Mini-Lesson: La Chaine
For those of you have had the chance to pick up a copy of Moor, you know the importance we ascribe to this simple motif. Its name, in French, means “the chain.” The chaine is the most important linear element in Moroccan design, and is drawn in a few different ways, the most common being with a simple zigzag sandwiched between two sets of parallel lines. When the chaine is drawn by Moroccan naqashat, it has a distinctive messy look. This is important because as a motif, the chaine does two things- it creates a boundary, but also recedes into the visual background- it gives just enough interest to move the eye, but not enough to distract from the other, larger motifs or the design as a whole.
So, when creating chaine motifs in your own work, remember to leave it a little bit messy. When the triangles of the zigzag become too defined, it begins to creep up visually, and changes the effect of the design as a whole. It helps to think of the chaine as three parts, in order: one set of parallel lines, one zigzag, and another set of parallel lines. Create the zigzag quickly, in one smooth motion, without pausing, and you should have the right effect.
Some chaine examples for you, from our work: