12 Apr GIANT STRING ART: HOW TO NAIL IT
We keep getting requests for a post on the string art from our party, so here is a picture of me posing like a twat and some info on how to do it…
For most people ‘string art’ brings up memories of school library decor and 80s art teachers, but blow it up 800%, add some plywood and neon wool and you’ve got yourself the hipster must-have for a party, wedding, pop-up or even in your home. The first sign I made was for A Most Curious Wedding Fair, which we attended last year. I wanted to somehow recreate our logo over the fabulous rainbow hair photo on our banner image. At first I thought of a giant woollen plaited sign, then my mind wandered to string art, and the idea for the sign was born.
To make one of these, you don’t need any maths skills, just an eye for repetition and some patience. The only tough bit is all the hammering; it’s good to get a helper to save your thumbs. There are two versions: the simple one like the Ladyland sign above, where you make one shape with text inside it. Or a double design like our first birthday sign, which featured two different layers. A rectangle with a circle inside, then letters inside the circle shape which was done in black as a contrast.
- A piece of plywood (or MDF) – I used ply that was 18mm thick, you could go thinner on a smaller piece.
- A hammer and nails – they need to stick out of the wood by about an inch, so the length of nail depends on the thickness of your ply. The nails also need to have a good head on them so the string doesn’t pop off.
- Lots of coloured wool – don’t use actual wool, use acrylic because it’s much cheaper (mine was £2 a ball).
First mark up your wood with the design you want. You need to decide where your negative and positive space is. For instance, for the Ladyland sign, above, I filled the negative space around the letters with wool, instead of the letters themselves. This has more impact than just putting wool around the letter shapes and means the big rainbow effect is more visible. I printed out the letters, cut them out and stuck them on loosely with masking tape. Don’t trace the letter shapes onto the wood because you’ll still see your pencil lines and they don’t always come off with a rubber. Just nail around the pieces of paper. For the Ladyland sign, I made each letter individually because they were massive, but for our first birthday sign, I cut the whole design out and left the letters empty. This meant that they didn’t move around while I hammered them in and the letters all remained in place. (I’m a graphic designer – bad kerning makes me itchy).
Now add the nails, about an inch apart. You could make them closer together for a smaller piece, but whatever the distance, keep it consistent for all the nails if you can. This will make the design nice and dense.
Make sure you put a nail in the very corner of each letter. For a letter like E above, this is pretty easy, but for a letter like S, you would have to pick the points of the curve that will give the best definition of the letters.
Now add the border nails. Again, make sure they are the same distance apart the whole way around for consistency. It’s easy to get half way around and think, “I might just make all these ones a bit further apart because that means less nails and my fingers hurt”. But don’t do it! Keep it consistent.
Once you have all the nails in place, tear off the paper and you’re ready to start with the wool.
Tie the end of the wool tightly to a nail on the outer row of nails. Start in one corner and work your way between the outer row of and the inner row. You can run the wool back to the same nail a few times to make a fan shape with the lines. You can also start to run it around every second nail in a row to phase out a colour. Once you’ve finished with that colour, tie it off at a nail, and cut off the excess.
If you’re making a rainbow shape, work out how many colours you have first, so you know how far to go with each colour before you start the next one. I found it looks best if you criss-cross the colours by adding the lines at differing angles, then you get a really warped, trippy effect… and you may have to take a break if you’re using really bright wool before you lose the plot! If you need to unravel and start again, it only takes a minute to get back to where you are; it’s surprisingly quick to do. You end up finding a good rhythm and the patterns will start to emerge.
If you’re going to add another colour, like the black I added to our birthday sign, do it once the background colour is complete; this means it will sit nicely on top of the nails that also hold the background colour. Repeat the same process again if you’re doing a double-coloured design.
I found that the letters on the birthday sign weren’t that readable (I probably should have made them a little bigger, they were about 12 cm high) so I added a white layer on top to define the edges of the letters. Personally, I think it looks a bit cooler without the defining line, the letters on the Ladyland sign look a bit better, but if you have to do small letters, it’s a good way to keep it legible.
Tie it all off at the ends and snip the extra wool off and you’re ready to party. I have made these ones with plywood but it would look pretty awesome nailed directly into a wall… if you dare! Just keep in mind that the nails are really sharp, so you wouldn’t want to put it anywhere someone might fall on and take an eye out!
Ooh, and we discovered it also makes a great dart board after a few drinks if you have any swizzle sticks lying around…
Styling: Emma Scott-Child
Photography: Emma Scott-Child and Dee Ramadan