Ingrid Parrington is an American physician who has been turning Islamic geometric patterns into stained glass since 2018. A pivotal trip to the UAE exposed her to the beauty of Islamic art, and she has been a devout student of geometry ever since. She loves to travel and learn about different cultures. She has lived in many regions of the US and Japan and is currently based in New York.
We talk to Ingrid about using glass as a creative medium, the spiritual connection through her work and the future of Islamic art.
What made you interested in Islamic geometric patterns?
In 2018, I traveled to Abu Dhabi for work. While there, I was completely mesmerized by the geometric patterns that seemed to be everywhere. In latticework, prints, and especially the tiling and carvings at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I wanted to understand how they were made, and see if I could create them too. When I returned home to the US, I started looking up how to draw simple patterns. The more I learned about the different patterns and their originating regions, the deeper I fell in love with the art.
Your patterns are constructed using traditional tools and methods. Can you tell us more about your process?
Every glass panel starts with a blank page and an existing pattern I am trying to learn. I use a ruler and a compass to get started, drawing a straight line with a circle in the center. The circle gets divided based on the number of petals that will be in the final rosette, and further outlined based on surrounding pattern. There is a lot of trial and error! I’ve learned a lot from reading and watching tutorials, but it usually takes at least 3-4 attempts before I am satisfied with a drawing. It’s an immersive puzzle that depends on finding the right radius on which all the proportions are based.
Why did you choose glass as a creative medium?
I have always appreciated stained glass, particularly the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. When I returned home from the UAE, I took the plunge and enrolled in a copper foil method stained glass class. In class, we made simple beginner projects, and at home I was working on a 10-fold rosette panel. I studied Islamic geometry concurrently with learning stained glass. I love having a tangible way to feel every shape as it is made and see all the colors come together once a panel is complete and can be held up to the sun.
How do you come up with your colour compositions?
I am obsessed with color! The color scheme in my home is basically magenta, yellow and cyan, just like printer ink!
In glass, I am really drawn to blues and pinks. They just have an amazing glow when the light hits properly. I try to keep to a gradient if a project will have multiple pieces of glass, or use a couple of coordinating colors to show off the pattern. It all comes down to holding the glass pieces up to light and deciding whether they will work together.
What has been the most challenging work you have created to date?
At the beginning of 2020, I made a huge panel. It’s 80cm long and has over 700 pieces of glass. It contains a central 12-fold rosette that expands to 24-fold with surrounding 8-fold rosettes. It’s based on zellige from Marrakesh, Morocco. Figuring out the proportions made me crazy! I must have attempted that pattern 12 different times, and then I took a week off from work just to cut the glass. The size is daunting- it is a very fragile panel but I love how it came out!
Which artists inspire you?
I have drawn so much inspiration from Sandy Kurt, Ameet Hindocha, Samira Mian and Alan Adams. I hope one day to learn from them in person!
What do you hope audiences feel or think when they encounter your work?
I hope they get drawn into the beauty of Islamic geometry just like I did! I find it mesmerizing and meditative, and I hope others do as well. I also hope that art can be used to break down barriers and stereotypes about other cultures.
Is there a spiritual element to your work?
Absolutely! When I first became interested in Islamic geometry, I was drawn to it for aesthetic reasons. As I learned about the complexity and patterns-within-patterns that change depending on the viewer’s perspective, I grew a deeper appreciation for this art’s ability to allow a person to contemplate the infinite. I have made a couple of pieces using geometric designs to fill what would otherwise be a black background. The background is not darkness; it is the universe.
What are your aspirations as an artist?
I would love to make larger panels and installations. My dream is to make stained glass for a mosque. I would also like to learn about fusing glass, and add a three dimensional aspect to the geometric designs.
What does the future of Islamic art look like to you?
I hope Islamic art continues to modernize while also adhering to the basic structural rules and dimensions created hundreds of years ago. The slow and deliberate design process really brings out a sense of reverence and beauty for the observer, even when it is used as graffiti! I hope that design process is preserved and taken into account as electronic patterns are created and manipulated for different settings.
For more information check out https://ingridparrington.com/
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