The History of Stickweaving™

I can give you my own history with this woven joint, but I do not know where it came from or what it might have been used for, or by whom. All I can say is how it got into my hands and my own exploration with it. In 1980 I was shown a woven star-like symmetrical object made from welding rods. It collapsed into a linear bundle the length of the rods used to make it. There were four sets of three rods each, twelve individual rods woven through each other that allowed the object to open and collapse. Each end of the four sets of three rods were welded together holding the woven joint under tension. After observing the woven pattern it was clear how it moved in three directions perpendicular to each other. Each set of three rods was woven in the same relationship to each of the other individual sets of three. It was a beautiful easy movement with many possible reconfigurations since nothing was fixed except the ends. Each set of three rods could slide through the center weave changing the outward look of the star while the center weave remained unchanged. Having seen a lot of movement systems, this was unique to my experience.

Borrowing this object I spent a few days studying the weave to understand and reproduce it. In researching I was able to find only a couple of reference to this particular weave. The first was in a book by Buckminster Fuller, either “Synergetics” or possibly “Synergetics Two”. He describes weaving twelve rods in parallel groups of four together forming the Vector equilibrium pattern. There was also a patent in the early 1950’s for a table with the same woven pattern, except it was welded into a fixed position with no mention of the movement inherent to the weave design. Since then I have seen a number of geometric models using rigid triangular tubes woven in the same arrangement Fuller describes. They were mostly static models without ends attachments or movement. By attaching the ends of each set a tension is created as they become bowed and out of parallel. Later I ran across the same weave except the straight rods were curved around into circles leaving no ends to be welded together. I was given the name of the person who made it, but was unable to locate him and have not seen anything quite like it since. A woven joint appears in the movie “Good Will Hunting” on a table in a background shot. A more complex version of the woven joint (six sets of five rods each, pictured below) was featured in the introduction to the movie “Catholics” later renamed as “Conflict” from 1973 with Martin Sheen.

In welding up multiples joints and attaching them by various means I found that in various nets the movement of the individual joint was amplified and took many interesting arrangements reflecting geometric functions. The larger the net, the higher frequency of joints, the more compliant the net became with greater variations in the movement and extended possibilities for reconfigurations. With each stage of weaving sets together different symmetries are formed and other directions of forming open up. By using flexible connectors between the joints different kinds of nets using multiple stages of weaving will reconfigure in very different ways. Each stage of weave displays unique aspects of geometry inherent to the woven pattern.

I started a business to research and develop product from the joints. Much work was done on the woven joints during that time. Three patents were granted on movement systems based on the weave before the business failed. We had developed robotic prototypes, deployable mechanism for space use, shelters and potential for other practical applications. I started doing stickweaving workshops in a few schools and found that 5th and 6th grade students love doing the weaving, were excited and showing me things I had not seen about the movement. There was strong potential for this weaving method as a teaching tool that extended the meaning of traditional static models used in geometry. There is value in demonstrating the transformational nature of geometry by weaving these joints and developing movement systems.

After the collapse of the business and many years later I picked up some straws and some string and was weaving again doing workshops in a few schools. The uniqueness of the weaving as a teaching tool again caught my attention. I explored the art of the weaving for a few years until many of the rubber connectors started to break down and the pieces fell apart. In the mean time I had put together step-by-step teaching materials for students I have worked with. (That material will be soon be available on this site, so keep an eye out if you are interested).

That is the short side of the story about the development of the weaving while it has been in my hands. I’m sure there is a long and interesting history to these woven joints that goes way back somewhere in the past. Maybe there are others of you with your own story of involvement with this woven pattern. If anyone has information to add I would like to hear about it, and will post it on this site to share with others.

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©2007 Bradford Hansen-Smith