If you think carving a pumpkin is challenging, wait until you see the “prayer nuts” made by Dutch artists in the 16th century. These small, neurotically detailed treasures were carved from a single nut to resemble religious scenes. Each nut holds a spectacularly complex scene that contains a numerous amount of characters to construct religiously important events such as the crucifixion. All of this amazingly crafted imagery is inside a nut that is only a few inches in diameter! Not only are the interiors of the nuts carved into a fine detail, but the outsides are elaborately carved as well. The exterior shell of each nut features a decorative design carved into it, which is revealed once the prayer nut is closed. This way, whether the nut is open or closed, it shows off its stunning design.
Artisans created these delicate masterpieces during the Middle Ages so that individuals could use them privately when they pray. They were small enough to be carried in a person’s pocket and beautiful enough to hang on a rosary. Because the prayer nuts such took incredible skill, not to mention an unbelievably steady hand, only the wealthy and powerful could afford them. Because of this, they also became a social status of wealth. The same thing can be said about many products in contemporary society. Possessing something expensive that creates a convenience to you and can also fit in your pocket – this is not unlike the modern day smart phone. Valuable and beautifully crafted items are still in high demand today. However, these 16th century prayer nuts are much more rare than the latest iphone. They can be found in museum collections all over the world including the British Museum in London and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.(via Juxtapoz)
Artist Takahiro Iwasaki is a master when it comes to constructing elaborate, miniature landscapes. However, these small-scale scenes are not formed from Lego’s, but from much more unlikely and unstable items such as cloth fiber, dust, and human hair. This Japanese artist takes the most miniscule, seemingly insignificant materials and uses them to create something incredibly complex and enchanting. His newest installations, which are part of the series titled Out of Disorder, contain mini-scenes of recognizable landmarks such as Coney Island, ferris wheel and all. Inspired by painted landscapes on Japanese folding screens, Iwasaki comments on his work in relation to its inspiration.
“Just as the artist of the screens did, I would like to revisit a commonplace everyday scene from today’s Japan, and just as the screens embody a smooth flow from one season to the next, I hope to capture, in my work, the graceful transition of a Japanese landscape from past to present.”
Each tree, building, factory, and rollercoaster in Iwasaki’s work are brightly colored and fragile, as many of them are enclosed in a glass case. This glass reveals one of the most captivating elements of the landscapes; the layers of clothing that make up the earth in many of the installations. Each cloth is filled with diverse colors and clashing patterns, revealing a mishmash of layers that resemble section of sediment in the soil. They form the rolling hills and steep slopes that make up the miniature environments. However, not all of the artist’s creations are constructed from recycled cloth, but from toothbrushes, as well. Telephone towers sprout out of Iwasaki’s toothbrush bristles in this strange yet familiar installation. Out of Disorder is on display now at Takahiro Iwasaki’s first solo show Takahiro Iwasaki: In Focus at the Asian Society Museum in New York. (via Spoon & Tamago)
Jess de Wahls is a London-based artist whose colorful multilayered and multifaceted textile works incorporate feminism, gender equality as well as recycling. Using a variety of fabrics, beads, and other materials, she creates 3D portraits that depict strong, inspirational women of all ages, shapes, and ethnicities. She sees her pieces as a way to raise awareness of gender inequality, explaining to TextileArtist.org, “…all the while celebrating great minds and artists of the past and present.”
In her artist statement, de Wahls also goes on to say:
Their influence on myself as a modern woman, Feminist and Artist, on Feminism as a whole and on their position as Role models to young girls growing up in a society that has, no doubt, come a long way in liberating its women but has yet a great length ahead of it. Not to mention the work that needs to be done in other parts of our planet, where women are to date still oppressed, belittled and generally treated as second class humans.
So, by creating these pieces, she ensures that their legacy isn’t forgotten.
De Wahls unique style is the product of a self-made called Retex which is short for recycled textile sculpture. She explains:
For the medium of Retex Sculpting, old garments serve as fabric for the works and cushion filler helps me to create a relief that raises the silhouette off the canvas creating greater depth.
