What is Domino?

A domino is a small rectangular block, usually thumb-sized, with one face bearing from one to six pips or dots (see Domino). 28 such pieces make up a complete set of dominoes. The term may also refer to any of the various games played with them, often by placing them in lines and angular patterns. The fact that a single domino, when tipped over, can cause the next in line to tip and so on is the origin of the phrase the domino effect, which describes events that lead from a small initial action to much larger-—and sometimes catastrophic—consequences.

The word domino is in the process of being reclaimed by Merriam-Webster, which lists the definition as “a tile or block having one or more identical faces, each bearing dots or pips that form a number or total.” It also notes that it can be used in a number of ways: “to show the number of a person or thing; to indicate rank or position; to describe a sequence of actions, events, or results.”

Dominoes are often made from materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, and dark hardwoods like ebony. The pips are either painted or inlaid. Traditionally, they are used for playing positional games in which one player places a domino edge to edge with another domino, usually leaving the first one’s surface blank or marked only with a ridge so that its pips will be easily seen.

When someone plays a game of domino, they begin by drawing seven dominoes for their hand. The remaining ones—known as the boneyard—are left face down on the table to be drawn later if necessary. The player who drew the highest double or the highest domino plays first, and then each subsequent player must play any of his or her dominoes from the hand. After each player has played, the bones left on the table are redrawn and another round of play begins.

Creating a domino masterpiece takes a lot of patience and practice. Hevesh sets up test versions of each section and films them in slow motion to ensure that the dominoes will work together. When she’s satisfied, she begins to build her final setup, adding bigger 3-D sections and then connecting them with flat arrangements of dominoes.

Hevesh has created a wide range of domino installations, from a simple rainbow spiral to her most recent creation, a 15-color spiral made of 12,000 dominoes. As she works, Hevesh considers the theme or purpose of her design as well as any images that might be used. She makes sure that her creations are safe and that they have an element of surprise or humor.

The way that Hevesh builds her designs is similar to the way that novelists write their books. Whether they work off the cuff or follow a strict outline, the main goal is to craft an exciting story that keeps readers engaged. This requires a lot of experimentation, trial and error, and rewrites to find the perfect balance between action, reaction, and consequence.