Explore geometry, patterns, and history by creating pretty decorative Islamic tile art. Tiles featuring complex geometric patterns are a common feature in traditional Islamic art, and having your student create some of her own is an easy way to practice several skills at one: math, art, and an appreciation of other cultures. Unlike other forms of art, the repeated shapes and patterns in tile art stress neatness and order.
White tile squares, from hardware store or art shop
Acrylic or tempera paints, paint brushes, smock
What You Do:
Explain to your child that geometric patterns are a main type of decoration used in Islamic art. Some geometric shapes often repeated in Islamic art include: circles and interlaced circles, squares, star patterns, squares or triangles inside of circles, and multisided polygons—hexagons and octagons are popular.
Have your child look at examples of Islamic tile designs online or in a book. These may give her inspiration for creating her own geometric patterns. A geometric design template could be printed if a child wants something to copy for extra help in creating her own Islamic tile art.
She can use a ruler, compass, and pencil to sketch circles and other shapes on her tile. Tracing around coins also creates circles. She may want to start with a large circle, hexagon, or octagon, and then fill that shape with repetitions of stars, squares, diamonds, circles or polygons. An eraser can come in handy for mistakes or if too many lines get added.
She may wish to outline some shapes’ lines with a permanent marker, in case the paints’ thickness makes the lines unclear. When she feels happy with her design, she can paint over the pencil and marker lines with paints. She can also paint white spaces in between shapes so that the whole tile gets painted.
She may wish to hang or display the finished tile, or be inspired to create more!
Beth Levin has an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from Columbia University Teachers College. She has written educational activities for Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Renaissance Learning publishers. She has a substitute teaching credential for grades K-12 in Oregon, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.