by Suzanne Labry
In the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, the writer describes the repetitiousness of life, summing up by stating, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Quilters, like all artists, prize originality. But when it comes to geometric patterns that inspire quilt designs, ‘no new thing under the sun’ is the way to go, because it’s impossible to top the designs of nature that form the basis of geometrics. These patterns have been around since life on earth began.
What’s fun is to see these ancient designs through the lens of a quilt lover. Once you start looking, it’s hard not to see quilt patterns everywhere. That happened to me on a recent trip to Europe. Take a look at some of the things I saw, and see if you don’t agree!
The Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany contains a cone mosaic from the ancient Mesopotamian capital of Uruk, located on the Euphrates River south of Baghdad. It is believed to date from the second half of the fourth millennium B.C.
Cone mosaics were created by pressing the pointed ends of small clay cones tightly together into a wall coated with a thick layer of wet plaster. The flat ends of the cones were then painted red, black, and white to form decorative patterns.
Not simply decorative, the cones minimized weathering on the walls and pillars of the palace architecture they covered. Do you see the Streak o’ Lightning, Diamond Field, and Thousand Pyramids?
The spectacularly beautiful, thousand-year-old city of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is a visual delight on many levels, from the tips of its many towers right down to its sidewalks. Noted for its many architectural wonders—its nickname is “the golden city of a thousand spires”—Prague demands that you crane your neck upward in order to appreciate the thrilling array of decorative steeples, turrets, and belfries that seem to dominate the cityscape.
One place dominated by soaring spires and beautiful rooftops is the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Vitus, which was established in the year 960. Situated within the Prague Castle, it is the burial place of Czech kings. Check out this rooftop within the cathedral complex. Isn’t that a lovely quilt pattern adorning it?
And then there are those sidewalks. In any city, tree roots and fluctuations in temperature pose a constant challenge when it comes to keeping walkways in good repair. But for hundreds of years, the city planners of Prague have coped with the problem by making “mosaic” sidewalks out of individual cubes of stone.
Ground movement does sometimes cause the cubes to shift and pop out, but the damage is more localized and easier to repair. The effect is lovely and definitely gives effect of walking on quilt patterns. Orange Peel, Brick Wall, a number of Nine Patch variations and other familiar designs are all represented right beneath your feet.
Next time you venture out on a trip, see how many quilt patterns you can spy as you go along. Once you get started, it’s impossible to stop, and it adds an interesting dimension to your travel experience!