to the most recently one I’ve draw. This pattern is from a window grille in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the oldest mosque in Egypt and the oldest surviving mosque in Africa. We drew this with William Charles Riding and the Prince Foundation School of Traditional Arts.

Photo from William Charles Riding

It’s also another a six-fold pattern with a central star. This time, though, the angles in the star aren’t 60º, so it requires a few extra lines.

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Islamic Geometry: Six-Fold Hammerhead Pattern

In August, thanks to an invitation my pal, Nirja, I started learning Islamic Geometry. We’ve been taking free classes on Wednesday mornings with the Prince Foundation School of Traditional Arts and supplementing our bi-weekly classes with all the youtube lessons we can find.

I’ve spent the past week figuring out how to translate my ruler-and-compass drawings to a digital format so that I can keep track of all the designs I’ve learned. Up first: this six-fold hammerhead pattern that I learned during my first class back in August.

It shows up in Syria and again – a few years later – in Spain.

Left: El Alcázar, Sevilla, 13th-15th centuries, Right: Madrassa al-Zahiriye, Aleppo, 1217
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