Ukrainian Artist Creates Incredibly Detailed Artworks from Sand and Seashells

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Svetlana Ivanchenko is a talented Ukrainian artist who uses overlooked natural materials like sand, seashells, quartz, tree roots and tree bark to create wonderful mosaics that look almost painted by hand.

Born and raised in Yalta, on the shores of the Black Sea, Ivanchenko was always fascinated by the abundance of natural materials that surrounded her. She studied at the Crimean Art School, under the supervision of renowned artist Sergei Bokaeva, and later graduated from the Glukhivskiy Pedagogical Institute. The artist currently based in the city of Dnepropetrovsk uses a variety of sand, shells, quartz and tree parts to create amazing works of art inspired by her place of birth and the warmth of the female body. It’s hard to believe, but every little piece of material used to create the artworks is placed by hand, and no coloring other than that of the composing elements is used. As Pinar from My Modern Metropolis notes, Svetlana “merges the various textures and colors brilliantly, making it difficult to imagine the frames being made of anything else.” Her natural masterpieces have been exhibited in international galleries, and many of them reside in the private collections of connaisseurs in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Estonia and the Dominican Republic.


Polish Artist Builds Mind-Blowing Matchstick Church Models

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Children are generally not permitted to play with matchsticks, but nothing could keep Wieslaw Laszkeiwick away from the tiny sticks of wood. Ever since he was a child, building models out of matchsticks has been more than a pastime for the self-taught master. He treats the activity like a prayer. And what he likes to build most are houses of prayer. Now 58 years old, this Polish folk artist works with hundreds of thousands of matches, pieces of cardboard and microscopic slides for several months at a time, creating beautiful replicas of churches around the world.

Laszkeiwick lives in a wooden house with his son, where one of the rooms is used as a workshop. It’s in this room that he spent over 40 years creating detailed structures using matches. One of Laszkeiwick’s most notable works was a replica of the 17th century monument, the Church of St. Nicholas in Zamosc. The completed structure stood almost 5 feet tall and was intended to be a gift to Pope Benedict XVI. What pleased him so much about the St. Nicholas church was its spherical dome. To create the replica, he used almost half a million matchsticks bound on to matching paper. After the building was complete, he covered it with several coats of varnish and special glue that prevents the matches from warping after they are attached. He also mounted a bulb inside to illuminate the intricate stained glass windows, made from hundreds of pieces of glass. Elements such as doors and gates were carved, and a he fashioned a bell out of specially prepared matches. It took him a whole year to complete the project.


Coffee Won’t Keep You Awake at Tokyo’s Hypnosis Cafe Colors

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Apart from a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, the menu at the Tokyo Hypnosis Cafe Colors, in Shinjuku Golden Gai, also features some offbeat items, such as Trauma Erasure or Past Life Regression.

Tokyo is known for its unique cafes, many of which have been featured on Oddity Central (Cuddle Cafe, Vampire Cafe, Hammock Cafe, etc.), and today I’m thrilled to add another one to our growing collection – the Tokyo Hypnosis Cafe Colors. As the name suggests, this intriguing venue uses the power of hypnosis to attract customers (and maybe trick them into coming back). Originally opened in the city of Sapporo, the hypnosis cafe moved to the Shinjuku district, in Japan’s capital city, where quirky establishments are becoming increasingly popular. Numbering just eight sits, all at the bar, the Hypnosis Cafe Colors offers visitors the chance to try out a number of hypnosis techniques, including reconnecting with your inner child, quit smoking suggestion, or trauma erasure. Simple hypnosis is performed by an expert who also plays the role of bartender and magician, and is basically free, but special techniques cost between ¥1000 ($12) and ¥50000 ($600).


Eduardo Relero’s Mind-Blowing Optical Illusions

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Argentinian street artist Eduardo Relero has the special talent of turning something as dull as pavements into incredible three-dimensional artworks that put people in danger of walking into lampposts starring at them.

