The Handbook of Regular Patterns – An Introduction to Symmetry in Two Dimensions by Peter S. Stevens; MIT Press Cambridge, MA & London, England. Sixth printing 1999, first published in 1981. ISBN 0-262-69088-8 (paperback)
With another snowy day and roads that are difficult, even impossible to navigate I find myself housebound and desperate to escape the dreaded cabin fever virus, that so often overruns the prairies this time of the year. My resolution for the day: to ignore the falling snow as much as possible when moving from the house to the studio. Success! Not another grey day will influence my creativity. I am focused!
Heading straight to the library in search of one of my favorite design books I soon lay my hand on The Handbook of Regular Patterns. If you are familiar with the title you might ask “Why this book?” The book is devoid of color, it has no tropical images, suggestions of warmer climates – it is a book steeped in mathematics which I avoided whenever I could during my school days… I have come around: Peter S. Stevens’ book is a page turner!
The introduction of the book dissects the origin of pattern. Black and white images of natural materials are divided into point groups covering asymmetric motif, bilateral symmetry, triskelion and cross shapes. He moves from symmetry groups to point groups, devotes eight chapters to line groups and a whole seventeen chapters focus on the plane groups. Once you are immersed in the images, examples and suggested exercises you forget all about the lack of color!
The book jacket states: “Most books classify patterns according to motif or historical period. This handbook takes a different approach; it explores the structural anatomy of patterns, showing how their parts interrelate. It demonstrates to designers and artists the limitless variations that can be played upon a few fundamental patterns and structural arrangements. …”
The author has compiled illustrations from textiles, pottery, brickwork, mosaics, the natural world and even architectural plans. If you have been fascinated by M. C. Escher‘s drawings this is a book to explore. Stevens presents the patterns in such a way that they are easy to understand. He arms the reader/student with the knowledge and tools to create their own Escher inspired tesselations.
Eduard F. Sekler, Professor of Architecture, Harvard University (at the time of the sixth printing) had this to say: “Peter Stevens has assembled an extremely extensive and visually fascinating collection of regular patterns from many cultures and periods. The book should be of considerable interest to any practitioner in the area of two dimensional design.”
Peter S. Stevens is a registered architect, practicing artist and author of “Patterns in Nature“, another great reference for aspiring and seasoned designers alike. Both books have become collector items but are well worth the investment if you have a passion for design.
Hope your day is filled with sunshine and warmth – if not, cocoon yourself in your creative space and try your hand at tesselations and pattern repeats. Time will fly – Enjoy!
Hi Anna. The Peter Stevens book sounds as though it it is an excellent resource. I am excited to tell you that I am fired up over of a series of three new paperback books I have recently acquired called “Nature’s Patterns in Three Parts”, written by science writer Phillip Ball. The titles, all in lower case, are: ‘shapes’, ‘flow’, and ‘branches’. Having done the exercises on hexagons in your classes and becoming utterly fascinated by them, I am delighted with his treatment of them in the book’shapes’ wherein he devotes an entire fascinating chapter to “lessons of the beehive” subtitled ‘Building with Bubbles’. He returns to hexagons in the other two books as well. In the book ‘flow’ he analyzes patterns of ebb and flow that explain the patterns in yours and Erica Haugli’s fantastic photos of water in her Blog Northcape. Explanations of ripple patterns in sandy plains and other natural patterns are also fascinating. Truly, these books, along with his ” Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Colour” provide enough scintillating reading for a lifetime of art-making. What exciting resources they are for fuller understandings of nature’s incredible art as well.
Judith – thank you so much for sharing the title of the books! They sound like wonderful and limitless sources to interpret nature’s pattern. I must look for these.
I love both of Peter Stevens books, he so very nicely analyzes and categorizes patterns, Summer is coming, just over the horizon…
I agree – Stevens is a master at analyzing pattern and providing the necessary steps to examine and create new interpretations.
Summer might be coming faster in Northern BC than here in southern SK. Can’t wait for those temps to rise above zero. Thanks for commenting, Annerose.
Evening!! I learnt a new word…tessellation…I watched a video on utube it is a wonderful process.This would be a great quilting project….. another project to put into my “what I would like to do list”. Thanks, Anna. Keep smiling…Donna
Hi Donna, Great to hear you got inspired by tesselation! I was introduced to the word in the late 1990s through the book Giinny Beyer wrote on the subject. Google her name some time for more inspiration. Have fun!!!Can’t wait to see what you come up with…
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