I'm a leading expert on Islamic geometric design. I've published three popular books on the subject, that have sold over 30,000 copies worldwide and are available in English, French, Farsi, Turkish and Dutch.
I feel passionate about reviving the spirit of creative innovation and excellence that characterises the art and architecture of, for example, the Mamluk, Ghurid and Seljuk eras. For craftsmen in these eras, it was not enough to recreate a composition, they instead made new compositions, they innovated and took Islamic geometric design to a new level. Through my books and workshops, I try to make a contribution to the revival of such a creative attitude to this subject.
My passion for Islamic Geometric Design started when I was living in Amsterdam in my early twenties. The initial appeal for me of Islamic geometric design was that it offered scope for creativity, for learning, and for historical study. I committed myself to Islamic geometric design and 25 years later, I still am equally committed to it. After ten years in Amsterdam of teaching myself this subject, I moved to London to study at the Prince's School of Traditional Arts and later at SOAS. My focus has changed since I moved to the UK: I am now especially interested in teaching this subject using the same approach craftsmen have used for centuries: with a pair of compasses and a ruler. Traditional craftsmen didn't calculate angles to make their geometrical compositions, they weren't mathematicians. Nevertheless, they were able to make very complex compositions with just these two tools. This fascinates me because it means we can also learn how to make Islamic geometric patterns without calculations and with only a pair of compasses and a ruler.
Even though I have been dedicated to this subject every day for the last twenty years, it is still sometimes a source of wonder to me that this is what I am doing. This feeling has only grown the last few years since I had the exceptional privilege to write my second book. I hope to write more books and to do more teaching.
Islamic Geometric Patterns (Book and CD), Thames & Hudson 2008
This small book shows how to make around twenty different patterns using just a pair of compasses, a pencil and a ruler. The patterns are categorised according to their level of complexity. Each pattern is linked to a building or art object that features that particular pattern. It's been translated into Farsi and Turkish and has sold over 25,000 copies. It has been the bestselling Islamic artbook in in 2012 and 2013.
Islamic Geometric Design , Thames & Hudson, 2013
The first large and comprehensive art book on this subject. It has over 800 illustrations, with many photos of buildings never before published. It gives a great deal of historical information as well as practical analysis of many of the compositions. It is also available in a French edition. It features an appendix that shows how to make over a dozen patterns, using the same methodology as in my first book.
Islamic Design Workbook, Thames & Hudson 2016
Like an adult colouring book but more fun, more challenging and more educational. It features 48 different patterns, categorised by region and complexity. Each pattern has a corresponding loose-leaf page which has pre-printed construction lines. The challenge is to figure out what sections of lines to trace and which sections to ignore, in order to create the pattern.
I manage one of the most lively facebook communities on Islamic art (with about 15,000 members.