Project #2 – The Recycled Box

I have lots of projects done, with Arabesques or geometrical designs as inspirations. Over the years I have accumulated quite lots of things, from small items to large ones, all in the name of Islamic Aesthetics. As a student (and a worker who would like to save for better future) I usually don’t have much to begin with, so I recycle. While expressing my creativity, I save myself from wasting too much.

I collect boxes, so naturally I do my projects on this readily available material. With some art and craft tools in hand, I was on my way expressing my passion for Arabesques and Geometrical designs.

I have done this one using a container, used to store peanut cookies. The box is quite hardy, and I think it is a very good material to work on. I did this some 3, 4 years ago. I just finished upper secondary school and found myself with nothing to do at home.

I cannot show you the steps during the construction of this box, though it is quite simple anyhow. I use a combination of Arabesques and Geometrical design, geometric since I use the eight-pointed star motif, Arabesques because of the curvy lines instead of straight lines.

The lid is actually hot pink in colour, so I whipped out a can of black spray paint, and sprayed the lid all over. However, I found out that the paint would not stick well to the rather rubbery lid, so I did something to make it adhere more, which I will explain in detail later.

I traced the radius of the lid onto a stiff paper, and made my design within the circle. I did not use any rulers actually, I just draw the design freehand. Though it is as not symmetrical as it should be, at least it looked like it. I then painted it silver.

After drawing the design and letting the paint dry , I cut the whole thing out. Using a paper knife, I cut out the geometrical design, until at one point, I accidentally ripped one part. I was frustrated, but I found a way to repair it and at the same time protect the paint on the lid.

I pasted the design carefully over the lid using the normal glue stick. I doesn’t adhere as well, so I used a bottle of glue varnish all over the lid, both to stick the design well and properly as well as to protect the black paint under it so it wont chip away. If you are not familiar with this glue varnish, you can make your own from PVA glue diluted with a little water. The result should be clear-coloured. Remember to wash your brushes afterwards, unless you want a stiff, good for nothing paint brush that you would eventually throw away.

I use this box to store (empty in this pic, because I put the items away) my silvers and watches – a jewelery box, you can say. Even though I can buy a better one at shops with better finishes and touches, nothing beats a handmade item.

Imagining Islamic Aesthetic #2 – Islamic Domes

I am truly sorry for my absence For the last week. As I posted before, I went to Bali for my vacation, and a few days ago (and still am) I have bouts of migraine, I had to take a few days rest from the office and subsequently, from my laptop.  However, I have some strength to post something today.

Since there is no Imagining Islamic Aesthetic post last week, I will start my first post in this category. This week we will look into domes, or more specifically, Islamic domes, one of the most prominent feature of Islamic architecture.

Domes is an element in architecture, resembling a hollow upper half of a sphere. It is used all over the world from Europe to Middle-East to Asia, with period stretching to prehistorical times.  There are quite a number of types of domes, but for now we will look into pictures and brief introductions, because we will revisit this topic and will discuss it in further details.

The Green Dome (Arabic:القبة الخضراء‎), one of the most important dome in Islamic world, since directly under it is the tomb of the founder of the Islamic Faith, Muhammad (p.b.u.h). It is said to be dated back to the 12th Century, the colour used -green – being the favourite colour of the prophet.

The Hagia Sophia in Turkey. This is originally a church – hence the name. then it was converted to a mosque, then a museum.  The dome is the inspiration of other Ottoman mosques that will follow suit in Turkey.

The Dome of the Rock, built around 154 years after Hagia Sophia. It is the first true Islamic Dome, since Hagia Sophia is technically not an Islamic structure – being a converted building.

The Taj Mahal. The Dome is quite characteristic to Central Asia, to India and its neighbours.  It is onion-shaped, though it is less onion shaped, perhaps influenced by the middle eastern domes.

The interior of the dome of La Mezquita,  Cordoba, Spain. Many of the domes in the Islamic World are heavily decorated, as you can see with this one, since it is usually the focal point of a mosque or any Islamic building that utilizes domes as a part of the architecture.

