Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Today my challenge was to work with wire. I used some old jewelry wire that I must've bought ten years ago.

Monday, April 29, 2013


I received this fabulous email, which inspired tonight's pattern.
Facebook Lottery Winning NotificationsWest Africa Lottery Establishment
Reference: 76739900Batch: KTU 90902232Winning no: KB1973
Hello Lucky Winner,
We are delighted to inform you of the result of the E-mail address ballot lottery draw of the Facebook International Lottery Programme, which tookplace on the 5nd of JANUARY 2013. This is a computer generated lottery of Internet users using email addresses for draws. This lottery draw is fully based on an electronic selection of winners using their e-mail addresses from different World Wide Web. Your e-mail address attached to ticket number: 275-189-657-23-05 with Serial number 8756-05 drew the lucky numbers 11 13 26 34 44 48 and bonus ball number 02 which subsequently won you the lottery in the 2nd category. You have therefore been approved to claim a total sum of US$300,000.00 (THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND U.S DOLLARS) in cash credit file ref:ILP/HW 47509/02. This is from the total cash prize of US$2,000,000 Million Dollars,shared amongst the first Ten (10) lucky winners in this category.All participant were selected randomly through a computer balloting system drawn from Nine hundred thousand E-mail addresses from Canada,Australia,United States,Asia,Europe,Middle East, Africa and Oceania as part of our international promotions programme which is conducted annually.
This Lottery is being promoted and sponsored by a conglomerate of Multinational companies as part of their social responsibility to the citizens in the communities where they have operational base. Further more your details(e-mail address) falls within our AFRICAN representative office in ACCRA,GHANA,as indicated in your play coupon and your prize of US$300,000.00 will be released to you from the regional branch office ACCRA in GHANA.We hope with part of your prize,you will participate in our end of year high stakes for US$1.3 Billion international draw.
Our agent will immediately commence the process to facilitate the release of your funds as soon as you contact him.
HOW TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE:Simply contact your claims agent:
MR.  JOHN McCLANECELL PHONE NUMBER: +233 540 335 779E-MAIL : X@yahoo.com
Please quote your reference,batch and winning number which can be found on the top left corner of this notification as well as your full name,address and telephone number to help locate your file easily.For security reasons,we advice all winners to keep this information confidential from the public until your claim is processed and your prize money remitted/released to you.
This is part of our precautionary measure to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this programme by some unscrupulous elements,equally toguard against non participant or unofficial personnel taking undue advantage of this programme. Note that,all winnings MUST be claimed by a STIPULATED TIME(ON OR BEFORE 20TH APRIL 2013) otherwise all funds will be returned as Unclaimed and eventually be reabsorbed into our next lucky dip sweepstakes.
Note that you have to call Mr. John McClane (+233 540 335 779) before sending your listed informations to him.
Full name:Telephone number:Fax number:Mailing address:Age:Occupation:Ktu Number:Draw Number:
Congratulations once again on your winnings!!!
Yours sincerely,
Mrs. Helen BlakeExecutive Co-ordinatorNew Zealand Lottery Establishment
Dr. P. Swier, Mr. Gerald GoodmanManager Foreign Operations
Mark ZuckerbergFacebook founder
I liked the idea of picking one single email address out of a lottery of addresses "from different world wide web." I also loved the "5nd." After a little doodling I settled on the ticket motif.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Today I was inspired by some tiny printed circuit boards at my boyfriend's office. I can't photograph them because they are proprietary, but I managed to capture the fun shapes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Weeping willow

I had a weird dream last night where I was near my childhood home, driving on Weeping Willow Drive. The road had all these bends and yellow chevron markings. Next was a row of houses and basalt cliffs, holding back a lake full of oily sludge. The houses were uninhabited. There were also huge, bamboo-like plants growing out of the cliffs.

The underlying structure here is a stripe. I should make this one tile and see how it turns out.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Working with words

Today I created a wordle based on the words in my past weeks' blog posts.

Make your own at http://www.wordle.net.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tiling by hand, first try

Leftover eucalyptus leaves from a bouquet would make a really nice print.

I start drawing on frosted mylar with my favorite bamboo pen.

Here's the horizontal split. I join the seams next.

