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Ed Chapman

10 Mosaics Made With Unusual Objects

Original image
Ed Chapman

Mosaic art dates back thousands of years, with classical works made of stones, glass, or ceramic tiles. Many modern digital artists work with individual pixels on a computer, but others still use physical objects to create mosaic art, piece by piece. What they use to make those mosaics is quite varied, limited only by the imagination and the availability of mass quantities of the chosen medium. Also, there may be something in the water in Michigan that inspires the use of unusual mosaic media. Here are some of the more unusual objects mosaic artists use.

1. Bacon

Jason Mecier is a mosaic artist who uses food and other small household objects to to create celebrity portraits. The medium he selects can be symbolic, such as the collage of hair care products that make up a portrait of Ru Paul, or a pun, such as the mosaic portrait of Condoleezza Rice made from rice. Mecier's series of portraits made with pills illustrates celebrities known for their drug use, most of whom are deceased. He also did portraits of the two 2012 presidential candidates made of beef jerky for sponsor Jack Links. Mecier's latest viral sensation is a portrait of Kevin Bacon composed of 15 pounds of bacon!

2. Butterfly Wings

Russian artist and entomologist Vadim Zaritsky is a lifelong butterfly collector, but it saddened him to see the most beautiful part of the bugs, their wings, thrown away if they became damaged or disconnected from the body. Even before Zaritsky retired from his career as a policeman, he began creating mosaics using butterfly wings! His works include landscapes, portraits, fantasy images, and even mosaic versions of classic works.

3. Corks

Grand Rapids artist Scott Gundersen makes portraits out of corks. The portrait shown here titled "Trisha" is composed of 3,621 wine corks! You can see Gundersen in action assembling a previous portrait of almost 10,000 corks in a time-lapse video. He is constantly on the lookout for more corks to use.

4. Pushpins

Michigan artist Eric Daigh uses pushpins in only five colors to recreate huge photorealistic (from a distance) portraits. The advantage of pushpins is that you know how to affix them; the disadvantage is that Daigh must sort each color from variety packages. One portrait may require up to 11,000 pushpins!

5. Cupcakes

The London bakery Crumbs and Doilies was commissioned to assemble 10,000 cupcakes into a room-sized mosaic of a flowering cherry tree for the Japanese TV show ITTEQ. The cupcake mosaic recreated a photograph, and did it very well! See more pictures of the project at the bakery site.

6. Coffee Beans

Albanian artist Saimir Strati makes huge mosaics out of varying items like nails, toothpicks, and corks. In fact, he is the Guinness World Record holder for the largest mosaics ever. The work titled "One World, One Family, One Coffee" required over 300 pounds of coffee beans, estimated to be about a million beans, to make a 269-square-foot mosaic.

7. Rubik's Cubes

Designer Pete Fecteau (formerly of Michigan) created a mosaic of Martin Luther King, Jr. called "Dream Big" out of 4,242 Rubik's cubes. Each cube face has a grid of nine color stickers, and each cube had to be "solved" so as to present the right combination of pixels to render the proper gradient. The Rubik's cubes were rented, and returned when the mosaic was disassembled. Photograph by Tori Jo.

8. Bottle Caps

Chicago artist Mary Ellen Crocteau works in many media. Her eight-foot self-portrait is a mosaic of bottle caps. Crocteau also posted some of the technical details of her bottle cap mosaics in case you'd like to make your own.

9. Guitar Picks

Manchester mosaic artist Ed Chapman works with various materials for his mosaics, and thought guitar picks were the appropriate medium for a portrait of guitarist Jimi Hendrix. The music mosaic was sold for £23,000 at a charity auction that benefited a cancer research center.

10. Sprinkles

Candy sprinkles are tiny, and as pixels of a large mosaic, they can render unbelievable resolution. Canadian art student Joel Brochu made a four-foot-wide mosaic of a Beagle having a bath using candy sprinkles. He's getting sprinkled - get it? This project required 221,184 sprinkles, each of which Brochu placed by hand. Okay, now consider that the sprinkles he used only came in six colors and had to be placed just so to render the exact shades of the photograph he recreated. Impressive accomplishment, indeed!