Masjid Sultan, one of the most famous mosques in Singapore. The dome is Onion-shaped, but rounder than Taj Mahal. the domes of the mosques in South East Asia are generally rounder and onion shaped, because the builders and the worshippers are mostly Indian Muslim immigrants. Native South East Asian Muslims mosques often don’t have domes as part of the architectural feature.

The Mosque of Sayyidah Zaynab, the granddaughter of the prophet Muhammad. It is a shrine for the Shi’a Muslims, and so, the dome signify as such.

Technicals – The basics : Building the Six-pointed Star

On my last post on the Technicals categories, we looked at how we can build an eight-pointed star using an octagon as a guide for easy drawing and accuracy. For this post, we shall look at how we can build a six-pointed star using the same method as building the eight-pointed star, but this time we are using a hexagon.

The six-pointed star, or a Hexagram in mathematics, is a sign revered by the Jews as the Star of David. However it also appears in other religions as well such as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism and other Eastern religions, as well as in Occultism.

We will see how we can build a six-pointed star out of a hexagon. However, note that I will rotate the star 90°, as so not to offend any readers or blog visitors.

How the six-pointed star looks like

  1. Drawing the Hexagon.
    First, draw up a Hexagon using six lines of equal length, as such : –  Do arrange all the lines to look like the above shape, the hexagon. This is the basis for the building of the Hexagram.
  2. Start to draw lines from the Hexagon : –

Start to draw lines from the Hexagon, using the lines of the shape to help you draw straight, as so to achieve the symmetrical quality.
Drawing the lines this way, one side to another, will help you to draw the star better and with better accuracy.

3.  Add more lines –

Add more lines to your hexagons, I guess no more explanations needed here.

It may be a rather complex way of drawing the star, but for the sake of accuracy and symmetry, some complications is needed.

4. Add more and more lines

Yes as simple as that. Remember to use the lines of the Hexagon to draw the lines as straight as possible.

The finished shape, with all the guide lines drawn. The excess is to help decide the best lengths for the outer triangles formed by the lines.

5. Clean all the lines

Once you done all the lines, erase all excess.

The shape, with all excess lines erased. And, by overwriting the guidelines, you will have something that will look like this –

You are free to erase the lines inside the shape for a cleaner shape, or leave it as it is for a complex look.

Next time, we shall look into more shapes and stars, as well as how we can arrange the shapes into a pattern that is likely to be seen as Islamic art.

Study – Mashrabiya

I have featured Mashrabiya on one of my post here in this blog (regarding the terms of Islamic architecture) and I would like to look into the subject matter a little more, since it is, even though not the most fundamental element in Islamic or Middle-eastern buildings, but quite famous as an aesthetic feature.

Rows of Mashrabiya on houses in Rosetta, Egypt.

Mashrabiya (Arabic : مشربية) is a term for projecting window enclosed with wooden latticework, often situated on the second floor or higher. In a general term, though, Mashrabiya is the term for pieced screens or latticework itself, made out of wood or some kind of stone, usually of marble. It is usually used in private homes and houses, but not uncommon that it is used in public buildings.

Since Mashrabiya is a feature commonly used in Middle-Eastern architecture, it is understandable why does the people of this culture have the need to have a wooden latticework window that is open to the elements outside : it is intended as a cooling contraption. It is a method of letting air in, and encouraging good air flow.

In India, it is also referred to Jaali, pieced screens with geometric designs or calligraphic scripts, usually made in stone and later inlaid with semi precious stones.

An example of the Indian Mashrabiya, Jaali.

Origins –

There are two theories of how the word Mashrabiya came to be

  1. Mashrabiya came from the root sh-r-b (Arabic – ﺷﺮﺐ) a verb meaning to drink. It is originally a shelf where pots for drinking water are stored. The shelves are covered with wood and situated at windows to keep it cool. It eventually evolves to become a part of a room, while retaining the name.
  2. It came from the name Mashrafiya  (Arabic – ﻣﺸﺮﻓﻴﻪ), from the verb Ashrafa (Arabic – ﺍﺷﺮﻑ) meaning to look or overlook – the actual usage of Mashrabiya. In time, the word Mashrafiya became Mashrabia as it was pronounced by the non-Arab people.

It is not clear on where the Mashrabiya first appeared. However, evidences suggested that it was first used in the twelfth Century in Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate.

Mashrabiya on display in the British Museum

Usage –

The main use for Mashrabiya is  for privacy – hence the usage in private homes. It preserves the privacy of the home dweller while he or she can observe the outside world without being  seen themselves.

Since it is wooden and pierced, air can freely flow into one’s home without disrupting their privacy or the need to open up. It also gave shade from the searing heat of the sun, all while allowing the air to circulate. It also gave shade to the streets below the Mashrabiya window, and cools the street down.

It also allows the homeowner to maximize their use of plots. Since homes in the Middle-East are mostly squares, and streets in the city (since Mashrabiya is a common feature mostly in urban areas) are haphazard, when one is building a square home, inevitably there will be some dead spaces and ends. By utilizing Mashrabiya they can maximize the potential of their home lots.

Mashrabiya on an old renovated house in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #1 – Quran

I decided to take a break on my long new year weekend, so I am sorry I was not actively publishing my posts as I would normally do. Now I am back on my desk, and I have some time to post what I have studied on Islamic Art.

Notice that I have discontinued Gaga over Geometry Monday and replaced it with Imagining Islamic Aesthetics, so it covers more of Islamic art than just Geometrical designs. I also omitted the Monday part – so I can do it once a week, but not restricted to just one day.

Now, on to the post. The topic for today is Quran – The Islamic sacred texts.

Quran manuscripts have evolved and went so far from the Rashidien Calliphate to the present day, from the square angular lines of the Kufic script used for the writing of the sacred texts with no embellishments, to the curvy Thuluth script with gold leaf decorations. As with any Islamic item, and especially sacred items, they are almost always brilliantly decorative, with many of Islamic aesthetic condensed into one manuscript.

This is a 7th century Kufic Quranic manuscript, showing the seventh Sura (chapter) Al A’raf, verses 86 and 87. Note the simplicity of the script – this is how Quran originally looked like. There was no signs to help the reader to correctly recite it – however for the native Arabs, they can recite it correctly. Hence this manuscript is intended for the Arab Muslims, not for non-Arabs, since at that time, Islam have not spread any further than the Hijaz area of Saudi Arabia.

This is a page from the Quran, 9th Century. You can see at this time, signs for easier recognition were introduced in the form of dots. This, I think, Is the time where Muslim scholars were experimenting with various forms of signage and symbols to help non-Arab Muslims to read the Quran correctly. The script used is still the angular Kufic. However, it is more stylized now, with a little more curves along with the said dots and marks to signify one verse and the another.

An 11th Century Quran manuscript. The script is still Kufic, but it is more angular and have more sharp lines than the prior manuscripts. By this period, lines were used for annotation, whilst the dots for the individual characters are still preserved.  This presumably because non-Arab Muslims found this method to be the best for easy recitation of the Quranic scripts.

Quranic manuscript produced in Spanish Al-Andalus, 12th Century. Note the different script used – called Andalusian style. The manuscript is decorated heavily with gold coloured accents.

A manuscript off the Quran produced in Iran in the 14th Century. The script used is no longer the angled Kufic but the cursive Thuluth script – and this is how the Quran look like up till now. Look at the rich embellishment for this particular page of the Quran ; while not all Quran were done this way, most, if not all, Quran have pages embellished such as this, particularly done for the Al-Fatiha (the first chapter of the Quran) and five verses of the Al-Baqara (Second chapter of the Quran)

This post mainly focuses on Quranic manuscripts. However, we will see in depth about these scripts and its usage in other medias.