Here's the vertical split and seam joining. Well, this is what I get for working fast with wet ink.

I give up. Time for bed.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Soap scum


Guest Artist: Alyssa from Because Patterns

Today I am featuring the work of Alyssa, the talented artist behind Because Patterns. Alyssa has created this beautiful pattern for Autism Acceptance Month. She has graciously shared her work and experience on living with Autism with us. Please check out her facebook page and Cafe Press store. You can also buy this print here.  For the month of April, 25% of the proceeds from the sale of this print will go to Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

pattern for autistic acceptance month

Ann: How did you get started working in pattern?

Alyssa: I can't sit still in class no matter how hard I try. But drawing keeps the fidgeting to a level where my teachers are (usually) OK with it. So I'd grab whatever paper I could get from the drawers in the classroom and just scribble all over them. In 7th grade, I grabbed graph paper from the math room, and I went for symmetry and for using the vertices as endpoints. It grew from there -- my first one was on an 8x8 grid, and I can still produce it from memory.

Ann: Wow, that's really cool. Do you remember all the patterns you've made?

Alyssa: I don't remember all of them, but there are a few that I can reproduce from memory, and I have all of them still... somewhere. Finding them is another matter.

Ann: Do you have formal art training, or are you self taught?

Alyssa: I've never had any formal training besides the typical art classes from elementary and middle school, which I did OK in. I can't really draw anything besides straight lines all that well and everything later demanded that I be able to draw still lifes or people, which I can't do. So that was as far as my formal stuff went.

As far as informal stuff, my mother taught me to sew, so I combine that with the block printing we learned in 8th grade to make a lot of my own clothes with patterns.

Ann: Oh cool. Do you still make your own clothing?

Alyssa: Sometimes, when I have time. Which isn't hugely often since I'm a triple major in college and doing activism, but it's some.

Ann: What are you studying?

Alyssa: I study mathematics, mechanical engineering, and Chinese.

Ann: Mandarin or Cantonese? And what's your favorite kind of math?

Alyssa: Mandarin, simplified characters. Though I do know a little bit of Shanghainese. My favorite math so far was probably Real Analysis, though I really am liking Difference Equations. Complex Analysis and Differential Equations tend to annoy me.

Alyssa: I've been told that people who know what to look for would be able to tell I'm Autistic from my patterns.

Ann: Really. How could one tell?

Alyssa: I'm not sure how one would tell. I can spot other Autistic people by how they move, but not by their art.

Ann: What are your inspirations?

Alyssa: I tend not to have things inspire me all that often. Like, I'll just sit and draw, mostly, not looking at real life stuff much. For the Autism Acceptance ones, I purposefully chose the color scheme to make it kind of like the world, and I happened upon the person shape by accident making a design to fit an empty space in a different pattern. I'm the only one who has seen that other pattern as of right now.

Ann: So purely abstract. Very cool.

So is all your work done on graph paper? With pen and ink? Do you use other media?

Alyssa: Except for sewing stuff, everything at least starts as pen on graph paper. I'm kind of picky about my pens, but the ones I like are pretty standard and inexpensive. I like the Pentel RSVP fine tip ones, black.

graph paper person drawing
My current profile picture I did in Paint. I copied the lines off one that I had drawn square by square into Paint, then used the paint bucket tool to color it in.

pattern created in microsoft paint
For the Autism Acceptance ones, I copied from the graph paper onto dot paper so that the lines wouldn't show as much, then colored it in with some artist markers, then redid some of the lines with gel pen to make them stick out more.

bookmark design
Ann: Wow that's great precision. You work so well with simple tools!
How do you choose colors?

Alyssa: It depends on what I'm using to color.
If I'm using the Pentel RSVP pens, they only come in five colors so that's kind of my decision made. If I'm using gel pen, I'll grab a color, then start choosing later ones based on what I think will look good with every color that's already there.
For the markers, I chose my color scheme ahead of time, it's probably the only time I ever did it and that was only because those markers are like $4 each!

I'll also often try out multiple color schemes with the same design. I think there are two or three other colorings of my profile picture saved on my hard drive, one of my patterns has seven different colorings.

Ann: I think the fact that your designs work well with or without color attests to your strong designs.

Thanks for sharing your art and experience with me.