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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
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Animals
Scientists Discover 'Octlantis,' a Bustling Octopus City
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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Octopuses are insanely talented: They’ve been observed building forts, playing games, and even walking on dry land. But one area where the cephalopods come up short is in the social department. At least that’s what marine biologists used to believe. Now a newly discovered underwater community, dubbed Octlantis, is prompting scientists to call their characterization of octopuses as loners into question.

As Quartz reports, the so-called octopus city is located in Jervis Bay off Australia’s east coast. The patch of seafloor is populated by as many as 15 gloomy octopuses, a.k.a. common Sydney octopuses (octopus tetricus). Previous observations of the creatures led scientists to think they were strictly solitary, not counting their yearly mating rituals. But in Octlantis, octopuses communicate by changing colors, evict each other from dens, and live side by side. In addition to interacting with their neighbors, the gloomy octopuses have helped build the infrastructure of the city itself. On top of the rock formation they call home, they’ve stored mounds of clam and scallop shells and shaped them into shelters.

There is one other known gloomy octopus community similar to this one, and it may help scientists understand how and why they form. The original site, called Octopolis, was discovered in the same bay in 2009. Unlike Octlantis, Octopolis was centered around a manmade object that had sunk to the seabed and provided dens for up to 16 octopuses at a time. The researchers studying it had assumed it was a freak occurrence. But this new city, built around a natural habitat, shows that gloomy octopuses in the area may be evolving to be more social.

If that's the case, it's unclear why such octo-cities are so uncommon. "Relative to the more typical solitary life, the costs and benefits of living in aggregations and investing in interactions remain to be documented," the researchers who discovered the group wrote in a paper published in Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology [PDF].

It’s also possible that for the first time in history humans have the resources to see octopus villages that perhaps have always been bustling beneath the sea surface.

[h/t Quartz]

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iStock
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This Just In
Criminal Gangs Are Smuggling Illegal Rhino Horns as Jewelry
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iStock

Valuable jewelry isn't always made from precious metals or gems. Wildlife smugglers in Africa are increasingly evading the law by disguising illegally harvested rhinoceros horns as wearable baubles and trinkets, according to a new study conducted by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

As BBC News reports, TRAFFIC analyzed 456 wildlife seizure records—recorded between 2010 and June 2017—to trace illegal rhino horn trade routes and identify smuggling methods. In a report, the organization noted that criminals have disguised rhino horns in the past using all kinds of creative methods, including covering the parts with aluminum foil, coating them in wax, or smearing them with toothpaste or shampoo to mask the scent of decay. But as recent seizures in South Africa suggest, Chinese trafficking networks within the nation are now concealing the coveted product by shaping horns into beads, disks, bangles, necklaces, and other objects, like bowls and cups. The protrusions are also ground into powder and stored in bags along with horn bits and shavings.

"It's very worrying," Julian Rademeyer, a project leader with TRAFFIC, told BBC News. "Because if someone's walking through the airport wearing a necklace made of rhino horn, who is going to stop them? Police are looking for a piece of horn and whole horns."

Rhino horn is a hot commodity in Asia. The keratin parts have traditionally been ground up and used to make medicines for illnesses like rheumatism or cancer, although there's no scientific evidence that these treatments work. And in recent years, horn objects have become status symbols among wealthy men in countries like Vietnam.

"A large number of people prefer the powder, but there are those who use it for lucky charms,” Melville Saayman, a professor at South Africa's North-West University who studies the rhino horn trade, told ABC News. “So they would like a piece of the horn."

According to TRAFFIC, at least 1249 rhino horns—together weighing more than five tons—were seized globally between 2010 and June 2017. The majority of these rhino horn shipments originated in southern Africa, with the greatest demand coming from Vietnam and China. The product is mostly smuggled by air, but routes change and shift depending on border controls and law enforcement resources.

Conservationists warn that this booming illegal trade has led to a precipitous decline in Africa's rhinoceros population: At least 7100 of the nation's rhinos have been killed over the past decade, according to one estimate, and only around 25,000 remain today. Meanwhile, Save the Rhino International, a UK-based conservation charity, told BBC News that if current poaching trends continue, rhinos could go extinct in the wild within the next 10 years.

[h/t BBC News]

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