Zhang Dexuan – The World’s Only Hair-Woven Portraits Artist

While  Zhang Dexuan’s hair-woven portraits may by just slightly bigger than a fingernail, but their incredible detail require weeks, sometimes months of work.

66-year-old Zhang Dexuan, from China’s Sichuan province, claims he is the only artist in the world able to create detailed portraits from strands of human hair. Using just five simple tools and a magnifying glass, Zhang manages to created incredible portraits, from hundreds of hair strands collected from members of his family. Judging by the tools used, you might think the art of weaving hair is pretty simple, Zhang Dexuan claims he is the only hair weaving artist on Earth, and has practiced it for the last 54 years.

The average diameter of a young person’s hair strand is 0.7 mm, while old people’s hair is just 0.5 mm in diameter and Zhang makes use of both kinds in his artworks, so you can imagine how delicate the process of creating the portraits really is. Just so you can get an idea of the difficulty of this ancient art, Zhang Dexuan has to control his breathing while working, so he doesn’t break the hair strands.

At the end of October, during an exhibition in Chengdu, Zhang Dexuan explained the process of creating his unique hair-woven portraits. To create an artwork more than 10-cm-thick, he first creates a blueprint more than 100 times larger and then spends months weaving each individual strand of hair. Though each portrait contains around a few hundred hair strands, Zhang spends a good amount of time just selecting the best ones. On average, he ends up picking just one hair out of 10,000 examined strands.

When he was just 30 years old, Zhang Dexuan remained the only man able to create portraits from hair, and despite his efforts to convince his children to carry on this ancient tradition, the difficulty and patience required was too much for them to handle. Last year, in a desperate effort to find an apprentice, he exhibited his work in Chengdu, and much to his surprise, his work attracted a lot of attention. He is now happy to be teaching 20 apprentices who will keep the art of hair weaving alive long after he’s gone.

Among the personalities depicted in Zhand Dexuan’s portraits we mention actor Jackie Chan, American president Barrack Obama and the Mona Lisa.


Photos by CFP