Friends in Real Life – Man Opens Iconic Sitcom Cafe in Beijing

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If you were a fan of the hugely popular sitcom Friends, you surely remember their favorite meeting place, the Central Perk Cafe. Tired of just seeing the characters experience the coziness of that soft orange couch, one Chinese fan decided to create his own Friends cafe, in Beijing.

Like so many of us, Du Xin loved Friends. “I’m crazy about Friends. For me, it’s like a religion. It’s my life,” he told NPR. After watching the show, he started searching around Beijing for a place where he could actually sit on an orange couch just like the one his favorite heroes relaxed on in the sitcom. When he couldn’t find a Central Perk, he decided to create it himself. And he wasn’t going to settle for something similar, he wanted a place that looked exactly like what he’d seen on TV all those years, down to the tiniest details. Tucked away on the sixth-floor of the Chaowai Soho complex, this replica of Central Perk has the coveted couch, the same windows and doorway as the original, the brick interior and even the same hand written snack items featured on Friends. In order to nail all the things he wanted, Du studied thousands of photos of the show’s set and watched endless reruns, and five months later he had the cafe of his dreams.

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Artist Creates Incredible 25-Foot-Tall Castles from Icicles

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50-year-old Brent Christensen, an artist from Alpine, Utah, creates extraordinary structures that I thought only existed in my imagination and really cool fantasy stories. For the past four years, Christensen has spent his time perfecting the craft of making structures as tall as 20 to 25 ft, using nothing but intertwining icicles as building blocks. He developed an interest in the unique craft began way back in 2000, when he and his family moved from sunny California to chilly Utah, and he was looking for some fun outdoor activities.

“We started off doing winter stuff in the yard, playing around with the kids, making igloos, ice forts and slides and stuff,” he says. “And it just evolved. One year I stumbled upon the concept of doing icicles by spraying water. We made one with a big wooden frame under it, and when it melted in the spring it was a huge mess with a pile of soaking wood. The following year I didn’t use any wood so it would just cleanly melt away. During the course of that winter I stumbled upon the concept of fusing icicles together to make a lattice to spray water on and build upon.” It was then that Chirstensen began building his magnificent ice fortresses. Utah locals would often stop by his house to gawk at the castles. Once he got pretty good at making icicle castles, he approached a few resorts nearby and asked if they would be interested in displaying his work for their guests. It took a while before the manager of a small local spa and resort agreed, in 2009, but this small opening got him into the public eye and there was no looking back from there.

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The Stunningly Beautiful Porcelain Flowers of Vladimir Kanevsky

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Ukrainian-born artist Vladimir Kanevsky creates exquisitely handcrafted porcelain flowers that look perfectly natural, but never die.

From hyacinths and chrysanthemums to clematis and hollyhocks, Vladimir Kanevsky makes botanically-perfect flowers from porcelain. Inspired mostly by 17th- and 18th-century European botanical prints, but also by the glass flower collection at Harvard University’s Museum of Natural History, the talented artisan has managed to take this old craft to new heights. He not only models the delicate porcelain himself, but also does all the painstaking painting himself, often adding tiny imperfections like bent stems,spots or insect bites to make his creations look even more realistic. ”He’s one of the few people I know who can almost compete with Mother Nature,” longtime collector Caroline Roehm says about Kanevsky.

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Japanese Restaurant Uses Dirt as the Main Ingredient for Its Expensive Dishes

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While most chefs work hard to make sure no dirt winds up in their food, at French restaurant Ne Quittez Pas, in Tokyo, Japan, dirt is actually used as a key ingredient.

Mind you, this isn’t just any kind of dirt. It’s a special black soil from Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture, that’s actually been tested for safety, but it’s still the thing most people use to grow plants in. So how did dirt wind up on the menu of this respectable venue? Apparently, Chef Toshio Tanabe once won a cooking competition with his signature dirt sauce, and from that point on he put together an entire menu based on the unusual ingredient. Now the restaurant is offering dishes priced as high as $110 with Kanuma dirt in them.

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Vernon Spicer’s Incredible Pasta Paintings

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Self-taught artist Vernon Spicer, from Alabama, uses pasta like spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna and noodles to create his detailed paintings.

I’ve seen some pretty unusual materials used in paintings, but pasta is definitely a first for me. 71-year-old Vernon Spicer, a Vietnam veteran and pastor at a church in Selma, Alabama, got the idea of using the brittle material from a dream he had one night. It woke me up one night,” he told the Montgomery Advertiser. “In it, I could see something that had a three-dimensional design, one that involved me using sticks to create.” Instead telling him to get over it, wife Audrey encouraged him to pursue the vision and suggested he replace the sticks with uncooked spaghetti. That’s how Vernon’s career as an amateur pasta artist began. Now, six years later, Spicer can create some pretty amazing works of art.

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Designer Covers $500,000 Gold Ring with a Piece of His Own Skin

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The Forget Me Knot gold ring created by Icelandic fashion designer Sruli Recht is not your usual piece of luxury jewelry. The artist had a strip of his own skin surgically removed and mounted on a 24-karat-gold band.

