Workshop 4

Day 4, July 18th, 2019

volvelle or a wheel chart is a type of slide chart, a paper construction with rotating parts. It is considered an early example of a paper analog computer. Volvelles have been produced to accommodate organization and calculation in many diverse subjects.

The Getty Museum, Decoding the Medieval VolvelleRHEAGAN MARTIN | JULY 23, 2015 
 Volvelles were introduced to Europe in 1274 by artist and writer Ramón Llull, who worked in the Kingdom of Majorca (present-day Spain).”
Here’s how it works: Layered circles of parchment are held together at the center by a tie, allowing the user to rotate pointers to calculate the position of the sun (Solis) and moon (Luna) at different points throughout the year. A circle with letters in red also indicates the astrological sign associated with each period. A volvelle is a cousin of the astrolabe*. Volvelles are concentric paper or parchment circles used in medieval Europe to calculate the phases of the sun and moon, while astrolabes are instruments, often made of metal, used since antiquity to observe and calculate the position of celestial bodies.(Aside on etymology: Volvelle comes from the Latin verb volvere, to turn. It is occasionally seen spelled as vovelle, while its moving parts are sometimes referred to as rundells.)”


The First Paper Analog Computers, Volvelles 
(Part I: Calculators- Paper Prototypes)
Lesson Overview: Students explore volvelles, and their functions through images in the slides (including an image from a volvelle from France, late 16th-17th c. housed at the Chester Beatty Library) and physical examples of the contemporary versions of the volvelle. Students learn how to design and make a volvelle that calculates. For this workshop, the content has been adjusted to participants’ age groups in order to sustain accessibility and interest.

Subjects: Visual Arts and Math

Author: Pantea Karimi

Main Resource: Chester Beatty Library Archives

Other Resources: The Getty Museum:
Using the Signs & Seasons Volvelle:
Autumn Maker School: Volvelle:

Book: Reinventing the Wheel by Jessica Helfand, 2002

Workshop Time: Morning: 10:30 to 1:00          Afternoon: 1:45 to 4:15

Age Groups:  Morning, 12-14    Afternoon: 15-17

Use of technology in the classroom:  Students are given the opportunity to explore volvelles and the relevant subjects on the internet using provided tablets.

·        Volvelles: volvelle or wheel chart is a type of slide chart, a paper construction with rotating parts 

An astrolabe is an ancient tool used in solving problems that involve time and the position of the Sun and stars. Astrolabes can be used in timekeeping, surveying, geography, and astronomy to name a few disciplines. One of its most well-known uses is navigation.

·        Develop Visual Literacy and explore historical archives
·        Develop a practicum based on the history of science through scientific manuscripts and
·        Explore the intersection of art and science
·        Use art as a tool to explore scientific content
·        Effectively use the art and science resources offered by the Chester Beatty Library

Learning Objectives:
·        Exercise and demonstrate the use of the elements of design
·        Use materials, tools and processes from a variety of media (drawing, sculpting, and craft)
·        Handle materials effectively
·        Create original works of art in a specific medium using specific content
·        Produce creative works that demonstrate innovation in concepts, formal language and/or materials
·        Describe, analyze and interpret created artwork
·        Demonstrate problem-solving skills by providing a step-by-step approach to specific issues in workshop projects
·        Learn and explore science through the lens of art

Materials: Mixed-media papers, preferably not smaller than 9x12 inches.
Drawing papers, 
pencil, eraser, scissors, ruler
Copies of images for inspiration (refer to the end of this document)
Copies of the prototype model for inspiration and to give ideas to students
Colored pencils, sharpies (black and assorted colors) or markers
fasteners (for connecting various parts of the volvelle and for the rotation)

Required time: 20 minutes: introduction- presentation
10 minutes sketching and pondering ideas
2 hours of lab time (students develop their own works)

Workshop Steps:

                  step 1. Each student will be given a drawing paper to sketch primary ideas.
·        Step 2. Students use 1-2 mixed-media papers to create their volvelles: Students will use available templates in the classroom to trace the 1 volvelles circle and its arrow on their mixed-media paper (see below for image 1, for the template. Teachers should copy image 1 for students to use. There are 1 circle that need to be traced separately and 1 arrow to be traced on another part of the mixed-media paper. the 2 openings on the arrow need to be cut out using a Xacto knife to reveal the numbers). Students tape this template to their mixed-media paper and trace the circle first, and then trace the arrow second, using pencils by "indentation." Students must indent the center of the circle and on the arrow to identify where the fastener must go through for joining the arrow and circle. Process of indentation: Students need to press hard enough so that the volvelle's template creates an impression on the mixed-media paper. After they see the impression, students may trace it with a pencil or a pen to make the lines darker. 
·        Step3. Students add details such as numbers, illustrations, colors, texts, etc., to their traced circle and arrow and then cut the two out. This volvelle calculates numbers and must be traced neatly and precisely. 
·        Step 4. Students assemble the circle and the arrow using a fastener in the center to finish their volvelles.

See below for images 1-9 for volvelle's template and function's instruction and students' works

Students will be assessed on:
·        Good, precise drawing skills and attention to details to create the volvelle that calculates.

Images of the template to be used in the classroom:
image 1, volevelle template, circle

image 2, volvelle's arrow only (students use this template only for tracing the arrow)

image 3, the finished volvelle will look like this

How does this volvelle work? 

How to Add- For example: 9+8: place the arrow pointing to the numbers 9 & 8 on the blue circle, read your answer, the number 17 in arrow window A in the orange circle.
How to Multiply- For example: 9x8: place the arrow pointing to the numbers 9 & 8 on the blue circle, read the number 72 in arrow window B in the yellow circle.
How to Divide- For example: 72 divided by 9: place window B on the number 72 in yellow circle, then note the lower number 9 in the blue circle, read the number above 9, which is 8 for the answer.
How to Subtract- For example: 17 divided by 9: place window A on the number 17 in orange circle, note it is pointing to number 9 in the blue circle, read the number above it, 8, for the answer. 

Astrolabe, Chester Beatty, 16th c. Iran

Students' Works, Dublin, Ireland:

image 4

image 5

image 6

image 7

image 8

image 9

Photo by Chester Beatty

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