Celtic Knotwork: the ultimate tutorial


- Licence Q: Can I copy your pictures? A: Yes you can if they belong to me (clicking on it doesn’t get you out of this site). I haven’t shot any photo for this site. I asked the permission of the copyright holders of the photos I use in this site, and I always refer to them, but I am not the copyright holder for them, ask them. Apart from that, you can use and reuse, even for commercial purposes, any picture I drew, every text I wrote, but I remain the copyright holder. Everything is under the GNU Free Documentation Licence, please read it if you want to use content from this site.

- Production Q: How much do you sell your emboidery? A: I don’t actually manufacture anything. If you feel like it, make up your own design using my method, or copy one from my site, and ask a professional to have it carved or tattoed or sewed or whatever, I’m happy with it. Please tell me back if you feel like it :-)

- Software Q: Your software doesn’t work! A: I haven’t written the software you’re trying to use. You may have reached it from this site, I may have slightly contributed to it, but more in a philosophical way than a technical one. Please refer to the author of the software. Excellent software: KnotPlot, KnotScape and the beautiful KnotsBag.
- Q: Yes but the guide is written in Italian or something A: Okay, it’s French mind you ;-) So here is a short note on how to make David Legland java applet running:

  1. Make sure java is installed.
  2. If not, install it.
  3. Then run the applet!
  4. In console mode, you can as well download the application ’Knotwork_0.4.jar’ and then type java -cp Knotwork_0.4.jar Knotwork

- Esotericism, Voodoo Q: What’s the very special meaning of my tattoo? A: Simple knots are very often used as symbols for such and such. A s for me, a Celtic design bears the meaning you put inside it yourself. It possibly had a particular one a long time ago, but techniques and interpretations are, in my opinion, lost for good. There are some little things you can say like, how many threads there are, which can be an interesting remark, but I am not into that sort of things. I don’t feel the need to reinvent "roots" to be able to grow. Here is an interesting site

- Technique Q: Who did you learn your technique from? A: My technique is actually common knowledge in mathematical circles, it is as old as Knot theory itself. Special cases of it were known in artistic circles as well, like on the square grid. Monks of the Middle Ages actually used (or seem to use) a similar technique, you can see the vertices of the graph and its dual at the same time, and walls being sketched between them. Go to Dublin and have a look at the wonderful Book of Kells in the flesh, that’s something. Islamic artists have completely different techniques, inherited from tilings. My modest contribution is simply to have presented this material in a comprehensible way to non mathematicians. Raising the awareness of people regarding the beauty of mathematics is actually part of my job.

- More Q: I know you’re hiding some techniques from us, when will you explain them to me? A: When you’ll read French. I try to make a page as I explain further techniques, but I don’t find the time to translate them. Please do if you want, vous êtes les bienvenus!

- Collaboration Q: How do I join your team? A: Ask me.

- References Q: I can’t read on the screen A: Then buy a book:

  1. Celtic Art — Methods and Construction/ GEORGE BAIN
  2. Celtic design I: a beginner’s manual/ AIDAN MEEHAN; Celtic design II: illuminated letters; Celtic design III: animal patterns; Celtic design IV: knotwork: the secret methods of the scribes
  3. Celtic knotwork/ IAIN BAIN, Celtic key patterns
  4. Celtic art: from its beginnings to the Book of Kells/ RUTHMEGAW
  5. The art of Celtia/COURTNEY DAVIS
  6. The Celtic art of Courtney Davis/NANCY DAVIS
  7. Art of the Celts/ LLOYD AND JENNIFER LAING
  9. Later Celtic art in Britain and Ireland/ LLOYDLAING

[Les enluminures] ne sont pas des "ornements", mais possèdent le privilège de discipliner les allusions et le pressentiment des formes.

Les enjeux du mobile/ GILLES CHÂTELET Des Travaux/ Seuil 1993

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Friday 25 August 2006, by Christian Mercat

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