48-year-old Eduardo Relero, who lives in Madrid, Spain, will spend up to two weeks working on one of his amazing 3D murals, which when viewed from the perfect angle look to be rising up from the pavement or sinking deeper into it. The talented artist began creating his beautiful artworks in 1990, on the streets of Rome, and has since then gone on to create breathtaking murals in Germany, France, Spain and America. “I realized that by taking my art out in the public, to festivals, theaters and events, I would be free to make drawings more to my liking, ” the artist says, adding that it’s also a great way of getting ideas across to big groups of people. With themes ranging from flying lions, giant waterfalls and gaping craters to giant feet sticking out of gaping holes in the ground and ancient figures lying in tombs that are actually just the tops of public benches, Relero seems to be one of those artists that never run out of ideas.


German Artist Creates Art from Chaotic Splotches of Tea, Coffee and Juice

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Stains of coffee and fruit juice are dreaded by most people, but German artist Angela Mercedes Donna Otto actually uses them as the basis for her creative artworks. She randomly pours colored drinks on paper canvases and spends hours contemplating the splotches, looking for familiar shapes.

At the base of Angela Mercedes Donna Otto’s art is “apophenia”, a term used by psychologists to describe the pursuit of the human mind to construct meaning, order and forms even from chaotic structures (e.g. seeing faces and shapes in clouds). She starts the creative process by making random splotches of coffee, tea and various fruit juices on a paper canvas, to create all kinds of chaotic patterns. Then, she spends hours on end in her studio, contemplating the stains and using her imagination to identify meaningful patterns and shapes. Finally, the motifs she finds in the visually stimulant material are extracted from the patterns by drawing with colored ink. Though they are carefully worked out in detail her pictures provide a wide range of interpretation, different approaches and scope to “see more”.


Peter Bulow – New York’s Subway Sculptor

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Peter Bulow, a psychiatrist from Washington Heights, is just like any other New Yorker – he spends a chunk of his day commuting on the Subway. But unlike others who tend to doze off or are busy on their smartphones, Bulow prefers doing something much more creative and artistic – he sculpts. He has actually managed to convert the A-train into his own personal studio and his fellow commuters, into models. Armed with a blob of clay and a sculpting knife, he picks a subject and creates miniature busts of them. His completed works are usually stored in his violin case. Among several sculptures, you can find things like a school-girl on her way to a violin lesson, a macho guy with headphones, a couple snuggling, a woman wearing a fur collar, a few sporting dreadlocks and turbans.

Bulow started his unique Subway pastime about four years ago. “I had a long commute to work, so I thought it would be a good time to practice sculpting portraits,” the 52-year-old says. He has degrees in clinical psychiatry and art, and is a researcher at Columbia University. Not only is he an artist and a psychiatrist, but an immigrant and the son of Holocaust survivors. Born in India to a German father and Hungarian mother, Bulow’s sculpting days go far back into his childhood in Berlin when his uncle took him to the zoo and he made clay lions. Before his son Isaac was born, he would go to a stone carving studio after work. But now, he does it to and from work. So far, he has completed over 400 sculptures and he views them as portraits that help him “capture a moment in time.” Bulow feels a live connection with his subjects, especially because he has a fascination for people’s inner lives. He is so deeply moved by his art that he says, “When you look at a sculpture you feel all these emotions, but it’s not the sculpture that’s doing it; it’s you. It interests me how art affects the brain.” In fact, he is so much into sculpting miniature busts that he is writing a book in which he is attempting to connect all the portraits he’s made with his research in neuroesthetics (how the brain interprets music and art).


Thailand’s Cobra Village – Where Men and Snakes Live in Harmony

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Sixty years ago, a doctor from Thailand had a vision for his small, dusty old village – to convert it into a major tourist attraction. And in an attempt to do so, he actually convinced his fellow villagers to raise pet snakes in their homes, putting them in shows for tourists. Surprisingly the ploy worked, and today the village of Ban Kok Sa-Nga in Thailand’s Northeastern Province of Khon Kaen is better known as ‘The Cobra Village’, among tourists.

