Tag Archives: design

Books & Tips on Islamic art and pattern-making

If you’re interested in learning more about the styles, compositions, colours and the techniques used to create some of the most beautiful examples of Islamic art around the world, then this list of books may help you on your journey. I have been asked a number of times for recommendations regarding resources on Islamic art, particularly pattern-making. To this end I have compiled the following list of books on the topics of Islamic art & Architecture, Islamic geometric patterns and Arabesque patterns which I have personally found helpful or inspirational. However, I would encourage everyone to try and attend practical workshops and courses where possible, as learning through a teacher is really the best method for learning Islamic pattern-making techniques. I have included some general tips at the bottom of this post.

[Note: this list is a work in progress. I will be adding to this list when I can and will also try to add my mini reviews (as seen in my instagram posts). Any suggestions are most welcome so please get in touch if you have any suitable recommendations. Most of the books listed are in English unless otherwise stated. I have provided Amazon links so you may see what the books look like but do shop around, as you may find better prices elsewhere]

Quick Links:

Books on Islamic Art & Architecture (general)

Islamic Arts (Art & Ideas)
Author: Jonathan Bloom
Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
ISBN: 071483176X
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Islamic Art and Architecture
Author: Robert Hillenbrand
Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
ISBN: 0500203059
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Making Sense of Islamic Art and Architecture
Author: Adam Barkman
ISBN: 0500291713
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
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Islamic Art in Detail
Author: Sheila R CAnby
ISBN: 0714124281
Publisher: British Museum Press
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 Arts & Crafts of the Islamic lands: Principles Materials Practice
Authors: Khaled Azzam and The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts
ISBN: 0500517029
Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd
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Books on Islamic Geometric Patterns

Drawing Geometry: A Primer of Basic Forms for Artists, Designers and Architects
Author: Jon Allen
Publisher: Floris Books
ISBN: 0863156088
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Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art
Author: Issam El Said and Ayse Parman
ISBN: 0905035038
Publisher: Scorpion Cavendish Ltd
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Islamic Design – A Genius for Geometry
Author: Daud Sutton
Publisher: Wooden Books
ISBN: 1904263593
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Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach
Author: Keith Critchlow
Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd
ISBN: 0500270716
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Islamic Art and Archtitecture – The System of Geometric Design
Author: Issam El Said, Eds. Tarek El-Bouri & Keith Critchlow
ISBN: 1873938454
Publisher: Garnet Publishing Ltd
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Arabic Geometrical Pattern & Design
Author: J Bourgoin
ISBN: 0486229246
Publisher: Dover Pulications Inc
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Islamic Geometric Patterns
Author: Eric Broug
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
ISBN: 050028721X
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Islamic Geometric Design
Author: Eric Broug
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
ISBN: 0500516952
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Arabesques – Decorative Art in Morocco (available in English, French, and possibly Arabic)
Author: Jean-Marc Castera
Publisher: ACR Edition
ISBN: 2867701244
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Books on Islamic floral patterns (Arabesque/Islimi/Tezhip/Tezhib/Illumination)

Türk Sanatinda – Tezhip (Turkish)
Authors:  Ilhan Özkececi and Sule Bilge Özkececi
Publisher: Yazigen Yayinevi
ISBN: 6058565715
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Türk Sanatinda Desen ve Kurgu (Turkish)
Author: Prof. İlhan Özkeçeci
ISBN: 9786058565760
Publisher: Yazigen Yayinevi
View on Babil.com

Rumi Çizim ve Teknikleri (Turkish)
Author:Sabiha Bayhan Koç
ISBN: 9758069284
Publisher: Ilke Kitap
View on Babil.com

Türk Tezyini Sanatlarinda Desen Tasarimi: Cizim Teknigi ve Cesitleri (Turkish)
Author: Inci A. Birol
ISBN: 975644441X
Publisher: Kubbealti Nesriyati Yayincilik
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Motifler Türk Tezyini Sanatlarinda (English and Turkish)
Author: Inci A. Birol
ISBN: 9757663077
Publisher: Kubbealti Nesriyati Yayincilik
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The Illumination Models – Eslimi and Khataei Decorative Designs (English and Farsi)
Author: Mohammad-Reza Honarvar
Publisher: Yassavoli
ISBN: 9789643064396

Instruction & Application of Margins in the Illumination (English and Farsi)
Author: M Eftekhari
Publisher: Yassavoli
ISBN: 9789643063658

Symbols of Iranian Illumination & Carpet Designing (English and Farsi)
Authors/Diagrams: Mohammad Reza Honarvar, Ardeshir Takestani
Publisher: Yassavoli
ISBN: 9789643062279
View on www.iranibooks.com

Buying Books Online

If you are looking for a specific book it is best to put the title of the book into the Google search bar and then click on the ‘Shopping’ option just below this. The results shown will be shops and websites that have the book listed. Listings include those on Ebay, Amazon, Abe Books and many other online book shops, allowing you to browse in price order. For the rarer or harder to attain books, you may need to add the name of the author.

