Room-sized spirograph

Drawingmachine by Eske Rex from Core77 on Vimeo.

I love the way this thing looks like a cross between some kind of medieval engineering project and the best playground equipment ever. Made by Eske Rex—a Swedish-born designer who'd never heard of the toy Spirograph—it's based on a piece of 19th-century technical equipment.

Instead, he was inspired by the harmonograph, a mid-19th century mechanical apparatus that produces Lissajous curves, a complex family of shapes studied by mathematicians. While the harmonograph uses one pendulum to control a drawing device and a second to control a canvas, Rex's design calls for a two-pendulum device with a static canvas.

The Drawingmachine, Eske's name for his device, which produces art but is also itself considered an installation piece, uses two pendulums supported by large structures that stand at two ends of a similarly large canvas. The pendulums are connected to support systems (drawing arms) that meet in the middle of the canvas at a 90-degree angle and hold a single ballpoint pen, as you can see in the embedded images.

Video Link

Via The Atlantic


  1. You can’t help but feel a little bad for this artist, who presumably created this thing in earnest, only to have every putz who walks in say, “Oh, a giant Spirograph, how cute!”

    And then he tries to explain whatever he had in mind when making it: how it represents the way the masculine and the feminine collaborate within us all to crea — and people interrupt him and say, “Dude, it’s a giant Spirograph. Get over yourself.”

  2. I received a similar toy contraption as a kid in the early 1970s — it hung over the edge of a table corner, used water-filled bags on dowels as pendulum weights, and suction cups to hold the framework in place. Fussy set up, but it worked. Don’t remember what it was called.

  3. What kind of pen is THAT? That seems like a good way to test pens. Maybe we could finally find out if a Skilcraft pen (manufactured by the blind in the USA!) really can write for one continious mile.

  4. I remember a photography magazine I had as a child back in the 1970’s that had plans for a similar setup using a colored pen light and big sheets (well, 20″ by 20″ or so) of color print paper. It had reproductions of a number of works by the author, including some that had several different colors superimposed on each other. Very pretty. Of course, that machine did its work in the dark so you couldn’t really watch it.

  5. So what starts this thing moving?

    Does it have electomagnets at the top mount point of each pendulum or something?

    Or do you just pull them back and let it go?

  6. The Cincinnati Children’s Museum has 2 of these. A small one anyone can walk up to and play with and a large one they roll out on special occasions.

  7. My alma mater, Amherst College (Massachusetts), has a desk-sized harmonograph stationed on the 2nd floor of its science center, with the canvas positioned at the top of a table. The setup is very similar (though scaled-down) to the Drawingmachine, though the omni-directional joints are stuck at the top of the pendulum (beyond the fulcrum point). As an added twist, you can adjust the position of the weights on the pendulum, to create even more complex Lissajous curves. I have fond memories of creating all sorts of neat curves before my Physics lectures and labs!

  8. Ah cool a giant spirograph :P and at the people who keep saying it isnt one. no it might not be a couple of pieces of plastic and a pen. its a few big bits of wood and a pen, but the art created is the same.

  9. I love the scale this one.

    The other commenters are correct, it is not a spirograph but is in fact a harmonograph.

    One of the neat things about a harmonograph is the pattern decays to the center where a spirograph will meet up with its starting point. Some people believe the patters of a harmonograph is a close visual representation of music.

  10. Cool yes, but there has been something similar at Questacon in Australia for at least 20 years

  11. I built a similar (though much smaller) harmonograph in my garage about 6 months ago. After the pen and paper got boring I traded the pen for a fiber optic cable and the paper for a long exposure photograph. It turned into some pretty neat light paintings.

  12. This far too cool. Thank you, I know several kids who will get a kick out of this (more than a few adults as well).

  13. wow, cool! no matter if this exists already in some form or another – kudos to this artist for creating something wonderful. i could watch/listen to it for minutes on end.

  14. The scourge of our civilization… erroneous Spirograph identifications!

    Fortunately experts showed up to swat that misinformation down. And so many of them! How do they find the time?

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