Just don’t lose the thread

Also known as string art, thread art has been popular since the nineteen-seventies. A new technology is now taking this art form to the next level with impressive 3D effects.

Just don’t lose the thread

Friedhelm Limbeck, an inventor from Bad Muenstereifel, is considered to be the father of thread art, selling over a million string art handicraft kits in Germany in the seventies. The art involves using thread to create a geometrical pattern by winding it around nails hammered into a board. The technique is still very popular today, particularly in the do-it-yourself scene. All sorts of different templates and instructions are available on the Internet from a wide range of forums.

Artist Ani Abakumova and her husband, Andrey Abakumov, have taken the idea of thread art to a whole new level with astonishing results. They recreate famous old masters with very complex thread patterns. A special algorithm that they have developed themselves determines the route of the thread and how the individual layers overlap to create a realistic representation of the Mona Lisa or a copy of the portrait of Girl with a Pearl Earring, for example.

Ani Abakumova creates the thread pictures by hand. More than 8000 tensioned lengths of thread with a total length of about four kilometres gradually take the form of a multi-layer portrait approx. 70 cm in diameter. Husband Andrey Abakumov looks after the digital side of things by creating the designs on the basis of algorithmic calculations and mathematical formulae. Taking a photograph as its basis, his software analyses the millions of different possibilities there are for placing the threads and ceases once it has found the algorithm that comes closest to the original. This is then used as a basis for the thread picture. You can see some of Ani’s ‘making-of’ videos on the Art Nitka YouTube channel which show how the works of art are created.

As well as female portraits of the old masters, the artist couple have also created other textile motifs, such as animal heads or Hollywood stars. At the moment the couple are considering offering their skills to anyone who would like to have their portrait done in thread art. Personal portrait orders will be accepted in future.

Images: Art Nitka