Alyssa: You're welcome, and thank YOU!

More of Alyssa’s artwork:

A drawing on graph paper:
graph paper uncolored design

A pattern tiled six times. Look how nicely this tessellates!
amazing abstract tessalating pattern

A two color pattern.
abstract black and green pattern

Friday, April 12, 2013


The past few days I have had a bad sore throat. I didn't feel well enough to do a pattern yesterday.

 I've been taking lots of throat lozenges, which got me thinking about the other kind of lozenge. According to Wikipedia: "lozenge (), often referred to as a diamond, is a form of rhombus. The definition of lozenge is not strictly fixed, and it is sometimes used simply as a synonym (from the French losange) for rhombus. Most often, though, lozenge refers to a thin rhombus—a rhombus with acute angles of 45°." The Lozenge is also a symbol of female fertility as its shape resembles a fertilized field. Also, the first cough drops were originally shaped like lozenges. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Texas bluebonnets

Today my inspiration comes from the lovely bluebonnets I see by the side of the highway. I found a few with my camera last weekend near Town Lake:

The best patterns always come from studying things in real life, so here is my study:

And here is my pattern:

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Tonight I went to a very nice wedding with delicious food. I decided to draw parts of the meal.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Potato stamps

Today I carved stamps out of some potatoes. Once again I am working with diatom shapes.

I used a small paring knife to do most of the cuts. To make dots, I stuck the potato with a chopstick point.

I used acrylic paint for the stamping because it is water based. Since this paint is quite thick, my first prints weren't very crisp. I didn't want to thin in with water for fear of losing its opaquness. I discovered that applying the paint to the potato stamp via a sponge made for a more consistent print.

I printed on a large sheet of craft paper. It should make for great giftwrap.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tiling on a torus

I have set the background of this blog to the diatom image, but you may have noticed that the edges did not tile smoothly. It really annoyed me and I spent awhile trying to fix the image in the GIMP to no avail.

How does one create a rectangular image that tiles seamlessly? Let's use math to help figure this out. Don't worry, it's all visual!

We want anything touching the top edge to wrap around to the bottom, and anything touching the right side to wrap around to the left. If you think of the 2D paper as a stretchy surface that we can bend and move, we can transform it into a torus (aka a donut).

turning a surface into a torus

Let's break that down. 1. We take our paper rectangle  and denote the top and bottom edges as blue and the side edges as orange. 2. We fold the blue edges so they meet. Now we just have a tube. 3. Now we have to use our imaginations and pretend the paper is stretchy. We bring together the orange edges and complete the torus. 4. Now we have an object with no edges. We can draw all we like, and seams are impossible!

4 steps to turning a rectangle surface into a torus

Unfortunately we have only made seams impossible in our imaginary math-land. That doesn't really solve my issue of wanting a website background that will tile seamlessly. Let's continue in math-land and find our way back to reality.

Suppose we start with a drawing and make it into a torus. The only part of our image that has misaligned seams are the orange and blue marks. Therefore if we make cuts on other parts of the image, those seams will line up when tiled. 5. We make a cut far away from the orange seam. 6. We unroll the torus into a tube. 7. Now we make a cut far away from the blue seam. 8. Now we have a sheet of paper with the original misaligned orange and blue seams at the center.

Also, notice our paper is rectangular again. We've returned to reality!
cutting torus and reassembling repeat tile

So how can I do this without stretchy paper or mathy imagination? 1 .We can cut our image into fours, then 2. rearrange the pieces to match the end result of the torus transformation. 3. Now that we have the misaligned seams at the center of our image, mend the seams.

tiled repeat shortcut

Here's an example of how I did this using the GIMP with the diatoms image. Here is the original image.
original diatoms drawing

I used a feature of the GIMP called offset. Go to Layer > Transform > Offset. Click "Offset by x/2, y/2" and for edge behavior, select "Wrap Around." (See here for more details.)
offset diatoms drawing ready to be mended

Now mend those seams!

mended diatoms repeat tile

I also moved some of the shapes around for better balance. Now to make sure this will tile correctly, we can redo the offsetting. The result should have no center seams:

final diatoms repeat tile after balancing

Tada! And notice that my blog background has no more seams, either!