Spinning Thread Into Illusions

What can you do with a few hundred spools of thread in various colors? If you’re Devorah Sperber you can make amazing upside down portraits of pop culture icons and classical artworks that can only really be seen correctly with a large convex lens that helps squish the image together and flips it right side up again for your viewing pleasure.

Technically, the works could also be seen from a distance so your eyes would be able to view the spools as thread as mere color pigments instead of bulky objects, but unlike similar large-scale works by other artists, Sperber intentionally creates her designs for the use of the convex lens, which flips images. That means that if you backed up far enough to see the colors turn into their intended subjects, the image would still be upside down.

Of course, like any true artist, Sperber’s methods vary from piece to piece. She occasionally will create designs that are right side up and she has been known to use other materials besides thread.

For example, in these Star Trek images, she shied away from thread spools and instead turned to tiny faceted beads. This technique works particularly well on the members of the U.S.S. enterprise as it replicates the way the characters looked when they were being teleported (or “beamed”) to or from the ship.

I know some people on the site have a rather limited definition of illusions, but for those that are more open to artistic takes on our basic methods of perception, what do you think of Devorah’s work?

Are her anamorphic creations illusionish enough? And if you don’t consider them illusions, do you at least enjoy her art?

43 Replies to “Spinning Thread Into Illusions”

  1. I love all of these. I’m a costumer and work with thread daily, but I’ve never thought about doinng things the way sperber did. It’s given me some ideas for my work.

  2. “I know some people on the site have a rather limited definition of illusions” Well said. I’m sure someday they are going to say that this world is photoshopped.
    As for the illusion, quite good.

  3. they are illusions… but really really simple ones….
    on the other hand their wicked art
    I like the startrek one – id love it if it wasnt for the mirrors… one kirk is enough!

  4. Love them, I think its so clever, esp the star trek ones, what an amazing idea, has it been done before?

  5. there is NOTHING anamorphic about this work – its thread upside down – any convex lense will turn any subject upside down ….
    and its certainly not an illusion ….. ever looked through strong glasses that were not made for you ? -> fish-eye

  6. these look great!
    some aren’t really illusions, but the first and last its difficult to make out the image until the lens is added. probably has something to do with the mind filling in the gaps for the smaller image. very enjoyable.

    1. They are truly amazing.so time consuming that you can see her passion for these works.True Illusion? I’m not sure I know the true definition of the word illusion. Anyway she is a true colorist. I say COOL

  7. Not really an illusion, but good nonetheless. It seems that the content here is getting a little worse and worse

  8. These are amazing. Illusion? Art? What does it matter? It opens the mind to all sorsts of possibilities.

  9. I call that crazy talented! Also very fitting the since Will Shatner (Capitan Kirk) just turned 81 this week (March 22)

  10. I am continuously surprised @ how creative and artistic some people can be. Thanks for something new, at least to me.

  11. The idea may not be unique but the medium might be. I love it when artists use a variety of colors. Good job!

  12. Never mind what the purists say. Some of us are just happy to experience the same WOW that you find each day. Whether it’s an illusion or a work of art or whatever, just know that there are people out here who share your sense of wonder. Thanks for the website.

  13. Good effort. I don’t think it’s art because the images aren’t original. I don’t think they’re illusions because, well they’re not. They are just basic images presented in a unique fashion (my opinion.) Good effort. Well done. I like the concept but the execution? Not so much.

  14. I was at an art museum a few years ago and Sperber’s thread art was on display there. Absolutely amazing what she did with simple spools of thread. There was even one of The Last Supper that was mindblowing. It’s nice to see some of this art here on this site.

  15. Of course it’s an illusion. The thread behind the lens gives a visual that’s not really there. From an art perspective, I really love the illusion of depth that the artist renders in her work. Her use of materials to create these images is quite spectacular. I also love the beadwork, which does give the appearance of the characters beaming in or out.

  16. An offering that gives us the opportunity to struggle with 2 definitions: What is Art?, and What is an Illusion? Thank you, Ms Harmon, for such a relaxing Sunday morning challenge.
    Speaking for myself only, “Art is What You Can Get Away With” was but one of 1,00’s of definitions given over the centuries by artists themselves. That quote came from a incredibly famous artist but he was publicly chastised for making a comment that suggested that (god forbid) anyone could potentially be an artist and that “getting away with it” implied that intentional deception or an appeal to the baser human emotions that aroused any feelings at all were as valid as the higher echelon art inspired by loftier ideals and a deep trust in the muse that crated the inspiration. Nonetheless, that phrase, “intentional deception” is the basis for 99% of the images on this site. The fact that this artist “shows her hand” by requiring a tool, ( a convex lens), seems to disappoint some of the viewers, or worse, reduce these works to “tricks” that anyone could manufacture. Possibly. I have watched people working with beads and thread. I know they have the completed garment in their mind as they focus on a tiny section of the whole.
    To have in mind a completed image of the shimmering, quasi-solid bodies being transported confirms that this was a work made intentionally to deceive…to give an illusion originally created as an illusion-a “special effect”-of human bodies reconstituing. Did the artist “get away with it”? Judging from the comments, I’d say she succeeded. It just that Art isn’t that easy to define and as for the ultimate definition of “Illusions”, the fact that we can look at a screen besotted with pixels that, given the proper command, form into the letters of the words that you reading, when in fact these words are not printed, suggest to me that Optically Speaking, we have already actively participated in a benign manipulation and must therefore hesitate to label anything created–or displayed to use-by virtue of a graphics card, non-illusory. It is perhaps the unworkability of any single definition for either term that causes us to immediately and intentionally click to open our email…because at least there we will find Truth and Reality. I have a headache. Thanks for your patience.

  17. Saw Grant Wood’s American Gothic at the Rochester, NY museum. First time I’d seen anything like this. Truly amazing!

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