Books that are rare or harder to get hold of require a bit more detective work, but I suggest doing the above search every once in a while, as books appear for sale in the most unexpected places and at surprisingly exexpected bargain prices to boot.

For Turkish Books I have used the following two websites with successful postage to the UK:
www.turkishbooks.com (English & Turkish)
www.babil.com (Turkish only – but can use google translate to assist in alternative language).

Tips for pattern-making:

  • Try and attend a practical class, course or workshop. The traditional method for learning arts has been through an experienced professional/master, producing the work and training their apprentice. There is much merit to seeing an artist in action and being shown the way in which tools should be used in order to produce the best results. Being taught directly is immensely useful.(If you are looking for classes/workshops in London you may find courses offered by Art of Islamic Pattern and the Prince’s School of Tradtional Arts immensely useful. Also workshops offered by Ayesha Gamiet in Windsor. For a further list of workshops and teachers around the world please view recommendations by by Esra Alhamal on her blog: http://www.islamicillumination.com/blog/islamic-pattern-teachers
  • Do not be put off by books in different languages. If the book contains useful diagrams and graphical examples then you won’t need to worry much about the text.
  • Even if you have no one to teach you in a class-like environment, there are an increasing number of online tutorials and videos to also view. These include videos on YouTube and those by Eric Broug on his educational website: School of Geometric Design. There are also an increasing number of artists on social media sharing videos and tips with their followers. Here is an example by Ambigraph on his blog: Analysis of a Geometric Pattern from the Alhambra Palace
  • Try looking at as many visual examples as possible, including artefacts, architecture and prints. Examine these and look for what they have in common. When a flower or motif is drawn in a particular way, using a particular colour or combination of shapes and compositions this is a distinctive style. When specific materials and tools are used, these become part of the technique. Practice drawing these yourself, first by tracing, then by copying, then by customising, and then attempt to draw your own. Even if you feel you need a lot of practice, then keep practicing. The mantra ‘practice makes perfect’ is not just a saying, it’s a fact!
  • Reference nature – look at real life examples of plants and flowers and try and re-draw these, whether in a realistic form or in an abstract or stylised form.
  • Tracing is your best friend. Many Islamic patterns contain symmetry and repetition. This means you can draw one section and use this on top of a basic grid/layout to then re-trace a design in repeated form. The repetition looks more appealing due to the consistency this generates in the design. Remember to also keep elements proportional as this will make the whole composition look more harmonious.
  • Try and access books such as those mentioned above or look for resources online as these will also help you to pick up skills in pattern-making.
  • And remember to take your time. An artwork cannot be rushed. Patience is a virtue (again, not just a saying).

If there is anything more specific you would like advice on I am happy to answer questions. However, I cannot guarantee an immediate response. Hope this helps!

Digital Art & Design at the V&A, London

The V&A has for some time been collecting and exhibiting digital/computer art, including interactive installations. I came across a video of an exhibition that took place at the V&A in 2009. The great thing about online documentation of events, collections and knowledge is that it can be found at any point in time (assuming it is still accessible) for those who may have missed a specific event or moment of it’s first being shared in a physical space.

Decode: Digital Design Sensations:

Read more about digital art and design activities, past and present,  on the V&A website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/d/digital-art-and-design/

Geometric Design – online tutorials

Geometric Design for Beginners is a series of tutorials available on Tuts+ providing instructions for producing your own geometric patterns. Posted by Joumana Medlej, these are step by step instructions designed for beginners but continue on to more complex patterns. Easy to follow and a convenient resource for working at your own pace. Read more here: Geometric Design for Beginners


Introduction to Arduino

A practical workshop where you can learn basic methods for producing interactive design using Arduino will be hosted at the V&A on 27 June 2015! To book click here >
(tickets cost £80/£64 concession)

If you are not so keen on spending the £80 needed to book the V&A workshop then why not try a bit of self-learning? There are tonnes of videos and tutorials to be found online.

What is Arduino?
“an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board”. In other words, a circuit system that connects to a power source (either your computer or even a battery) and other devices based on your needs. You can, for example, connect sensors to your board to detect certain aspects of the environment (such as sound or movement) and then have this converted into data to manipulate as you wish. You can use the Arduino coding environment (download it from their website here: http://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Software) or a coding environment such as Processing to produce particular actions based on variables within the gathered data.

