String art, Bridges Style

Craft & Design Education
String art, Bridges Style

For the Museum of Mathematics

Connecting the dots between the last two installments of Math Monday, the team got to see mathematical string art taken to a new level at this year’s Bridges conference.  Here are three recent works by David Press, which lift string art off of the (card)board and into the third dimension, using families of endpoints in different planes to create ruled surfaces embedded in three dimensions:

"Yellow and Red Phoenix" by David Press
“Yellow and Red Phoenix” by David Press
"Oval and Split Raceway" by David Press
“Oval and Split Raceway” by David Press
"Tirangle with Offset Half Circles" by David Press
“Triangle with Offset Half Circles” by David Press

Note that Press’s work also pulls in another recurring theme in Math Mondays: tensegrity. In many of his sculptures, one frame of endpoints is held in place only by the accumulated tension in all of the the strings.

Another idea that became clear at Bridges is that “string art” does not necessarily have to be about strings — there are other ways of making mathematical art out of many line segments.  Here are a couple of other pieces that show that this type of work should probably be called more generally “line art:” (Note that the first one is decidedly non-planar, and was created by 3D printing in plastic; the second is executed with pins and thread on cork.)

“Hurricane Sandy” by Manuel Diaz Regueiro
"E8 polytope stringy art" by Jose L. Rodriguez
“E8 polytope stringy art” by Jose L. Rodriguez

As always, if you know of outstanding examples of line art, especially if they come with directions that other makers can use and adapt, send the information along to

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Executive Director, Museum of Mathematics

View more articles by Glen Whitney