John Kostick’s first inspiration came when he attended a lecture by Buckminster Fuller in 1962. Back then Kostick was studying Physics at Brandeis. Kostick instantly picked up on the fact that one could create unique spatial structures using simple, easy-to-obtain components. It was out of this idea that John Kostick’s famous stars were born.
Kostick soon became so fascinated with the concepts and structures learnt from Fuller, that he devoted his entire time to building spatial models. The Tensegrity concept, credited to Kenneth Snelson had him particularly ensnared. The Tensegrity concept consists of struts or sticks hung together by a group of tension members like wire or string. The struts do not touch or overlap in any way, but maintain their position due to the tension of the string. Symmetry and structure is obtained by combining simple linear opposing forces like pushing and pulling forces, and compression and tension.
John Kostick’s models have always had their base in mathematics. He designed his forms while taking into account both mathematical theorems and concepts and the physical properties of the materials he used. He translated geometric forms and their abstract lines into actual physical components held together by synergistic forces. Most of his models are based on the Tensegrity concept. The most easy-to-understand application of the Tensegrity model is the magnetic puzzle. One can see an explicit tension network replaced by magnetic couplings. Struts are not connected to each other but are held together by tension. On the other hand, Kostick’s stars use deflection, achieved by twisting wires, to create the tension network. Kostick worked in Roxbury, Boston during the years 1965 and 1971. At that time, he banded together with his friends and established his first company – Omniversal Design.
The company had its origin in Kostick’s design studio and workshop. Omniversal Design made use of the designs Kostick had developed in his early years and began to manufacture commercially viable products out of them. They initially started producing furniture, table bases and space frame sets. Soon they began producing metal objects modelled on the principles of Geometry and Physics. These came to be known as stars! The materials used in production were steel, bronze, silicon bronze and others. Some stars were flexible and foldable, while others were static. Kostick developed and perfected the process of manufacturing these stars in 1969 and the same process continues to be used till date.
Kostick’s stars are a beautiful amalgamation of science and art. The idea of building mathematical objects having structural integrity, using only low-cost components and creating a beautiful end product, was very appealing to Kostick. He succeeded in creating miniature wire sculptures having both strength and flexibility, and which did not require any specialised machinery to produce. The stars made both Geometry and Physics fun!
John Kostick has received patents for some of his star patterns , (U.S. Patent no. 3,546,049, 1970). Many of the other patterns used by him, have been discovered independently by other mathematicians. According to Kostick, this proves the mathematical concepts that the stars are based on. In his own words, the stars are “mathematical truths that you can hold in your hand”.