Thread Mania

My journey studying for the City & Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Embroidery


Archive for the ‘Mod1_Chapter 1’ Category

Line Drawings from research images

The final task for module 1 chapter 1 is to make some line drawings from the images collected during my research.

The most common star graphic is the 5-pointed regular star. It is very easy to draw and makes a chubby little star beloved by advertising and religious/mystical folk.

Sketches from ancient star images

1.3.1 pentangles and ancient stars (click to see full page)

The 8-pointed star made from four crossed lines lends itself to all sorts of embellishments and elaboration. The four upright points can be joined to form a enclosed star graphic while the diagonal lines develop into ornamental “rays”

Of course we don’t have to stop at just four intersecting lines, there are many examples of star graphics formed from eight, ten or even twenty intersecting lines.

Stars can be made from intersecting shapes, the most common being 2-intersecting triangles forming the hexagram (aka Star of David, Seal of Soloman or Shatkona). There is also the quarter-group made from intersecting squares and the Star of Auseklis from intersecting pointed shapes. In modern times this star graphic is much used by quilters but it is an ancient European symbol of magic.

Star sketches

1.3.2 Stars from Intersecting Shapes (click to see full page)

Star shape from driftwood

1.3.3 Driftwood and beach pebbles star shape

The intersecting shapes do not all have to be of the same size, an interesting “star” can be made from intersecting rectangles or from sticks and stones at the beach.

My beach play made a shape about 40cm across, as can be estimated from the camera lens cap, lower left.

The Star of Auseklis (above) is also interesting as, like the pentagram, the elven star and the Star of Babylon, it is drawn using a continuous line. Both the elven star and the Star of Babylon are 7-pointed stars based on seven equi-distant points on a circle (septagram). The lines forming the Star of Babylon join every second point, while those forming the elven star join every third point.

There is a whole branch of geometry investigating the star forms made by intersecting lines joining equi-distant points on a circle.

four versions of regular 11-point star

1.3.4 Four versions of 11-pointed stars (click to see full page)

7-Points and 8-points provide two different forms, 9-points (the enneagram) gives us three different forms and 11-points (the hendecagram) has four forms.  Not only mathematicians are intrigued by the stars formed by continuous lines and over the past millennia many religious/mystical groups have taken various regular star forms as their logo or assigned mystical meanings to them.

Drawing the regular stars can be quite additive, especially while experimenting to see which versions are made from continuous lines. Two of the enneagrams and all four hendecagrams are continuous lines. See the full page for all my variations.

Moving away from simple star forms allows for an almost infinite variety of ornamentation and elaboration but having repeating elements allows us to still recognise these shapes as “stars”. The pentagram has many different anthromorphic religious/mystical forms as well for advertising logos.

I was intrigued to see the pentangle as a possible source of the Star Trek logo. The traditional compass rose is based on a regular 8-pointed star.  If the enneagon consisting of three overlapping triangles is made from three intersecting solid triangles we can get interesting knot-like effect. Very few star shapes have just three or four points, but the ninja throwing stars (beloved in martial arts movies) are an exception.

compass rose and enneagram

1.3.5 Elaborations of simple sketches (click to see full page)

Playing with colours

The three main tasks in chapter 1 are doing my research, sketching and drawings based on my research and creating a colour circle using paints. I have done sketches and the colour circle but as I am re-visiting the sketches following initial feedback from our tutor Siân, here is the 3rd task, my colour circle.

My first hurdle was finding paints as I knew I had some “somewhere safe”. The first lot I found were some old craft paints that belonged to my late mother. Once I got the tops off the paint looked quite OK but a bit thick. The first trial proved that the paints were oil based, and didn’t thin with water. However a bit of mixing with medium thinned them out nicely.

Mixing colours with oil paints was very frustrating, given that I haven’t touched a paint brush for decades. I did get some nice shades on my test sheets, but seemed to get far more paint on my fingers, clothes, table …  So I cleaned up and put the craft paints away for some other day. Further rummaging unearthed some gouache, as specified in the instructions.

colour tests

chap1.3 test swatches for mixing colours

I love water-based paints, so easy to mix and play with. Here are my test sheets, the gouache sheet is on the right with handwritten notes about my recipes (ahem) to get the various hues, tints and shades. The pages are A4 sized.

The colour wheel had to be achieved by using just the primary colours with black and white.  The few shades I did manage to work out using the oil craft paint are on the left. Although the pigments were difficult to work with the resulting colours are much more intense and luminous than the gouache. Maybe one day I will attempt to use them again.

