Creativity Is: Soundweaving

Design & Designers, Fabrics & Materials

Soundweaving is an interdisciplinary, integrative and experimental art project by Zsanett Szirmay. She took traditional cross-stitching patterns used in Hungarian folk embroidery and transformed them into tape-like punch cards which in turn were played by a comb music player. (Follow the link to listen to samples.)

From the project Introduction:

“Soundweaving equally stimulates all senses, and calls for interaction. … It belongs to the analogue and digital realms at the same time as the handmade embroidery is translated into laser cut patterns. At the same time, the visual world is presented in audio, or rather the graphic aspect of music gets a role in developing the tunes.”


Zsanett Szirmay and Bálint Tárkány-Kovács. Photo by Sándor Fövényi; via Dezeen.

Zsanett Szirmay and Bálint Tárkány-Kovács. Photo by Sándor Fövényi; via Dezeen.

Szirmay was inspired by punch cards used in weaving machines to program patterns and in some musical instruments to produce music. She describes the roots of the project in an interview like this:

“I used to do folk dancing and wore traditional Hungarian embroidered clothes… Contemplating and taking it a step further, I was curious to find out what cross-stitched patterns might sound like.”

“The principles of [musical] composition are similar to textile design. Both areas use the prime form, inversion, retrograde and retrograde inversion… I played with these transformations in the creation of the punchcards with the help of musician and composer Bálint Tárkány-Kovács as co-producer.”

The punch card patterns themselves look like this:

Szirmay Punch Card Collage

Melodies 1, 2, 3 and 4 by Zsanett Szirmay and Bálint Tárkány-Kovács; collage by Eppu Jensen.

For exhibiting her project, Szirmay reproduced lace-like cross-stitch patterns on huge laser-cut sheets and surrounded the music boxes with these sheets and some original works of traditional embroidery.


Zsanett Szirmay and Bálint Tárkány-Kovács. Photo by Sándor Fövényi; via Dezeen.

(Additional reporting from Dezeen magazine and Colossal; both have multiple images of the project.)

I find the embroidery-to-music aspect of the project fascinating. Also, as a textile history nerd with some knowledge of traditional Finnish patterns and techniques, simply looking at traditional handcrafts in a completely new light interests me.

The hanging laser-cut sheets are the most impressive aspect of the project for me, though. The combination of traditional patterns with a modern production method works seamlessly, and reproducing several individual motifs on each sheet keeps the whole interesting. Despite the huge size, there is enough transparency to let some light through. In fact, you could model room dividers after them. Love it!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

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