viznut's amazing discoveries

[2007-04-17]

Pixeling with a needle

Some days ago, I arrived at the MySpace page of this guy who has been making some wonderful video game cross-stitch art. That is, using needles and colored threads to recreate sprites and scenes of 8-bit video games.

[Bubble Bobble cross-stitch]

This technique dates back thousands of years, and its resemblance with the computer-era pixel art is striking. The first time I noticed the similarity was when I was a little kid, however I didn't even know the name of the technique until I had seriously started to research the deep prehistoric origins of computer art.

Cross-stitch is not the only form of ancient embroidery that resembles pixel art. Here's some beadwork based on Space Invaders: (source)

[Space Invaders beadwork]

Google actually finds quite a lot of people who have been doing beadwork with video game motifs.

For comparison, here's some traditional Peruvian beadwork:

[Peruvian plasma effect beadwork]

Note that it seems to be purely abstract. It also seems somewhat algorithmic, maybe conceptually related to our good old plasma effect. If I understand correctly, the oldest embroidery patterns still in use are the abstract and algorithmic ones such as this one. Here's yet another one, in cross-stitch this time:

[Abstract embroidery]

Ethnomathematics is an area of science that is interested, among all the other topics, in the mathematics of traditional artforms. Just a hint to anyone who is interested in some deeper study.

By the way, there's also string art, which is clearly a needle-and-threads version of vector art, but it seems to be a relatively young phenomenon in comparison:

[String art flower]

Altho there are conceptual similarities between the "needle world" and the "computer world", there's a striking contrast in the motifs, especially when compared to the hobbyist computer art of the 1980s and early 1990s. The cliches that appeal to young males simply are quite different from what old females have chosen: traditional cross-stitch isn't exactly full of skulls, naked women, spaceships, swords or dragons, and neither are there many old-school cracktros with flowers, idyllic red houses or cats sleeping in baskets.

But the boundaries are not as deep anymore. There's the video game cross-stitch guy, demoscene productions containing flower effects and even a girly subgenre of pixel art. We're living interesting times, say.