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Testing a Pattern

Testing a Pattern by Redrawing

A brief look at how I try to decipher patterns from a Roman mosaic

When you look at some patterns in a Roman mosaic, particularly strand types, and try to follow the strands to decipher the pattern it can seem difficult to get a clear picture. In cases like this the best thing is to draw out the pattern so you can follow it more easily. Of course you must remember that some of those patterns will not follow a logical sequence! 

I cannot show the original photo for copyright reasons but this is a strand border that was around some figures. At the top and bottom, across the centre part, it had a triple strand guilloche border pattern but on either end there were blocks of interwoven strands. 

This is just brief overview, if you want to learn the way I wotk then there is a download manual available, just click on the button below the title or here for more details.

The First Stage.

I start with the outer line of single white centre tesserae (CT) as these are your reference points for any of the strand pattern, borders or motifs. The staff is marked for a mosaic using 5mm tesserae, I can obviously mark it to whatever size I want. This staff is my most used one for any strand pattern, this is the third version of this staff so don't expect to get it right first time if you are marking it from, slightly irregular, hand cut material.

The square is fairly straight forward to use, you can even use the corner of a sheet of paper if that is all you have. Notice I have marked that up with a CT at the point and then tesserae distances on either side. 

I use wallpaper lining paper as it is cheap and comes in long rolls so you don't have to get large sheets of paper. The tools are an ordinary compass, pencils, marker pens (both broad and fine point), a staff and square.

I have used the markings on my staff to set out where the CT go and then set them out on a grid pattern having counted them along each side of the orginal. The distances between the CT on the vertical, horizontal and diagonal axis are the same for all the interwoven strand patterns with the exception of those based on the vertical strand double guilloche (a variation of the double guilloche where the CT are set closer together. 

Once I have the CT drawn in for the top bottom and right side sections I start to draw in the strands. At this point there is one very important concept you need to grasp;

'The CT do not exist, the strands must be drawn in as strands, not just lines connecting the CT'.

It is about viewing these patterns in a certain way to help you visualise them as three-dimensional objects. 

These strands are drawn in, in a way that is the same for any pattern like this, the sequence of strands going under and over each other makes it easy to know where the next ones go. You need to draw in the pattern as much as you can looking for the point where it may go out of sequence. This will be apparent in the other photos. 

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