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By on March 23, 2012, with 43 Comments

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.

Spinning Thread Into IllusionsTechnically, 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.

Spinning Thread Into IllusionsOf 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.

Spinning Thread Into IllusionsFor 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.

Spinning Thread Into IllusionsI 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?

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


43 Responses
  1. Steve says:

    Very nice!

  2. Cheddar says:


  3. breandan says:

    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.

  4. KessBD says:

    Super beautiful work. Thanks for the little nugget of inspiration.

  5. Chandan says:

    “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.

  6. lulu bear says:

    uh..not really an illusion. :-I

  7. eric says:

    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!

  8. Susan Pickup says:

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

  9. bob says:

    this is very cool
    i think im the first

  10. Mary says:

    I LOVE them. So much imagination of how to use different techniques and so much time put into them.

  11. shinichi888 says:

    Awesome! So smart!

  12. shinichi888 says:

    Awesome! That’s sooo smart!

  13. Kelsey says:

    Likes these – very clever

  14. jeffrey says:

    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

  15. Ethan says:

    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.

    • adrienne greenberg says:

      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

  16. jim says:

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

  17. Yimmer says:

    AWESOME!!!! Esp the Star Trek.

  18. z2d4th says:

    What a great idea.

  19. Care Bear says:

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

  20. Jace says:

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

  21. tarnsman says:

    Works for me.

  22. JacLan says:

    Very original

  23. chance says:

    HA first comment, i think thats pretty cool

  24. RN says:

    It’s very cool, actually.

  25. auntem321 says:

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

  26. GID says:

    Yes, I believe her work is ART. Ibelieve that a lot people will understand her work.

  27. nikki says:

    this is amazing….simply amazing

  28. Claudia Carlsen says:

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

  29. why me!?!? says:

    if only i had 100 spools of thread. if only…

  30. 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.

  31. AB says:

    Ditto what care bear said. I like and appreciate!

  32. Aza McG says:

    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.

  33. Louie says:

    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.

  34. anonimo says:

    a lot of work..

  35. jynxofthetealeaves says:

    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.

  36. AmetuerAspirant says:

    if i had that kind of talent… i would be rich! enough to gloat about it to my sister :)

  37. bottom2topjk says:

    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.

  38. Jan Wanless says:

    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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