Who has ever seen a Cat Star?

cat star

By Simona Moundrouvaliss.moundrouvalis@gmail.com

This is a creative tool you can use to invent infinite kind of stars, as there are infinite stars in the Universe and equally endless ways to imagine them. It was presented for the first time in a Public Library in Vicenza, a city in the northeast of Italy, and I hope it will reach many houses all around the world.

Many different stars will born and they will be unique as every human being.

How were the very first stars born in the Universe? Where they come from?

A simple and clear explanation I really like, is the following by the “Lady of the Stars”, the extraordinary scientist and astrophysicist Margherita Hack:

There are no certainties in science. We try, with experiment and observation, to discover the laws that govern the Universe. […] Studying it and observing it, we discovered that, once upon a time, the Universe was small, small, small and hot, hot, hot. Then, it began to inflate like a balloon and the temperature started to drop and stars formed. And after thousands of thousands of thousands of years it has become what we know today.

From “20 Ways to Draw a Star and 44 Other Far-out Wonders from the Sky and Galaxy” by Sally S. Swindell and Nate Padavick

How drawing a star?

As a starting point, I have borrowed an idea by the great designer Bruno Munari, from his book “Fantasia”:

A leaf can be explored to make its hidden relationships visible.

Starting from the tracing of an oak leaf, Munari has drawn its outline and got out of it a pattern made up of dots. Then he has connected these points in many different ways, creating different relationships between them.

Everyone will find their own shapes but always in relation to the leaf. (…) The variations are personal and infinite.

Picture from the book “Fantasia” by Bruno Munari

I am going to propose to you a set of dots myself, that I got starting from the expansion of a central point: that small and hot material point that has exploded into a myriad of points, through rotations around its center, with progressively greater radii… BIG BANG!

Now try to connect the dots. There are endless possibilities! For example, you can start joining some points to create a closed shape: a 4, 5, 6, 10-pointed star …

Here are some of the possible shapes, which can be traced with the help of a ruler or freehand (varying the type of line).

Starting from the same basic scheme, very different shapes will come out: small or large, symmetrical or asymmetrical, common or bizarre, straight or crooked, simple or complex, through your personal, creative exploration.

The shapes can also be combined with each other to create more complex structures. I created the following examples by choosing some dots in a symmetrical way.

To facilitate those wishing to get regular shapes, I recommend highlighting some dots from time to time.

You can play by drawing lines, simple or broken, parallel or incident, horizontal or vertical. Using transparent paper, you can overlap different shapes to create more complex ones.

You can also create compositions by combining different geometric shapes, symmetrically or randomly.

You can download the template clicking here and then print it; you can also create a stencil by piercing the dots with an awl (preferably on cardboard), in order to use it several times and possibly transfer the points also on different types of paper or other kind of surfaces (cardboard , cloth, tinfoil, etc.).

There are no limits about techniques and materials! The lines can be traced with markers, pencils, pastels, chalks. Shapes can be filled by colors or cut and eventually joined together with a brad. You can also create a stencil with the clipped template and, for example, use it with a sponge soaked in paints.

Another way is transfering the pattern onto a wooden board and place some tacks or pins on the chosen points to create intertwining wires, thin iron wire or pipe cleaners; or you can embroider the lines with needle and thread, on cardboard or felt.

Here are the stars created with my son Daniele during a rainy weekend. My favorite is the cat-star that stands out among all for that special fantasy, typical of children, that always amazes me!

If we let a beam of light pass through the holes of the stencil in the dark… we will all meet again in the space! Enjoy your exploration!

I sincerely thank Roberta, for hosting me on RobertapucciLab and, above all, for having accompanied me with her teachings and experience in a so inspiring learning journey.

I would like to share with you some words by Margherita Hack that impressed me for her “scientific poetry” and that, during difficult times, can bring us closer to each other:

We all have a common origin, we are all children of the evolution of the Universe, of the evolution of the stars, and therefore we are really all brothers.

We are made of matter that has been created inside the stars. All the elements, from hydrogen to uranium, have been made in the nuclear reactions that take place in supernovae: these stars, much larger than the Sun, at the end of the their lives explode and scatter in the space the result of all the nuclear reactions that took place within them. Thus, we are all really children of the stars.