We’ve featured some pretty bizarre jewelry on Oddity Central in the past, like the human-bone accessories of Columbine Phoenix, the finger and toe nail-clipping jewels of Rachel Betty Case, or the human hair necklaces of Kerry Howley, but Sruli Recht has managed to one up them all with his human skin ring. The eccentric designer shocked everyone when he decided to undergo surgery and have a strip of skin removed from his abdomen, to use on his very unique Forget Me Knot ring. After the operation, the 110 by 10 millimeters piece of skin, with the hair still intact, was salted and tanned before being mounted on the gold piece of jewelry. You can own this little part of Sruli Recht for the “small” price of €350,000.

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Italian Artist Turns River Stones into Life-Like Works of Art

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River rocks may not seem very interesting to you, but once you see what Italian rock painter Ernestina Gallina can do with them, I’ll bet you’ll see them in a new light.

Ernestina Gallina, from Cenestino, Italy has had a thing for the arts ever since she was just a child. She loved painting, drawing and modelling, but because her family never encouraged her to develop her skills, she never attended art school and she only exercised her artistic talents as a hobby. In 1987, she and her family moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where she discovered a yet unknown world – that of nature and animals. Then, one day at the library, she stumbled upon a book on rock painting, and became intrigued about how simple river stones could be transformed into nature-inspired works of art. It gave her the chance to combine her passion for the arts with her love of wildlife, so she started rock painting and never looked back.

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Artist Creates Hauntingly Realistic Portraits with Tulle Netting

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The tulle is that netting fabric you usually see on wedding dresses and other pompous gowns, but British artist Benjamin Shine folds and presses it to create these incredible portraits that look almost three-dimensional.

Armed with a household iron, Benjamin Shine uses a single piece of tulle, sometimes as long as 50 meters to make his mind-blowing masterpieces. He uses the transparent qualities of the netting to create tones and shadows that make his portraits look like photographs when seen from afar. While paints and pencils can also be used to create that illusion of a three-dimensional artwork, the tulle really gives a portrait more texture and depth, as you can see in the photos below. We’ve seen the old clothes iron used as an art tool just a few months ago,  but Benjamin Shine is on a completely different level.

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The Amazing Rice Grain Artworks of Chen Forng-Shean

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Taiwanese artist Chen Forng-Shean uses little things like grains of rice and sand to create awe-inspiring miniature artworks. The self-taught artist spends up to several months in front of a magnifying glass, working on a single piece.

Chen Forng-Shean has gained international recognition for his amazing talent of making incredible works of art out of the simplest and tiniest things, but the 58-year-old Taiwanese wasn’t always a miniature artist. Although he had an interest in the arts from a very young age and developed an interest in drawing and calligraphy, after his military service Chen got a job at the Central Engraving and Printing Plant, a division of Central Bank of China. It wasn’t a dream job, but it introduced him to various engraving tools he would later use in his artistic career. Each day after work, for 10 years, Chen Forng-Shean ran into his art studio, located on the second floor of his house, where he would work on his miniatures. Since miniature making was a disappearing art, he had no masters to consult with and learn from, so he had to not only develop his own tools and techniques, but also his very own style. It was a painstaking and time-consuming practice, but Chen slowly started to create amazing works of art, and the world began to notice.

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Return of the Invisible Man – New Stunning Camouflage Works by Liu Bolin

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Liu Bolin, the man who took the international art world by storm, in 2009, with his incredible ability to merge with the environment, has returned with a new series that makes him even harder to spot.

Nicknamed the “Invisible Man”, Liu Bolin is a master of camouflage art who spends up to 10 hours blending into various backdrops, with the help of paint. He puts on a suit and waits patiently as his helpers cover him in paint matching the colors of the background, until he becomes almost impossible to spot. Passionate about his art, this human chameleon he tries to get every little detail, every crack and crevice just right for that one perfect snapshot.  His latest exhibition, Hiding in the City, at New York’s Eli Klein Art Gallery, features some of his best works yet. It wasn’t for the shoes sticking out of the backdrops, I probably would have needed to really look at the photos to figure out where he was hiding. My favorites are the panda camouflage, the magazine stand and the toy aisle, but every one of his creation is simply mind-blowing.

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Tibetan Sand Mandalas – The Sacred Art of Painting with Colored Sand

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Demolishing sand castles can be great fun. But what if you had spent weeks creating it painstakingly, only to have it destroyed at the end? Heart breaking, isn’t it? But for the monks of Tibet who create exquisite sand paintings, dismantling their work is the only way. This is said to signify the impermanence of life.

Sand Mandala, the art of creating intricate artworks using colored sand, is practiced by Tibetan monks as a part of tantric tradition. In the Tibetan language, the art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor (mandala of colored powders). As a part of the sand mandala, millions of sand grains are laid painstakingly into place on a flat platform. Several monks work on a single piece, which can take days or weeks to complete. The word Mandala means ‘circle’ in Sanskrit and is said to represent the cosmogram of a Buddha or bodhisattva. This could be the monk’s own, or of the one he wishes to appease. The art includes geometric figures and several Buddhist spiritual symbols. A sand-painted mandala is used as a tool for blessing the earth and its inhabitants. It also provides the monk who practices the art a visual representation of the enlightened mind of the Buddha.

