When Miriam Schaer was assembling her teaching collection to send to Telavi University in the Republic of Georgia, I very much wanted to contribute, but nothing I had on hand seemed right. In the nick of time, some thoughts came colliding together.

This structure started out with an exploration of a shape which I wrote about a few weeks ago after watching family math video made by the Lawlers.

The book opens in an accordion-like fashion, but front and back are structurally different.

The colorful pages rotate open to create these double layered corners. The polygon fractals on the pages here are harvested from Dan Anderson’s openprocessing page then toyed with in Photoshop.

To see the fractals in their full radiant radial symmetry one must rotate the book. There are six completely different images to be seen. But it gets more interesting, because there is a whole other side to see.

The folds of those double layered corners completely reverse to form a cube!

You can’t imagine how excited I was when I saw this cube emerge from the folds!

This folded structure totally suggested that, whatever I use on it, that it be about the dual nature of….something….a suitcase (no, too obvious), a politician’s statements (ugh, too boring)…actually wanted to use images that didn’t imply any hierarchy, hiding, agendas, or judgement about contrasting inner and outer manifestations.

It was this thinking, about duality but equality of visuals, which led me to using Dan’s code along with the polygon fractals that it creates. So perfect. Code and images are perfectly linked, simply completely different ways of seeing the same thing. You know, like Blonde Brunette Redhead

Now, I do have a lingering unresolved issue with this book. I’m not thrilled with the paper that I’ve used. It’s 32lb Finch Fine Color Copy paper. It takes color beautifully, folds well, but I’m thinking that the folds might be more prone to tearing than is comfortable. Not sure what else to use…am open for suggestions. Miriam’s copy has been shipped, but I’m still happy to check out different papers to use.

I can’t help but wonder if people will be able to figure the transformation of these pages without seeing this post or reading the brief explanation I’ve provided on the back page of the book? Dunno.

Oh, and here’s my favorite variation:

Hanging a tea light from a pencil so I can see the inside and outside at the same time.

Last night 15 people showed up at the library for a couple of hours to make patterns based on lines and circles. I don’t think anyone knew quite what to expect but that didn’t keep them from showing up. A brave bunch. The participants were tweens, teens, and adults. There was at least a 50 year gap between the youngest and oldest: it was quite wonderful to have this group all in one room, as each generation brings their own aesthetic, energy, and reflective questions with them.

I demonstrated two ways of making designs: using lines (which I wrote about in my previous post) and intersecting circles, which people have been exploring for many centuries. I had originally thought I would show just the circles geometry, but then considered that some people might be really uncomfortable using a compass. A few people just worked with just the lines, a few people worked with just with circles, and the rest did both.

Some people were curious about the math that went into the number patterns that I gave them, and I explained it to those who asked.

At the next workshop I will bring in my laptop and show Dan Anderson’s linear mod open processing page, as well as the tables in desmos.com to people who want to know more.

There was a great mix of approaches to this way of working.

I embarrassed myself by not having reviewed the process for making the circle patterns right before the class. I had made many samples of the “seed of life” circles patterns, but then I had done other designs, and when I started demonstrating I got quite confused. I had to go sequester myself for a bit to reconstruct the pattern.

One young man didn’t have any interest in coloring anything in. Not only that, but he decided to try out his own pattern of lines. Actually, he tried out everything he could think of, with both the circles and the lines, and ended up with a pile of papers filled with all sorts of designs. It was delightful to see him working out his own templates and number sequences.

By the end of the workshop this young man had started doing some origami, which he graciously gifted to me. I photographed (above) his crane with the work of an adult, because I so enjoyed seeing having all these young people and adults in one room, all together making art.

It’s handy to have a few methods for creating designs at one’s fingertips. Three Tuesday evenings during the month of July at my local library I’ll have a chance to work with people on producing images that are part recipe, part personal. I’m describing the workshops as being focused on making patterned images based on curves and lines. Go ahead and click on the link in the first sentence here if you want too see some of the curves that we’ll be looking at. This post is about the lines

I’ve been working on this system of connecting dots. People will get this nearly blank paper and will choose a pattern of numbers to write across the top. In the image below the pattern 5,3,1,9,7 repeats 4 times along the top, then the numbers are connected with a straight edge to the corresponding numbers on the bottom. What results is a pattern of intersecting lines that can be colored in an infinite number of ways. Here’s just one of those ways (oops, note that the paper, and thus the numbers, has been turned upside down as I like the image better this way):

The drawing above shows all the criss-crossing lines, but if I zoom in on just one area the resulting image has a different sort of look. In other words, something that looks like this (whose repeat pattern was 5,7,9,1,3) :

….can be cropped to something like this:

My thought is that it’s possible to make many cropped images from the same “master” image, and thus end up with numerous designs that can stand alone, but that still go together.

I’ve been trying out different mediums to color these in with. Pencil, colored pencil, and markers all seem fine. I’m not having much luck with crayons or watercolors, but that may just be me. Here’s one that’s all pencil (the repeat pattern here is 5,3,1,9,7 : these numbers are visible at the bottom of the drawing, which I’ve turned upside down)

The image below is done entirely with markers. It differs from the others in that the spacing of the lines is twice as wide all the others here, and the pattern of numbers written across the top only repeats twice (3,1,5,1,7)

I’ve made so many of these, but they are all so different that I don’t feel like I’ve made enough. I’m interested to see what the participants in these upcoming classes do with this way of working.