P.S. Simona Moundrouvalis is a graphic designer from Vicenza, Daniele’s mother, curious researcher.

She designed this idea while taking a private class by RobertapucciLab about creative workshops. The Cat Star of the cover image is by Daniele (7 years old). Welcome Simona and thanks for sharing!

Making connections is a creative process

making connections

Where do you start when there are too many things to say, organize, write, explain? Which starting point ensures the best route through all the stages? Any point is ok if we consider those things significant, as they are implicitly connected by our own network of meanings. So there will be no risk of losing any on the way, we can interchangeably switch between them. And if we forget one, it probably was not so important.

The possible connections between things are potentially endless. Let’s look at this image (copied by an illustrious master I will soon reveal) as a visual metaphor. In how many ways, with how many shapes can we connect the red dots?

Of course, if there were more points, the number of possible connections would increase. But the real question is: could a larger number of points help us to create connections? In other words: is the quantity of points (or initial data) a relevant variable for our ability to create relations between them?

The French matematician Henri Poincaré defined creativity as the capacity to join scattered elements in new and useful combinations. Thus, the question could also be as follows: does the quantity of starting elements influence the quality of the creative process? As educators interested in the development of creativity, do we wonder about the quantity of stimuli we present to children?

We could also use this graphical tool to visualize the underlying relational patterns of a group. An image can often help us to focus on some aspects of which we were not fully aware: for example, the existence of subgroups, an isolated element, the closure or opening of the structure towards the outside… The representations of the group made by its members will probably be different from each other: common denominators may emerge, as well as individual specificities.

Since these are images, we should not forget the importance of their visual characteristics, of the tools we use for design them. The color, the shapes, the type of line, the disposition and proportions in space: all these features evoke some qualities of the connective structure. Do you see thin, flickering threads traced with a pencil or the strong, massive sign of a permanent marker? A thick and intricate network of angular lines or fluid overlapping areas of watercolor?

Each person will find a different way to connect the same points: in other words, considering the same set of things (or the same items of a problem as well), everyone will “see” different connective shapes. What better metaphor for reminding us that our vision is not the only possible one but one among many possibilities? How does our representation relate to the other ones?

Now it’s time to reveal the author that inspired me these thoughts with his work: “Flight of fancy” is a small, light, precious book by Bruno Munari, published by Corraini Edizioni. The cover of the book has got some pierced points so that readers can continue the game over and over.

In his book “Fantasia”, Bruno Munari develops a similar exploration with a leaf, trying to make its hidden relationships visible, as you can see in his drawing below.

Starting from the tracing of an oak leaf, Munari drew its outline and got out of it a pattern made up of dots. Then he has connected these points in many different ways, creating different relationships between them.

Everyone will find their own shapes but always in relation to the leaf.

We could play the same connection-game with many shapes. For example, the graphic designer Serena Moundrouvalis created a template of starting points for inventing stars. The possible variations are infinite!

Could we apply the same awarness and research of connections in different fields than the visual one? Through some illustrated cards, called Metafore della conoscenza, Donata Fabbri and Alberto Munari (the son of Bruno Munari) invite us to discover the visual metaphors through which we organize and connect our thoughts: is it a labyrinth? Or a tree? A palace full of rooms? How is the visual representation connected to our way of thinking?

Another suitable field for playing with this “connections-game” is the story-telling and the narrative thinking, as connections between characters, things, places form the essence of every story.

This reminds me something I loved to do when I was a child. I cut out figures from magazines and put them in a bag. When I wanted to play, I randomly took out one at a time, put it on the table and gradually invent a story. I think I was designing ever-changing connections between those figures.

It works not only with cutout figures but also with every kind of objects and stuff, like fabrics, leaves, tickets, material fragments, memories, or even words. For example, how could you give value to some pieces of paper as they were precious remains and then combine them for inventing a story?

What other ways of creating connections do you know and use? You are welcome to share for enriching this list… The more connections we can create the more we can choose. Even when the elements we have seem to be few or not interesting, it is the quality of the relationship that can make a difference.

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