All of the 140-odd homes in Ban Kok Sa-Nga have at least one pet snake, which they place outside in wooden boxes. The pet snakes range from deadly ones, such as king cobras or monocled cobras, to less dangerous ones such as copperheaded racers and pythons. The atmosphere in the village itself is always festive; it is one big snake show theme attraction. The snakes are bred in captivity and put together in daredevil shows such as – you won’t believe this – man vs. snake boxing matches. Obviously not for the light-hearted, these shows involve the handlers taunting an already enraged giant king cobra. As the snakes slither across the stage, the men pull their tails to provoke them further. Despite all the weird stunts that take place in these shows, what spooks out most tourists is the level of comfort the villagers share with the snakes. Most people are terrified of these creatures, but the people of Ban Kok Sa-Nga don’t even bat an eye-lid. Even the children are completely at ease; they are taught how to handle snakes, how to fight them and feed them, at a very young age.


In Thailand People Change Their Names to Improve Their Fortunes

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You might have heard of people changing their names because they didn’t like the ones their parents gave them. Or in an attempt to change their identity and escape their past. But in Thailand, name changes are common for a different reason altogether – to bring good luck.

A case-in-point is 46-year-old Baramee Thammabandan, formerly known as Teerapol Lilitjirawat. While neither name strikes us as charismatic, the change has made a world of difference to Mr. Baramee. About 10 years ago, he had suffered a major misfortune, when his garments business had failed. His eyesight became poor, he couldn’t manage his affairs and to make matters worse, his wife left him. And so he did what is natural to the people of Thailand – he changed his name. “I wanted to become a new person,”  the now clean shaven and slim Baramee says. Ironically, his new name does mean ‘charisma’.


Aogashima Island – Living inside a Volcano

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Can you imagine yourself living in a giant volcanic crater? Well, for starters, you can forget about Starbucks. But it sure would be the ultimate destination to get away from it all. It’s not all that surprising then, that about 200 people actually inhabit the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, with only one school and a single post office.

Aogashima, a part of the Izu Archipelago, lies two hundred miles south of Tokyo, in the Philippine Sea. The island and its 205 inhabitants (as of 2009), are a part of Japan and governed by Tokyo. When I first saw pictures of this breathtaking location, it sort of reminded me of an inverted pudding on a plate. Or an oddly shaped donut. But Aogashima is really a volcano within a volcano. The island is quite well known for having a volcanic caldera within a larger caldera. So what you have is one big, giant crater, which is the island itself, inside which is nestled a much smaller version of itself. This gives the whole island a rather mysterious appeal, almost like something out of a fantasy movie. It’s hard to believe there are such places still left in the world, untouched by noisy human activity.


Prowler – New York City’s Real-Life Female Superhero

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It’s not the first time we’ve reported cases of real-life superheroes here on OC. But this sure is a first – a female superhero who has gladly shared her identity. And that’s not all. She’s also probably the first superhero to be concerned about her own safety. So she only patrols the streets of Brooklyn with fellow male superheroes. She is ‘Prowler’ by night, dressed in black spandex, red cat mask and clawed gloves, and Nicole Abramovici by day, a 32-year-old home-organizing businesswoman.

Abramovici is a part of the Big Apple chapter of a group called Superheroes Anonymous (only, she isn’t). She came to know about this group of male superheroes patrolling the city through a newspaper article and was inspired to join them. “I am one of the very few females active as a real-life superhero,” she said. “I wanted to help the homeless and the abandoned animals of New York, so pretty much immediately I decided on the name Prowler.” Abramovici admitted that the name Prowler isn’t always seen in a positive light, and is perceived as a person who creeps around at night, stealing. “But I wanted to make the prowler a force for good,” she said. On most nights, you can find her seeking out the needy with her superhero mentor, ‘Life’.


Meet the Flintstones in Arizona’s Real-Life Bedrock

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If you are a loyal Flintstones fan, then you’re going to love this, especially if you live around northern Arizona. Because that’s where the real-life Bedrock city is located. Not an actual city of course, but a place to go to 365 days a year to experience Stone Age with your favorite cartoon characters. Closed only on Christmas day, it’s an improvement over the first Bedrock city in Cluster, South Dakota, which is open only from the middle of May through Labor Day.