Learn more about Arduino here: http://www.arduino.cc/en/Guide/Introduction

Check out demos and tutorials on the Processing website to get you started:   https://processing.org/tutorials/

Digital workshops and drop-in sessions in London

If you’re looking for opportunities to learn more about Digital art, design, technology and innovation then the following workshops and drop-in sessions in London may be just for you. Best of all, they’re free!

Digital workshop – The British Museum’s Innovation Lab. Sunday 21 June, 11.00–16.00
Find out more here >

Digital Design Drop-in – Victoria and Albert Museum’s Sculpture Room 21a. Saturdays, 26 April, 24 May, 21 June 13.00 – 16.00
Find out more here >

Read more about Digital Art & Design on the V&A’s website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/d/digital-art-and-design/

Printing fun at the 3D Printshow London, Sep 2014

3D printing has really picked up the pace in the last few years, and events like the annual 3D Printshow is catering to the interest and demands of both businesses and individuals.

The show features a line-up of commercial solutions for businesses, printing services for all types of clients (large and small) and platforms for showcasing design work by agencies and artists. There are also a number of educational talks from various guest speakers who have worked with 3D printing, including in fashion!

At this year’s show I enjoyed learning of Richard Beckett‘s work with Pringle of Scotland, where 3D printing was used to create innovative fabrics for items in their A/W 2014 collection:

Richard Becketts 3D Printed fabric embellishments for Pringle of Scotland, A/W 2014

Richard Beckett’s 3D Printed fabric embellishments for Pringle of Scotland, A/W 2014


Detail of Richard Becketts 3D Printed fabric embellishments for Pringle of Scotland, A/W 2014

Detail of Richard Beckett’s 3D Printed fabric embellishments for Pringle of Scotland, A/W 2014

I also loved visiting the booths in the showroom where many creative examples of 3D printing were on display including jewellery, clothing, toys, stationary, cutlery and even food!!

Take Belgian chocolate printing for one!! This service was provided by Choc Edge, and not only did it look great, but it also smelt and tasted great! 100% edible dark chocolate printed in whichever design you want.

Printing with chocolate by Choc Edge

Printing with Belgian chocolate by Choc Edge at the 3D Printshow, London 2014

I asked the guys at the booth to kindly try out one of the Islamic patterns I was working with and they were happy to do it. They hadn’t tried something this intricate and of this style of design but once the file was uploaded and the printer got going, the results were amazing! I was in awe:

Prep work for printing files with chocolate by Choc Edge

Prep work for printing files with chocolate by Choc Edge


Chocolate printed Islamic art by Choc Edge

Chocolate printed Islamic art, a special request fulfilled by Choc Edge at the 3D Printshow, London 2014

There are so many possibilities with 3D printing, it can make your mouth water (quite literally). Below are photos I took from the show which give a much better idea of the fun and creative output achievable with today’s technology!

Laser cutting for Textiles at Central Saint Martins

A week of laser-cutting fun!

Regents Canal opposite Granary Square

Regents Canal opposite Granary Square

I joined the Central Saint Martins (CSM) short course on Laser-cutting for Textiles, located in Granary Square alongside the Regent’s canal.  This was a week long course introducing students to the process of creating electronic (Adobe Illustrator) files to be used for laser-cutting, the various effects and techniques that can be achieved with laser cutting, and an array of fabrics, materials and textures to experiment with. The title is, therefore, a little misleading, as it wasn’t just fabrics we worked with, however there was a slight more slant towards fashion.

Our course tutor was Laura Baker, a specialist in fashion and textile print. And our technical tutor was Franklin Mok, both staff at the University of the Arts London (UAL), of which CSM forms a part. We were also joined by Miriam Griffiths, a knitwear designer and alumni of the London College of Fashion (also part of the UAL).

Laura demonstrated pattern-making methods within Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. We were also shown numerous examples of jewellery, fashion, food, and everyday objects and furnishings that have been designed or made using laser cutting. There were many previously cut samples on hand and we soon learnt that what may work on one type of fabric/material may look terrible on another and that accidents can sometimes lead to interesting results. Some materials worked better and others were not strong enough for the laser to engrave for example.


We were shown the materials library where a huge wall was adorned with hundreds of samples of plastics, woods, metals, fabrics, stone, etc. There were also many reference books on fashion and textiles and future developments within this area. Experimentation was very much encouraged.

Materials Library within Central Saint Martins

Materials Library within Central Saint Martins

We were taken down to the laser cutting room where we were introduced to a huge Trotec laser machine. As indicated on the front it could not only cut but also engrave and mark/score.

