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Labyrinth Tutorial A

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How to do the traditional Cretan labyrinth pattern as a bead.

At the top is a picture of how to draw a traditional Cretan labyrinth on a flat surface. The part I call the "heart" there is what you see on what I call the "front" of the labrysphere, and the eight connecting lines are what you see going across the "back" -- they are the light colored raised parts; the top and bottom ones are barely visible. (Keep in mind that the light-colored parts of the bead correspond to the black lines on the upper diagram. I may revise this tutorial later to make the similarities clearer).

When looking at the "Front" picture, you see one hemisphere. The ends of the cross shape, the ends of the four L shapes, and the four little corner bits inside the L shapes are sixteen points around an imaginary circle dividing the front from the back. If you take a ball (like a ping-pong ball or a large wooden bead like I used) and mark those 16 dots (it may help to actually draw the imaginary line first) and connect them to form the cross and the Ls, all that is left is to draw the eight lines shown in the classic diagram.

If you look at the "Top" picture, the red dot is at the top of the cross; and you can see that the line 1 starts there, curves around and joins to the top of the upper right L. Line 2 starts from the top of the upper left L and curves around to the upper right corner dot. Line 3 starts from the upper left corner dot and curves around to the right end of the upper right L. Line 4 starts from the left end of the upper left L and curves around to the right arm of the cross. And so on. Or since, on a sphere, the "inside" is the same as the "outside", after you draw the first four lines you could just turn the sphere over and draw the last four lines the same way you drew the first four. Once you are done, you can take a pointer and trace the line from the "inside" (the dark hole at the center of the "Top" picture" to the "outside" (the dark hole at the center of the "Bottom" picture.

When I made my carving, I drew the walls (now the light areas) with pencil, carved the paths (now the dark areas between them), painted everything with india ink, and then sanded it down. This removed the ink and the pencil ines I drew for the walls, and left the deeper parts, the path, black. I drew the lines for the walls so that the ends of the hole through the bead would be at the inside and outside places of the design, so that if you consider the path as going through the hole, it forms a continuous loop.

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I wish I had invented this, but I don't know who did. A picture of one of these spheres was on page 129 of Labyrinths & Mazes, by Jurgen Hohmuth, with no caption or explanation, and I worked it out from that. I've since done more elaborate versions, and put other mazes on spheres (including a maze I was asked to design).

Hohmuth's book has a lot of pictures of mazes taken from above with his remote controlled camera blimp, and I recommend it if, like me, you are a labyrinth fan.

My most recommended book on the subject is also titled Labyrinths & Mazes, and is by Jeff Saward. One item in this book is a system of labyrinth analysis called compression diagramming, and he uses it to show that several other labyrinths are symmetrical when drawn on a sphere, including the famous Chartres cathedral one.

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NOTE: This is a revision of my earlier tutorial, to correct some minor errors and combine the two reference diagrams into a single one. NOTE: further revised to include the book by Jeff Saward.
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Getaro's avatar
I'm in love with labyrinths, these ones, hence my icon, hehe..
And I have drawn and painted them on 3D objects aswell, but I never knew about this, wow, I need a labyrinth sphere now!
DonSimpson's avatar
It now seems likely that more complex labyrinths can be mapped onto spheres. I hope to write this up when I know more.
Sholosh's avatar
DonSimpson's avatar
Indeed. For me it repays study.
Sholosh's avatar
I going to dig one on my land this year.
Approx. 18 m. in diameter.
DonSimpson's avatar
 Please post photos.
RedBreed's avatar
DonSimpson's avatar
medik47's avatar
Very nice tut, Don, and an excellent bead.

Back in '07 I did a bunch of internet research on labyrinths and eventually spray-painted (in day-glo green) a temporary one on the lawn at our church. It enjoyed a moderate attendance. It was a modified/ simplified "Chartes"-style. If I remember correctly it was a 5-ring about 30 feet in diameter.

There's also a concrete 7-ring in park in nearby Bellflower, CA. I've walked it a couple of times.

Keep up the good work, my friend, I still enjoy your designs.
DonSimpson's avatar
St. Albans Episcopal, near me, has a permanant labyrinth pattern in their entry courtyard, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has one, and there are labyrinths in at least six other Bay Area churches and at least three of the local parks. Plus some at schools, spas, and such. I designed a labyrinth for a local festival, and am designing another for a friend. Some of this will probably show up in my gallery at a future date. :)
technochroma's avatar
This is a great tutorial...thank you...I will have to check out the book you reccomend...just picked up a book full of native american designs...am very interested in the worldwide use of patterns and designs which are abstracts of transcendent thinking.
DonSimpson's avatar
It's a pricey book, but the photos are amazing. Let me know what you think of your new book.
suridhondlavagu's avatar
This is Called "PADMA VYUHAM" from Indian mythological story "Maha Bharatham".It is a design of a trap in war created by 'Kauravas', to defeat ';Pandavas'.
DonSimpson's avatar
It is in many places and many stories. I had not heard of this one. Thank you. :)
lava-tomato's avatar
I remember seeing labyrinth instructions like this years ago back in elementary school or something. I drew out a labyrinth and glued yarn over the paths...

I want to try this again on a bead now.
DonSimpson's avatar
Kenthayle's avatar
I was a week too fast for this tutorial ... I was doing sketches for Threefold and looked up labyrinth patterns when I absolutely failed to figure it out on my own. Still, doing the pattern on a sphere makes a neat three-dimensional version of it. I would never have thought of that.
DonSimpson's avatar
I think the neatest part is the way the "inside" and "outside" become identical and symmetrical. Until I made one, I would never have thought that was possible. There is something I find magical (in the sense of producing an unusual and pleasant mental effect) in actually holding one of these and tracing the path, which is one reason I'm encouraging other people to make them, even just a simple pen or pencil drawn one.
LaChinitaFe's avatar
very nice of you to share! Thanks Don
DonSimpson's avatar
I want to see more people doing these. :)
LaChinitaFe's avatar
Doing Labyrinths or posting tutorials???

By the way your labyrinth has been a mental mantra for me lately.
I have discovered that I was looking for a “linear” direction to my “cyclic” patterns in life. By reviewing your labyrinth bead I consciously and subconsciously realized that I was trying to reach and attain a point. ';p

Thus if I reached a point in my mind I would no longer feel the need to neither grow nor continue further. Relatively regress rather than experience and progress.
Thus this representation of the sphere (bead), along with the Labyrinth (originally represented as a linear / although circular formation) combined with the point to thread the bead ☺…through...well, It has all brought me to a broader perspective and I believe it has actually changed me unconsciously. Phew! :phew: Thank you!!

I hope to expand on this in my current piece somehow…titled ‘Dragon Wind’ [link]


If I do not add the labyrinth now it is due to the fact I am still caught in it …(LOL)

Have a WONDERFUL DAY!!!
DonSimpson's avatar
I meant doing labyrinths, but I like to see people posting tutorials, too. :)
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