I grouted these two mosaics this weekend. These are my first experiments with geometric patterns, these based on Islamic tile designs. The colors really pop in this image because I’ve just rinsed them with water. Another example of how stone mosaic so closely resembles quilt patterns.
Islamic Geometric Design is a book by Eric Broug. It is extraordinarily beautiful. It is filled with photographs of complex geometric patterns employed and tile mosaics, decorative metal craft, and architecture. The text is dense explaining the history as well as the significance of the various patterns. Best of all it includes instructions on how to make these intricate designs, using only a straight edge and a compass. (I just discovered his bookstore link; there’s some great stuff in there!)
Several years ago I built a hexagonal stone platform to support a cast iron gazebo. I had to figure out how to lay out a large hexagon in a wide open space. There was lots of rebar and string in different colored paint. Somehow it managed to be challenging and kind of easy at the same time. There’s something about using simple tools to achieve complex results that appeals to me. The same can be said for stonework.
This mosaic started as a drawing. I used graph paper to set my outer limits because I wanted a 9″ x 9″ square. That was really the only place where the graph paper proved to be useful. The final design emerges from layers upon layers of overlapping circles and connecting lines. I should’ve taken a picture of the whole messy thing, but I erased all of the framework before I took this picture from of the construction lines. Of note, this pattern is a tessellation; the weird half stars on the edges match up with each other to create complete stars and begin the pattern anew.
I cut the paper using my 1/16 inch shears. Typically used for copper foil stained glass, it removes a strip of paper 1/16th of an inch wide. In my mosaics, that gives me a little bit of room to finesse edges as well as leaving room for grout. (For the large scale wall mosaics we do, we use the 1/8 inch shears.)You would expect the identical pieces of the repeating pattern to be the same size. In fact, they should be! But tiny, tiny variations in my drawing left small discrepancies between some of the pattern pieces. I like to think that I work with fairly tight specifications for a stone guy, but this is next level. There’s a lot of room to grow.
My sons helped me cut the pieces and assemble the mosaic in my backyard shop. I don’t think either of them has a strong inclination to pursue stonework, but I still feel like it’s good for young people to learn how to use their hands and tools. This piece is now taped and ready for thinset. I think we’re going to make one or two more on the same pattern but with different color schemes. Then we’ll set them all at once. I intend to sell them online at some point.
The patterns that you can create from lines and circles is limitless. I’m looking forward to learning how to draw and build more designs.