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Pearls on Velvet

Star Charts as pretty to Touch as to See

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'Star charts should be full-size! That means 8½ X 11", each constellation with its own wooden frame, and filed nicely in a portable box. If the charts are nice to touch, all the better.'
And how did we reach this conclusion? Join us on this adventure, and we will give you the tools to put families of stars into your hands.


Meet Robbie, posing here with her favorite rock, a log at the Petrified Forest. She accompanied her husband to a Scout leader training several years ago, and listened in as the students talked about the stars and planets they gazed at. Robbie asked "What do the stars look like?" There followed a profound silence. Mark (Robbie's husband) answered, "A whole lot of points of light in the sky in a pattern." Said Bill, "The points of light remind us of needlepoints." Sam added, "They are different colors, some blue, some red, some white." "They are really very far apart, right?" Robbie observed. "Yes, and yet, because of the way we see them, we see the patterns of the constellations.", Mark finished.
Robbie asked Mark if he could make a couple of star charts so that she could at least understand the patterns of some favorites. Remember, poems and other literature make much commentary about the stars. Robbie loved some of the constellations already, such as Orion, Pegasus and the Summer Triangle. They soon realized that to really do the job up right, Mark must make a full set of star charts, at least, of constellations seen from the northern hemisphere.
Later, they added the Winter Hexagon and the Circumpolar constellations.
"Like hot needlepoints poking out of a very cold background" and such descriptions are scientific, but do not explain why the night-sky is nice to see. Poetic license is necessary here, and Mark thought of jewels on a dark cloth, and eventually, pearls on velvet.
Mark thought it only fair that his wife should enjoy the skies as much as he did. He visited websites (several listed below), and read about the magnitude of stars shown by the size of dot. Robbie pointed out that a good tactile illustration is big enough so that the details do not run into each other.

Links RE tactile charts

We take this moment to thank the people mentioned in the above websites, and many others, for their hours and years spent developing the craft of tactile illustration. Their work and their sharing put this project within reach.

Star Mask Star Chart

We knew what to do:
Plot the constellations, each on a scale to fit an 8½ X 11" frame. Look up the magnitudes and write them in. Draw in the outlines. These are the masks.
Create charts, using the masks to place the stars with crosshair accuracy.

For your enjoyment:

We invite you, our visitor, to print out some star-masks (PDF pages), and make some charts, using your own materials and your own ingenuity!

Acknowledgments & Links

Thanks for traveling with us! Come back again.

Copyright © Mark Wanamaker   All rights reserved.