Trotec Laser cutting machine at CSM

Trotec Laser cutting machine at CSM

We were shown that specific cyan colours (magenta, blue, green and black) are interpreted by the computer as being either an internal cut, external cut, engraving or scoring. These lines had to be paths within an EPS or AI file format and be only hairline thin (with the exception of the engraving).

The following image shows engraving, scoring, internal and external cuts:

Sample demo of laser effects on veneer

Sample demo of laser effects on veneer

We were also taken to a few shops in the Aldgate area where we discovered suppliers of rare leather pieces from various animals. See if you can guess what each of these animal skin is? Most leather pieces had been treated with colour and stretched or stitched so may not look natural (pink rabbit skin being a key example).

Miriam Griffiths brought in some of her final year work of knitwear. Within the designs she also added pieces of laser cut wood. These wood pieces helped with the structural design of her garments which were based on garments worn by a remote tribe in China.

More of Miriam’s work can be seen on her website: http://www.miriamgriffiths.co.uk/

The next day we got on with designing our first samples for laser cutting. I’ve recently worked with iznik flower motifs so following in this theme I looked on the V&A Museum’s website some inspiration. I liked the look of the carnations on this velvet fabric dated at 1600-50:

Velvet fabric with carnation pattern c1600-50

Velvet fabric with carnation pattern c1600-50 (Image from V&A website:


I began working on isolating and redrawing the flower shape in Photoshop and then switched to Illustrator for colouring the drawn paths which would be where the laser would engrave and cut the material:

Preparing flower motif file

Preparing flower motif file

I chose to use the metallic leather sample piece I obtained from one of the leather shops we visited earlier in the week for the flower motifs:

Flower motif laser cut into metallic cow leather

Flower motif laser cut into metallic cow leather

I later realised that I should have changed the colour of the middle paths so that those would have been internal cuts. Instead I cut one of the motifs’ inner strokes by hand to see how this would look.

Flower motif laser cut from metallic cow leather

Flower motif laser cut from metallic cow leather

You realise when going through the process of designing, amending and laser-cutting the pieces that it can be very much trial and error until you’ve had a bit of practice with not only the design file, but also the material you work with. The same file worked well on stronger materials like the mirrored acrylic but not so much on the thinner sheepskin leather shown below:

Flower motif laser cut into acrylic and sheepskin leather

Flower motif laser cut into mirrored acrylic and sheepskin leather

Iznik: Ottoman Ceramic Design at PSTA

The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (based in East London) runs a number of practical short-courses. I recently attended the Iznik: Ottoman Ceramic Design course where a small group of students learnt how to apply focussed and delicate brush strokes to ceramic tiles and plates. The class firstly taught us that concentration and a calm approach is key to producing the best results. We spent some time practising small lines and swirls. I honestly found this a little difficult, as I am used to applying deliberate and highly pressure movements through my tools, be it pens or brushes. As a result my brush strokes using ink came out quite bulky 😐 This technique called for dainty elegance for sure.

We soon moved on to experimenting with applying glaze to tiles. The change of texture was stark and proved even more difficult to work with. However the tutor, Nooshin Shafiei (very much an expert in the art of ceramic design) was able to depose some tips and eventually we cracked on with our final pieces – large ceramic plates!

Designs were transferred on to the plates by applying red powder dye to the back of the paper and then tracing over the top so that the pattern was drawn with the powder only.

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

We chose designs from a beautiful book full of photographic examples of Iznik ceramics: Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey I chose the following design. I thought it was simple enough for my less than advanced skills but I soon learnt that even this was perhaps a little ambitious. In the following two sessions, conversation amongst students centred on one topic – the desire to make this final piece worthy of display in our own homes. The collective goal was to give it everything we had.

The various stages of my efforts are displayed below:

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA


Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

However, based on our tests on glazing tiles previously, it would not be until much later, once the plates had been fired that we would know exactly how our skills played out in reality…

Iznik ceramic plate design

Original plate that I was trying to replicate

Detail of Iznik ceramic plate design

Detail of Iznik ceramic plate design

The plate is now ready for it’s final coat of transparent glaze which will give it a shiny smooth surface.

Overall, the class was very enjoyable. I learnt new motif designs distinctive of the Iznik region within the Ottoman reign. I’ve not done much freehand, non-geometric art practice so this was definitely something new and challenging for me but I am very glad I decided to do it. The fellow students and the teacher Nooshin made it a very friendly environment with lots of interaction dispersed with the much appreciated tea-breaks (thanks for the biscuits Nooshin!).

I would highly recommend practical short-courses to anyone who either has a soft-spot for creativity, is looking for some inspiration, wants a break from their normal life routine or for the opportunity to meet new people. For further information on courses provided by the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts have a look on their website: http://www.psta.org.uk/openprogramme/