String Art Making its Way into Living Rooms

String art is the process of creating geometric designs by weaving colorful string, wool, wire, or yarn between hammered nails. Thread lines are used by artists to produce carving patterns that can take on a variety of appealing shapes. Using thread and nails to create angles was an organic notion that evolved into a unique style of art. Not long ago, it was not well understood in Addis Ababa. Since recently, however, this form of art is making its way to luxurious residences and taking center stage at art exhibitions, writes EBR’s Trualem Asmare.

The original purpose of string art was to illustrate mathematical and engineering concepts. Mary Everest Boole, an Englishwoman and educator, developed it and introduced curve stitching  as a way to make math enjoyable for her young students.

String art and curve stitching started out as  practical tools, employed by the likes of Pierre Bézier (a French mathematician and engineer) in automobile design back in the 1960s. His innovation, named the Bézier curve, is still used today in computer typeface creation and animation. The practical tool, however, has evolved into a form of art over the past few decades, growing in popularity across the globe.

The trend has also caught on in Ethiopia, and string artists have been cropping up in the capital. These artists have been engaged in the creation of a variety of designs, including landscape, interior, and home decor, as well as text art and logos for businesses. Artists are slowly coming into the limelight as demand for string art picks up, with some setting up workshops and stalls in some of Addis Ababa’s renowned hotels. Hotels and restaurants also happen to be the biggest buyers of string art pieces, although more and more people are choosing these works as decoration for their homes or as gifts for friends and family.

Tizita Roma is a string artist who studied architecture at Adama University. The 26-year-old claims she first came across the concept of string art on social media. She enjoyed it and was eager to start practicing it herself. She began to do so, initially using software before moving up to do portraits and patterns. It has been two years since she picked up string art. Her first piece, she told EBR, consisted of text, specifically the word “Jesus”. She relates that it was challenging to get started on string art. Tizita struggled to find adequate working space and did not know what kinds of supplies she needed to get started. Among the tools is a medium density fiberboard (MDF), of which plywood is a readily available type.

Eventually Tizita figured things out and began experimenting with string art. Not long after, she was part of a group of students that shared her fascination with the craft. The group was divided into four sub-groups, each of which consisted of members from two families and four distinct departments (computer engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture, and grade 12 pupils). They began working after renting a studio in the Bole Arabsa neighborhood in the outskirts of Addis Ababa.

“Up to this point, we have completed 80 works; 50 of them have been submitted for exhibition; the remaining pieces were created on  clients’ orders and included patterns and logos,” said Tizita.

Hotels, restaurants, and private clients who buy the pieces as gifts are some of their customers. The group has been working for two years to stage an exhibition of their works, foregoing attention to marketing and sales as a result, but had been unable to organize the event due to a lack of sponsors.

Things turned around at the end of 2022. For a week between December 17 and 25, Tizita and her peers managed to put on an exhibition at the Hotel De Leopol. The show included both patterns and portraits of public figures such as President Sahlework Zewde and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D.). Pieces were on sale for anywhere between ETB 7,000 and ETB 250,000. Government offices bought four of the works that were on display.

Among those who attended the exhibition were Dr. Hiwot Kassawu and renowned artist Sertse Firesibhat.

Thomas Gemeda is one of those who exhibited his string art. He was taught how to make string art by teachers who make the art themselves.

“I am very excited to see my friends at this level, and I will inform others to visit their works,” Thomas told EBR.

Tizita observes that much has changed since she first began experimenting with string art, much of it for the better. Among the positive changes is an improved reception of string art. People used to find it difficult to take it seriously, according to Tizita. Now, it has come a long way, and is a point of pride for her and her peers.

For Tizita, string art is not just a source of livelihood but a platform where she expresses herself with freedom. It excites her and takes her imagination beyond limits, making the whole experience an indispensable part of her life.

“We have thought of opening a string art school and have talked with the Addis Ababa Culture and Tourism Bureau,” says Tizita. “We are keen on sharing the skill with others, despite the little support we are getting from the Bureau.”

According to studies, string art provides a number of health advantages. String art elevates the spirit, which has a positive or negative impact on everything one does. One can reduce stress, elevate mood and enhance mental processes by weaving string among and between hammered nails. On top of that, the relatively new art form offers young people a fresh perspective on art and can help them develop fine motor skills. EBR

11th Year • Jan 2023 • No. 114


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ethiopian Business Review | EBR is a first-class and high-quality monthly business magazine offering enlightenment to readers and a platform for partners.

2Q69+2MM, Jomo Kenyatta St, Addis Ababa

Tsehay Messay Building

Contact Us

+251 961 41 41 41