Ellie Baker and Susan Goldstine

Associate Professor of Mathematics (Goldstine); Artist and computer scientist (Baker)
St. Mary's College of Maryland (Goldstine)
St. Mary's City, MD (Goldstine); Lexington, MA (Baker)

Bead crochet bracelets have an allure that is hard to resist. For the wearer, adorned by the firm but pliable packing of beads into a sleek, snake-like skin, the appeal is both visual and tactile. For the crafter, the technique is meditatively repetitive and the bead color and texture choices endless. But for the mathematically minded, the greatest allure is in creating bracelet patterns. Behind the deceptively simple and uniform arrangement of beads is a subtle geometry that produces compelling design challenges and fascinating mathematical structures. We have been collaborating over several years on bead crochet design methods and on a variety of design questions that intrigue us. This project represents one of our forays.

Toroidal Tessellations
Toroidal Tessellations
12 X 12 inches
glass and sterling beads, thread

Inspired by the tessellated drawings and tiled pillars of M.C. Escher, each bracelet in this series has a pattern consisting of interlocking copies of a single shape in two to four colors. Designing such patterns for bead crochet bracelets is more challenging than designing them for prints or mosaics, both because the bracelet provides a narrower canvas and because the beads form a continuous spiral around the bracelet. This underlying spiral makes it especially challenging to align design motifs. With our original mathematical technique for bracelet design, we have tessellated our bracelets with natural and abstract forms, such as fish, lizards, stars and flowers.