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A common pattern you will find in ancient Celtic art is the Maze or Key pattern. It was used as a filler for large blank spaces, to give them interest, and also as a pattern within other Celtic designs like knots and spirals. The Key Pattern is so called because the patterns it makes look a lot like the teeth of keys, all interlocked together. I also like to call them Maze Patterns because they remind me a lot of the old fashioned labyrinths that you could walk around in. Lots of dead ends and twists and turns!

I find one of the easiest ways to build nice, consistent Celtic Maze Patterns is to use graph paper. This gives you an even guide to follow as you plot out your design, and you can just follow the graph lines to draw your Maze patterns out. Each new step will be in red. As you go through the panels, old steps will turn gold, and there will be a new step highlighted, again in red.




First of all, mark off an area that is 8x15 squares large on your graph paper. In this area, make two diagonal lines, the first starting from the bottom of the upper left square, and then through the diagonals of six little squares to end one square up from the bottom of your marked off area. The next line starts one square over from where your last diagonal ended, and at the top again, as shown. It is not always essential to start the next diagonal one square over, and sometimes you start it at the top without moving over one square, or you can try it by moving over more squares. For this example though I'll just move it by one.


Now we add another direction of lines, and these ones start from the very edge of our marked off square in the bottom left corner, and across the diagonal to the very top of our marked off area. Notice that the line breaks on the middle, so it does not actually cross over our first lines. A good way to remember this is : if it touches the edges of the marked off area, then it breaks in the middle, and if it doesn't touch the edges, then it goes through the middle. It can only be one way or the other, one type line can't do both (touch the edge and pass through the middle for example). Make the other line from the top right corner and down the diagonal to the bottom edge, making sure it breaks in the middle too.


On our lines that do not touch the edges, we're going to add some arrow heads. Make the lines that point into the two corners longer, so that they go up to about one squares distance from the other lines that are there. They should not join these lines, they can go close, but shouldn't touch. The other end of our original lines that didn't touch the edges, points kind of to the center of the design. On this make a single line as shown on the tops and bottoms of the lines, with nothing going into the center.


Now we are going to make a bit different design in the center of this maze than triangles. In this one we are going to make a square spiral. First, start off at where the first half of the arrow head we just made joins with the arrow stem, and draw a line into the middle of our design, about 3 squares across.


Continue this line from each side, by drawing a line that is 2 squares across.


Continue the line again by drawing each into the design more, by one square this time, and then attaching the ends so your spiral is complete.


Now we make the ends on our other lines. On the lines coming from the outer corners, make a perpendicular line to end it. On the lines from the outer edges that go towards the middle, end it with a small line coming from only one side, going away from the center of the design.


Now we add all the little triangles to the design. Start in the corner, and make two triangles sit on the lines of the arrow heads, with the one side of the first triangle butting right up with the middle tail of the arrow head. Also add little triangles to the other long halves of the various arrow heads we've made. You'll notice that in this version I've chosen to make some of the little triangles bigger, which you can feel free to do where ever you have room in your own designs.


In this example you see another version of a center that you can do in your mazes. This one is quite common on the old Celtic manuscripts. Basically it is the same maze as we've just made for the outer part, but then to make the center I made two long triangles attach to the one part of an arrow head.


This example is again similar to what we've already done, with the exception that it uses a leaf shape in the center. These patterns can be intermixed or alternated if you are ever doing a border in mazes.


Continue to the Basic Step Pattern...


If you're enjoying these tutorials, don't forget that you can get a collected workbook edition, in both an instant PDF downloable eBook edition, as well as a coil bound print edition! These working copies have much more information than these online versions do, more explanations, examples, exercises to work through... become a Celtic art master!


All tutorials copyright Cari Buziak, 1995-current