Thread Mania

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


Posts Tagged ‘modern images’

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