I hope to be posting photos of images made by workshop participants during the course of July.

My plan, by the way, is to basically hand out the number patterns that I’ve come up with, so it really will be a connect the dots kind of activity, at least until the coloring begins. If anyone is interested in where these numbers come from and likes reading about linear equations, I put a post up on Google Plus to explain all.

News Flash: A Codified Language Exists to Describe Patterns. I’ve been so excited to discover the way to speak about patterns.

I’ve been teaching decorative techniques for a long time now. I’ve started trying to use more precise terminology in my teaching, and I suspected there was more to know. I started out looking at artistic and graphic design sites, really I did. I looked on lynda.com, I looked on youtube, and poked around the internet in general. Then Maria Droujkova pointed me in the direction of something called Wallpaper Groups, and guess what, I landed on sites that described pattern making with precision, using the language of mathematics.

The more I learn the more I understand that what math does is enhance the way that people can describe what’s in the world. It appears that hundreds of years ago mathematicians figured out how to understand and talk about patterns.

This summer I’ll be teaching a week’s worth of classes to young children at our community center. I enjoy showing students decorative techniques, so my immediate interest has been to develop a modest curriculum that focuses on making books that are embellished with style. Even though many of the students will be at an age where they are still struggling with concepts such as “next to” and “underneath” I hope to introduce them to ways of thinking about concepts of transformation.

Strip Symmetry is where I landed when I was surfing for a way to find words to describe the kind decorations I’ve been thinking about. In other words, the patterns I am looking to teach will have a linear quality in the way that they occupy a space, as opposed to being like a central starburst, or an all-over wallpaper pattern. It turns out that there are only a handful of words that are used to describe every single repeating linear pattern ever made.

A Translation takes a motif and repeats it exactly.

Vertical Refectionmirrors a motif across an imaginary vertical line. The name of this particular transformation confused me at first, as the design itself extends in a horizontal direction, but once I prioritized the idea of the vertical mirror, it made more sense.

Glide Reflection can be described as sliding then flipping the motif,, but that description sounds confusing to me. Instead, understand glide reflection by looking at the pattern we make with our feet when we walk; Our feet are mirror images of each other, and they land in an alternating pattern on the ground. Imagine footsteps on top of each of the paper turtles you might better be able to isolate the glide refection symmetry.

Horizontal Reflection mirrors the design across an imaginary horizontal line.

Here’s a translation that shifts horizontally, but there’s no such thing as a strip symmetry that translates top to bottom. Instead, convention dictates that the viewer turns the pattern so that it moves from left to right.

Rotation rotates a design around an equator. The pattern above, as well as the first image of this post, I had considered these both to be rotatation( ( I imagined the equator drawn across the middle of the page), especially if it’s 7 year-olds that I am talking to, but close inspection reveals more. To highlight that I am presenting these concepts with broad strokes, here is what Professor Darrah Chavey wrote about the image above (the one with the leaves) when I asked for his input:

“As to this particular pattern, there’s a slight problem in viewing these leaves as a strip pattern. The leaves you show are made from a common template, but that template isn’t quite symmetric, and the way the leaves are repeated across the top isn’t quite regular. For example, the stem of the maple leaf in the top row, #1, leans a little to the left, and has a bigger bulge on the left. If we view this as a significant variation, then the maple leaves on the top row go: Left, Right, Left, Left, Right, Right, which isn’t a regular pattern, i.e. it doesn’t have a translation. On the other hand, if we view those differences as being too small to worry about, then the leaves themselves have a vertical reflection, successive pairs of leaves have vertical reflections between them, and the strip pattern on the top is of type pm11. The bottom strip is a rotation of the top strip, but if we view those differences as significant, then it still isn’t a strip pattern (it would be a central symmetry of type D1), and if we view those differences as insignificant, then it would be a pattern of type pmm2, since it would have both vertical reflections, and rotations (and consequently also have horizontal reflections).”

I was excited to get this response to the leaves image, as it reminded me that my newly acquired understanding of symmetries, though useful, is simply just emerging.

So that’s it:

Translation

Reflection (horizontal or vertical)

Rotation

Glide Reflection

Darrah Chavey, who is a professor at Beloit college, turned out to be the hero in this journey of mine, for having made and posted videos on youtube. Here’s a link to one of his many lectures on patterns: Ethnomathematics Lecture 3: Strip Symmetries

Now here’s some nuts-&-bolts of what I’ve learned from making the samples that I’ve posted here:

the book I made was too small (only 5.5″ high) because the cut papers then had to be too small to handle easily. I’m thinking that any book I make with students needs each page to be at least 8.5″ tall.

It was easier to create harmonious looking patterns when I started out with domino rectangles (rectangles that have a 2:1 height to width ratio), then cut them in half and half again to make squares, tilted squares,triangles and rectangles.

I like the look of alternating plain paper and cubed paper. Folding paper that has cubes printed on just one side accomplishes this.

I am going to enjoy teaching these college level concepts to young elementary children.