And finally, my colour wheel on it’s A4 sheet…

colour circle

chap1.4 Colour circle painted with gouache

I have had fun doing this exercise. Initially I was a little apprehensive, as I’m a “stitcher” not a “painter” and I was afraid of wobbly lines and splotches. The exercise has got me over my fear of a paint brush, I’ve re-discovered just how much fun splashing pigment on paper is and I’ve really come to appreciate the subtle differences in colours.

My only concern is that in real life there is a lot more difference between my red, red-orange and orange that what appears in the digital image.

Research about star images

Chapter 1 task 1 is to collect a wide variety of images of Stars or Crosses.

I have chosen stars, as being a “space junkie” and “nerd” from way back I have always loved stars and the concept of stars. Even when I doodle I tend to draw “star” shapes more than any other shape.  The astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said that “we are all made of star stuff”, which I think is a wonderful truth.  Stars have been a source of wonder since proto-humans first looked up out of the trees or savannah. To paraphrase Sir Terrence Pratchett, “Up there all was orderly and repetitious, down on earth there was chaos with random weather changes making us miserable and things with teeth jumping out of the dark trying to eat us. No wonder early humans believed that whomever existed up there must have been far better and far better-off than they were”. Over the millennia, all sorts of political, religious and magical meanings have been linked to stars or to the symbolic representations of stars.

The simplest forms of abstract representations of stars and crosses are made up of a series of intersecting lines. If we have two intersecting lines there are four terminating points and we have a “cross”. If we have more lines so there are five or more terminating points then we have a “star”. Those who are lucky enough to live well away from modern light pollution can see the real stars twinkling at night, and so it is easy to see why lines radiating out from a point came to be the accepted stylised representation of a star. Curiously, once we get beyond five points, most shapes made from radiating lines can be described as “star shaped”, the shapes do not need to be regular or symmetrical or of any fixed number of lines.

Ancient SEBA hieroglyphIf we start with a point and draw five equidistant spokes we have a “star”, we have also re-created the ancient Egyptian seba 5-pointed star hieroglyph! This shape has been in use for a long, long time. If we look for “star” images in modern life, the five-pointed star in many different forms is the one most often seen. My photos of printed gift wrap, fabric and logos are just some examples.Modern star images

stars made from usual shapes

stars made from usual shapes

Try googling for star shape images and 90% of the first 10 pages of images are five-pointed stars. However we see star shapes whenever several things of the same form radiate out from a central point, look at my images of the USB hub, the wall clocks, the compass rose, actual flowers, quilt blocks and the airport terminal. Statisticians have their “star charts” and telecommunications engineers their “star networks”. Indeed “star” shapes can be discerned from combinations of the some quite unlikely shapes.

The airport terminal is one of my favourites. The eight-pointed “ishtar” star was a symbol for ancient Babylon and legend has it that the eight points represented the eight gates of the city. Many ancient and modern mystical or religious groups have also used star shapes for symbols of the pathways or gates to their inner secrets or group knowledge. Even the mundane diagrams of “gateway” airports and the smaller airports they link to appear as clusters of stars.  I just find it amusing that a symbol used for gateways in ancient times has it’s parallel in the 21st century.

Ancient royalty used stars symbols. The eight-rayed rosette or star was a symbol of ancient Mesopotamian royal dignity and authority and the sixteen-rayed star was the symbol of Alexander the Great.

Of course the most common ancient use of star symbols was to represent the gods and deities. This heritage is reflected in our-modern use of “star” as an adjective for exceptional, talented, pre-eminent or champion people. We also use star-related words such as luminary, bright, brilliant or leading light for such folk as well as the phrases “star power”, “star studded”, “star quality” along with “shoot for the stars” to describe exceptional ambition or efforts. Stars are everywhere, not just in the sky and on our cinema screens!

We also still “wish upon a star”, “Thank ones lucky stars” or “have star in our eyes” along with envying those “born under a lucky star” and pity the poor “star crossed lovers”, to say nothing of “seeing stars” following a blow on the head.

Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, Sir Paul Harvey, OUP 1984
Classical Mythology, Mark Morford & Robert Lenardon, Longman 1977
A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000 – 323 BC, Marc Van De Mieroop, Wiley-Blackwell, 2006
The Science of Discworld, Terry Pratchett & Ian Stewart, Ebury Press, 2002

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