The box-frame, in which the work is mounted, is integral to the piece and can be seen as a modern day relic box. (Via TextileArtist.org)
Artist Gianluca Traina’s series titled Portrait 360 combines photography and sculpture to create alluring, mysterious objects. Mannequin-esque heads are covered in distorted, mosaic-looking squares that are simultaneously recognizable humans yet pixelated and indiscernible. To craft these works, Traina first shoots photos of anonymous subjects and focuses on their faces. He then uses a warp and weft technique to weave the 2D-images into 3D paper busts.
In the blurred surface photos, you can tell where the skin ends and the hair begins, as well as where features like the eyes and nose are. But, those things don’t always match up with the attributes of a bust. Eyes are on the back of the head and hair covers the nose and mouth. There’s no front or back anymore, and instead there’s a constant play between photographed surface and the sculpted one. (Via Hi Fructose)
Philadelphia-based artist Mike Tanis produces intricate paper sculptures using a combination of origami and kirigami techniques. If you’re not familiar with what those are, they’re Japanese art forms that fold and cut paper in complex ways without the help of glue. Here, Tanis has used these methods to create abstract structures that appear soft and wavy as well as splintered and fractured. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell that they’re made of paper.
Tanis tells Quanta Magazine that he uses a scalpel to make any cuts and doesn’t use directions or crease patterns. “I start with a folding technique or principle and improvise once I start to feel the 3d form developing,” he explains. The results are dramatic forms that are reminiscent of architecture and nature. His taller, cut-paper structure mimic skyscrapers while his completely-folded pieces conjure images of the beach or a mountainscape.
It’s no secret that Melbourne-based artist Phil Ferguson is fond of food. After all, giant slices of crocheted pizza, cracked eggs, bacon, hot dogs, and much more are strapped onto the top or side of his head. They take the form of decorative hats and costumes that frame the wearer’s face, and their larger-than-life scale makes them a delight. Ferguson posts as @chiliphilly on Instagram where he has 14.2K fans (at the time of writing).
The artist is originally from Perth in Western Australia, and he started crocheting the food and sharing on Instagram as a way to connect with other artists in the area. It all began with a burger that was inspired by Tuck Shop Take Away, his place of work. “From that point onward I thought about how to do food hats,” he told Daily Mail. “[Food] has been the most accessible thing people can relate to and it will stay that way until I’m bored.”
Depending on the design, Ferguson is able to complete a piece in two to three days. The artist describes himself as a self-taught crocheter (he watched instructional YouTube videos) who has never learnt to read patterns. Even so, he’s crafted 24 delectable creations so far. (Via Daily Mail and Milk Made)
Encased in white-framed boxes are Crystal Wagner’s intricate cut paper sculptures. Like specimens meant for studying, parts of textured tentacles and honeycomb-esque patterns wrap around themselves as well as non-representational wavy shapes. Wagner’s work is meticulous, and each scalloped edge has its own slightly-curled edge. It’s reminiscent of a dragon or a reptile, but not one that we’ve ever seen before. The vibrant colors feature jewel-toned gradients that push her sculptures from quasi-reality into full-blown fantasy.
These works first made their appearance at the Hashimoto Contemporary gallery in San Francisco in 2014. Her exhibition was titled Synesthesia, and the intention was to explore the psychological realm between the familiar and strange. The gallery writes, “…combining screen printing, cut paper and various dollar store items, Wagner meticulously assembles her sculptures with a sense of organic growth. Allowing her materials to build upon themselves, layer by layer, each structure swells into a mass of movement, as if grown from the soil of another planet.”
Artist Marlene Hartmann Rasmussen’s series Nightfall explores what’s beyond the land that we know – in this case, the forest. Through intricately detailed ceramic sculptures, she creates pieces that are familiar-yet-strange. Acorns double as eggs in a bird’s nest that are tended to by butterflies. Large worms curl up in the same way that you’d see a cat, while others drift over heart-shaped pieces of wood. These beautiful oddities examine the forest as a metaphor for dark, unknown parts of our identities. Rasmussen explains:
The forest as a place of enchantment is a recurring theme in European literature and myth, and can be traced back to primitive mans awe and fear of nature which gave rise to ancient cults and pagan rituals.
The forest is a metaphor for the hidden realms of the unconscious mind, a social construction that simultaneously embraces the sinister darkness in which the savage and beastly thrive on the other hand the supernatural, romantic and nostalgic world of the fairy tale.