Hello MOCA Fam!
We hope you enjoy this series of MOCA Fun Fridays, at-home arts projects that will pull inspiration from contemporary artists, techniques, and accessible art making.
For this STEAM project, we will be using some common materials and a lot of creativity and concentration. Before we get started I’ll share a little bit of history with you. If you’d like to skip ahead to the project, jump down to Tessellation Sensation.
What is a Tessellation?
A tessellation is a pattern made of one or more shapes that fit perfectly together, without any gaps. If your home has any square flooring, that is a type of tessellation. Look around your home, what other tessellations can you find?
Humans have been making tessellations for thousands of years. Some date all the way back to 4000 BCE and were made by ancient Sumerians in what is now Iraq.1 Thanks to the moorish influences, the Alhambra in Spain is decorated in some of the most intricate tessellations, and it’s these patterns that inspired the artist M.C. Escher.
M.C. Escher didn’t come into popularity until he was in his 70’s, however he had always been inspired by nature and mathematics, and created art where these subjects meet. I highly suggest you look up his work, it’s super cool and will keep you asking “How did he think of that?” For a link on his tessellations, check out the works cited at the bottom.2
1 “Tessellation” Wikipedia, 22 March 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tessellation#/media/File:Tassellatura_alhambra.jpg
2 “Symmetry” M.C. Escher Collection, https://mcescher.com/gallery/symmetry/
What you’ll need:
- Index Cards (I like the ones with lines)
- A pencil
- A ruler
- Markers or colored pencils
First, take an index card and with your ruler, pencil, and scissors, cut it into a square. My index cards are 4 inches by 6 inches, so I cut it down to 4 inches by 4 inches. You can cut yours into a smaller square if you want. The smaller the square, the more tessellations you can fit on your page. I found if I went too small, it was too difficult to cut and tape later, so experiment with what works for you!
Next, draw some lines on the edges of your index card. It’s easy to get carried away in this part, so keep them simple. You want to make sure wherever you draw on one side that you’ll have a straight line on the opposite side to tape to. I like to use the lines on the index card to make sure I’m not messing up. It might take a few tries to get this right, so don’t be afraid to experiment, mess up, and try again!
Now cut your shapes out, and then move them to the opposite edge and tape them to together
Here’s a doodle to show you what I mean. I labeled each shape I cut A, B, and C, then I moved them over to the opposite side which I also labeled A, B, and C.
Once you’ve taped it back together, take your sheet of paper and trace your shape onto the top left corner. I found this is the easiest way to get lots of tessellations to fit. Then move your stencil to the right and trace it again, making sure there are no gaps. Remember a tessellation is a repeating pattern without gaps, so just like a puzzle, your pieces need to fit together.
Now here comes the creative part! What do you think your stencil looks like? Is it an animal, a monster, or something else? Maybe you just want to color each a different color to make a pattern or design like the tiles in the Alhambra.
When I was little, I used to want to be an ornithologist, that’s a scientist who studies birds, so I think my shape looks like a bird!
I looked up two common birds of South Florida, the native Blue Jay and the non-native White-Eyed Parakeet. I love when I’m looking out the window of my house and I get to see these kids of birds.
3 “Blue Jay”, The Cornell Lab, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blue_Jay/id
4 “Surfside’s Green Parrots” Surfside Blog, https://www.visitsurfsidefl.com/blog/coastal/surfsides-green-parrots/
Take your markers, and color in your shapes. Take your time to trace your lines so you don’t lose track of your tessellation
Finish coloring and voila! A Tessellation Sensation! What else can you imagine with your tessellations? Share with us by tagging @mocanomi and using the hashtag #MOCAFunFridays (or you can DM us if your account is private)