Thursday, 2 June 2016

Traditional Islamic Patterns in a Modern Setting

We don't necessarily need to know anything about Islamic Art and Design to gaze in wonderment at the patterned walls and screens of the Alhambra, the Blue Mosque, or the typically tiled floors and walls of Morocco! 

Feast your eyes on them here!

You will probably have noticed that the patterns are all based on a geometric grid and some of these grids can be extremely complex.

If you read my last month's blog post about William Morris, you may remember that many of his contemporaries also created abstract patterns based on grids. But William Morris took that one step further, using a geometric grid to provide the structure on which to build his floral patterns.

Islamic pattern design does make use of some floral motifs and motifs taken from Nature but it generally depicts them in a much more formalised way.

And whereas you would expect to see images of saints and holy figures in many Christian churches, this is highly unlikely in a Muslim mosque. There are differences of opinion amongst Islamic scholars about whether depicting human beings in art and design is idolatrous and therefore contrary to the teachings of Islam, and you can read about them in detail HERE.

But the beautiful patterns that decorate Muslim places of worship are no less related to the religious doctrines of Islam than the statues and paintings in a Christian cathedral.

For instance, the geometric shape we call a 'circle' is linked to the concept of 'Infinity', which in itself is a property of Allah. This article on the BBC website goes into these fascinating connections in more detail than I have time for here. 

And in the Islamic cultural traditions, crafts and decorative arts are regarded as being of equal status to painting and sculpture. So it's not surprising that these have been developed to such an awe-inspiring degree!

(On the left is one of my original screenprints, from the 1980s, of a very complex Islamic pattern.)

While I love to create flowing, painterly floral patterns and mini-prints that are often based on the flowers and other plants - even weeds! - in my garden, I am also drawn to the apparent simplicity of geometric grids. 

I stress that the word 'simplicity' must be qualified by 'apparent' because many of the traditional Islamic 'mosaic' patterns, while appearing straightforward, are in fact based on a complex system of geometric grids, placed on top of one another to create a harmonious whole.

The patterns are often constructed by overlaying circles, squares, rectangles and other geometric shapes and I find it fascinating that just these few 'building blocks' can result in such a variety of different patterns! On the right is an example from David Wade's book (see below) and I'm sure you can find his explanation of how the grid pattern was built up, if you visit his website.

I first learnt a bit about Islamic Art when I was designing patterns for cushions in a screen-printing class nearly thirty years ago. Coming from a background of landscape painting, almost always using a rectangular canvas, I was finding it hard to adapt to designing on a square. So my teacher lent me a very helpful book by David Wade - "Pattern in Islamic Art".

I've recently discovered his wonderful website which you can explore HERE

You'll find inspiring slide-shows to enjoy as well as detailed drawings, diagrams and analyses to learn from if you are so inclined! 

As we approach the Holy Month of Ramadan that culminates in the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr in early July, I think it's appropriate to show some of the Greeting Cards, Gift Bag and Wrapping Paper that I've created using, in many cases, Islamic Patterns:

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

And here are some really chic and girly Fashion Accessories, based on a geometric Islamic pattern -

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

With Father's Day approaching fast, here are some classy 'Gifts for Men' with an Islamic Geometric Pattern outlined in gold-effect on a black background:

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

But it's partly the use of rich colour in Islamic Patterns that draws the eye. So I've used some modern colour combinations to create some very chic Bathroom Accessories -

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

Here are some device cases - iPhone 6 cases are shown but other Case-Mate cases are available in the drop-down menu under 'Device Type' -

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

And finally, a collection of chic and modern Beachwear with traditional Islamic patterns that all coordinate so that you can mix'n'match the accessories to your heart's content -

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

I hope you've enjoyed this brief look into the traditions of Pattern in Islamic Art and the ways in which we can draw inspiration from the geometric pattern grids that it's based on to create beautiful Greeting Cards and modern Home and Fashion Accessories for everyone.

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