The Continuous Thread

ChengI recently came across an article about Alfred Cheng. He’s an artist from Hong Kong who uses thread to create realistic portraits of celebrities. What’s amazing about Cheng’s art is that he uses a single thread to craft each of his masterpieces; and that thread is 5,000 meters long. That’s 15,000 feet of thread!

Cheng starts with a digital version of the photograph he wants to recreate. He converts it to grayscale, adjusts the contrast to create the right mix of highlights and shadows. Then he uses an algorithm to map out the precise method of wrapping his thread around over 300 nails he’s hammered into a circular frame.

As Cheng spends weeks wrapping the black thread around the nails in an intricate pattern, layers of dark begin to outline the portrait and fill in shadows to create the stunningly realistic images. His work requires incredible focus as a single mistake can ruin the work. He could get out of sequence, warping the image, or break the thread; wasting all of the work that came before that point.

I watched a video of Cheng working, and it occurred to me that we are all in the business of creating art.

  • Cheng works to create a portrait while we work toward creating profitable customer relationships.
  • Cheng analyses each piece to determine the correct spacing of nails and wrapping pattern. We approach each customer as an individual with their own specific needs.
  • Cheng depends on layers of thread to create a masterpiece. We layer positive experiences to build trust and loyalty.
  • Cheng uses nails to anchor his thread, linking one to another to reveal an image. We use various touchpoints (face-to-face, telephone, email, online) to weave an intricate web of service.
  • A single mistake by Cheng can ruin weeks of painstaking work. A single misstep on our part can damage or destroy a relationship.

We do have one advantage over Cheng though. While he labors alone, we have an incredible team working alongside us every day. I’ve never thought of myself as an artist, but I am proud to be associated with so many of you who dedicate yourselves to the art of improving the lives of your customers and coworkers.  Together, we create some amazing works of art.