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Ed Chapman

10 Mosaics Made With Unusual Objects

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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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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
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Art
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

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