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Okunoshima Island – Japan’s Rabbit Paradise

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Okunoshima is a small Japanese island, located in the Inland Sea of Japan, in the Hiroshima Prefecture. What’s special about this place is that it is completely crawling with rabbits – a bunny paradise of sorts. Nicknamed the Rabbit Okunoshima attracts thousands of animal lovers every year. Feeding bunnies can be one of the most relaxing pastimes, and people come here to do just that. The island is a popular day-trip and weekend holiday destination.

Okunoshima might be a place of natural beauty, but it has a dark, dirty past as well. In the early 20th century, it served as the base for the Imperial Army’s lethal gas operation. Over 6,000 tons of about 5 types of poison gas were manufactured on this very island between the years of 1929 and 1945. The mission was top secret back then, so Okunoshima was actually omitted from maps and workers were sworn to secrecy. Today, you can still see the ruins of these factories on the island. Given its history, there are several explanations of the unusually large number of rabbits in this place. Some sources say the furry animals were brought over during World War II, to test the effects of the poisonous gases. When the war ended, the workers are said to have released the rabbits into the wild. Other sources claim that a group of children were on a field trip at Okunoshima in 1971, when they left behind 8 bunnies. Well, we might never know how the first rabbits got on to the island, but they did their job well – copulating to make sure they left behind hundreds of their progeny to roam the island today. Hundreds might not sound like a lot, but on an island just 2.5 kilometers in circumference they make their presence felt.

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Nigerian Artisan Covers Car in Woven Raffia Palm Cane to Advertise His Business

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Ojo Obaniyi, a talented artisan from the Nigerian city of Ibadan has come up with an ingenious way of advertising his raffia palm cane weaving services – he covered the inside and outside of his Volkswagen pickup in the natural material.

There are a lot of raffia palm cane weavers in Nigeria, but one of them has managed to attract the attention of the whole internet, after photos of his unique advertisement-on-wheels were picked up by major news sites. 40-year-old Ojo Obaniyi had the original idea to cover up both the inside and outside of his small Volkswagen pickup in raffia palm cane. That includes the entire car body, the wheel caps, chairs, steering wheel and the entire dashboard. When he was done, he jumped in his one-of-a-kind vehicle and started driving around the city, attracting the attention of passers-by. Ojo, who has 20 years of experience weaving raffia palm cane, said “I wanted to prove a point that it is not only the educated elite that can make positive changes in society. We, the artisans also have talents to effect a change and make a positive impact in the society. That is why I decided that I too must do something that will make people to recognize me and know me across the whole world and by extension prove to the world that African and indeed the entire Black Race have very talented people.” This just goes to show you creative ideas and talent don’t need big advertising budgets to be effective.

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The Amazing Tree Houses of the Korowai Tribe

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In our part of the world, grown-ups are known to build tree houses for their kids, but there exists a parallel culture on this very planet, where the grown-ups themselves live in tree houses. I’m talking about the Korowai tribe of Papua, Indonesia, that has engineered and survived in towering tree homes as high as 114 feet above the ground. The tribe inhabits an inaccessible jungle located 150 km inland from the Arafura Sea, and was completely isolated from the world, until 1974, when they were discovered by a Dutch missionary. The Korowai tribe consists of a small society of traditional family ties, hunter gatherers who have been quite popular with the press for their cannibalistic tendencies.

However, what’s most fascinating about the Korowai people is the way they have designed their homes. There are a few reasons why they live up in the trees – to protect themselves from swarming mosquitoes, evil spirits, and of course, troublesome neighbors. What better way to escape the pesky next-door-neighbor than to hide up in a tree? Ideally, a Korowai tree house is constructed in a clearing, with a large Banyan or Wambom tree serving as the main pole. Once a suitable tree has been located, its top is removed. The floor frame is laid down first, made from branches and covered with sago palm. Walls and a roof are added, bound together with raffia. Additional poles are added to the corners for extra support. The average tree home ranges between 8 to 12 meters above ground level, but some go as high as 35 meters. Each house is sturdy enough to accommodate up to a dozen people.

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Illustrator Documents Her Shopping for the Last 6 Years by Drawing Her Everyday Purchases

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From everyday groceries to household appliances and rare souvenirs, artist Kate Bingaman-Burt, from Portland, Oregon, keeps track of everything she buys by making silly drawings of something she purchases every day. She started this habit six years ago and has since then published two volumes of a book on the topic, called Obsessive Consumption – What Did You Buy Today?

Kate Bingaman-Burt is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Portland State University, but she’s also interested in modern consumerism. In 2002, she started documenting her shopping by photographing everything she purchased, and continued doing so every day until 2004. Then, she decided to combine her artistic talents with her interest in everyday consumption by replacing the photos with drawings she did herself. For the last six years, she has been making drawings of at least an item she buys every single day. The six years of the project have been compressed in two volumes of a book entitled Obsessive Consumption – What Did You Buy Today? published by Princeton Architectural Press, but can also be viewed online, on Kate’s official website.

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