Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Geometry in Fabric, 8 Point Star Motif

I always enjoyed geometry class; one of my favorite subjects in math. I suspect it is a result of growing up around quilts. Grandma was nearly always quilting when we were at her house and her walk in closet filled with fabric was a source of intrigue and also a somewhat forbidden zone - it was color coded, sorted, folded: organized.

She did however let us watch her work. It's amazing what you learn without realizing you are being taught or learning at all! I have surprised myself a few times the last couple of years when commissioned to make custom quilts, with my general knowledge and quilting skills. Osmosis ;)

I saw a cute quilt design in a book at JoAnn Fabrics, but didn't want the whole book so I put the theme and variation on a 9-patch to memory, bought some fabric I liked, went home and got to work. I'm currently working on a baby crib quilt.

The 9-patch design I am working on creates an 8 point star; a motif I fell in love with in Spain, when I observed it woven into architectural details throughout the Andalusia region. I asked a friendly merchant about the symbol as I had seen it so many times I began to suspect it had some significance. He told me it was a Moroccan star and a symbol found in Islam. According to Wikipedia:

"The Rub el Hizb (Arabic: ربع الحزب‎) is a symbol, represented as two overlapping squares, which is found on a number of emblems and flags. In Arabic, Rubʻ means "one fourth, quarter", while Hizb means a group or party. Initially, it was used in the Quran, which is divided into 60 Hizb (60 groups of roughly equal length); the symbol determines every quarter of Hizb, while the Hizb is one half of a juz'. The main purpose of this dividing system is to facilitate recitation of the Qur'an. It is also used as a marker for the end of a chapter in Arabic calligraphy.

The Star of Lakshmi is an identical star figure which figures in Hinduism, where it represents Ashtalakshmi, the eight forms, or "kinds of wealth", of the goddess Lakshmi.

An eight-pointed star was used as a symbol of Tartessos, an ancient civilization based in Andalusia. As the region was ruled by Islamic dynasties for eight centuries, this may suggest a possible origin of the Rub el Hizb."

On a tour of some ancient ruins in Andalusia, I asked the guide about the symbol when I saw it framing an open window facing the sky at the top of a dome. He said it was a sort of God's eye symbol. I enjoy learning about symbols and what they represent in different cultures. The star made of two squares has fascinated me since I traveled to Spain all those years ago. I was delighted to see it represented in a 9-patch quilt square and am busy working on a quilt using this block.

Here are some progress pics:
All of the 300 or so squares cut and laid out. The design is a play on light versus dark squares. I used a mix of bought fabric, most of the darks, and fabric from my Grandma's legacy collection, all of the lights.
My progress as of writing this blog is that the top is a little over half way done.

Here is a little snap shot into my artistic obsession with this symbol over the years: A Mandala design I painted on the floor in my store on Artists' Row. With the help of fellow artist and friend, Sara Maurno! It is based on the 8 point star in the center.
Tile work outside of a mosque in Casablanca, Morocco featuring a rounded version of the 8 point star motif. I took this while traveling there during college.
A double play of the 8 point star motif: it is found in the tile work and also in the wooden window grates that are casting a shadow on the floor. Taken in Andalusia, Spain.
A quilt my Grandma helped me design and make based on a photo of an inlaid wood floor in Spain.

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