Monday, December 1, 2008
Counting on my fingers
At first the mathematics theme sounded so cold and unartistic to me that I confess I was a little put off. Like many people I can think of the "laws of mathematics" being unyielding things, insistently logical, to the annoyance of those of us who like to believe that everything has a little give, a little room for ambiguity. So I went looking for the human side of math and didn't have to look far. Right there at the end of my arm was the basis of the number system we use. The base 10 or decimal system evolved because human hands have ten fingers (digits) and so we build all our numbers from the basic 10 numerals, also called digits. Once you understand that, it is easier to think of mathematics as simply the system we have devised to make sense of and keep track of our world.
One of the more fascinating uses of a mathematical value is Φ (Phi) also known as the Golden Ratio. In mathematics and the arts, two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio between the sum of those quantities and the larger one is the same as the ratio between the larger one and the smaller. The golden ratio is a mathematical constant, approximately 1.6180339887. At least since the Renaissance, many artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratio—especially in the form of the golden rectangle, in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is the golden ratio—believing this proportion to be aesthetically pleasing. Mathematicians have studied the golden ratio because of its unique and interesting properties.* The golden ratio shows up in nature repeatedly, and the bones in the fingers of the human hand illustrate a nearly perfect progression of the golden ratio.
Imagine—finding all that mathematical information just by looking at my hand! My title is, of course, a pun. Of all the tools I use for my work, I rely most on my hands and count on my fingers.
I was pleased that I was finally able to use my rubber stamps and add words to my quilt. The fabric for the hand was fabric I stamped and painted. If you click for the larger view you may be able to see more clearly that I added some hand-stitched Xes, following the pattern of the background fabric. It wasn't until I was well into the stitching that I realized that X is also the Roman numeral for 10.
*Information about the golden ratio taken from Wikipedia.