Arizona’s Bedrock City was built in 1972, by Francis Speckles, son of an investor. At the time it used to feature a live Fred and Barney. But that wasn’t easy to sustain, given the isolation of the area and the shortage of local workers. But the isolation is actually a blessing-in-disguise, because it gives the place a whole lot of charm, and an authentic Stone Age feel. Today, the place consists of colorful concrete structures that recreate the magic of the 1960s animated series. Located at about a half hour’s drive south of the Grand Canyon, Bedrock City is a great roadside stop for people who want to relive some wonderful memories, especially those who grew up in the 60s and 70s.


Strange Wedding Customs – The Crying Ritual of the Tujia People

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Throughout history, various cultures have had strange requirements of their women. But none perhaps as strange as the custom of crying before marriage, as followed in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province. According to the custom, it is mandatory for a bride to cry at her own wedding, whether she likes it or not.

The crying marriage ritual was at its peak during the early 17th century and remained so until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911. It is said to have originated during the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC), when historical records reveal that the princess of the Zhao State was to be married into the Yan State. At the moment of the princess’ departure, her mother is said to have cried at her feet, asking her to return home as soon as possible. This is said to be the first crying marriage ever. Although the custom is not as popular now as it used to be, there are still a large number of families that practice it with gusto. In fact, it is a necessary procedure for marriage among the Tujia people, in China’s Sichuan Province. The ritual itself is pretty simple – the bride has got to shed tears. If she doesn’t or is unable to, her neighbors will look down upon her as one of poor breeding. Worse still, she could even become the laughing stock of her village. In one extreme case, the bride was beaten by her mother for not crying at the wedding. Perhaps the girl was too happy to be free from her mother?


The Gulabi Gang – India’s Pink-Wearing Female Vigilantes

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The women of Bundelkhand, in Uttar Pradesh, India, do not need superheroes to come to their rescue. They depend on a group of their own clan – The Gulabi Gang – during times of distress. The gang members are vigilantes who go above and beyond the duties of a local neighborhood crime watch. Their chosen uniform – a strikingly pink sari. Their weapon of choice – the Lathi, a traditional Indian fighting stick. Gender – female only.

In fact, the Gulabi Gang (Gulabi: the color of pink rose), consists of over 10,000 women. And they are a blessing in disguise for many in the overpopulated Bundelkhand region, where people wage daily wars against a corrupt law-enforcement system, infertile lands and the oppressive system of caste hierarchy. But what Bundelkhand is most infamous for is banditry. Disputes are frequently settled by manner of bullets. The Bandit Queen of India, Phoolan Devi, once carried out her operations in the very same region. She would lead her bandits and robbers to seek a vicious retribution, violently attacking the upper-caste villagers. It is in this harsh atmosphere, where life is nothing short of brutal, that the Gulabi Gang has been carrying out its operations for the past two years.


Casey Legler – The Woman Who Works as a Male Model

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Casey Legler, 35, is a woman who exclusively models menswear. With her razor-sharp cheekbones and 6ft 2in height, it’s easy to see why she’s recently been signed to the men’s division at the prestigious Ford modelling agency

There’s something weird going on in the fashion industry these days. After we posted about guys like Andrej Pejic and Stanyslas Fedyanin, who have found success modeling women’s clothing, now it’s time we met the only woman in the world who models only men’s garments. French-born Casey Legler says her unlikely carer as a male model started after posing as a guy in photo shoot, as a favor for a friend. ‘I am, in fact, buddies with a photographer, who had this story, who knows, in some ways my body of work, but also just knows what I look like and said, “You’re perfect for this. Are you in?” And I wasn’t doing anything on that particular Friday, and so I said yes!’ she said in an interview with TIME Magazine. After her friend showed the resulting photos to a booker at Ford, she was soon signed to the men’s division by the prestigious agency.


Jeweler Creates Mechanical Creepy Crawlers from Watch Parts and Light Bulbs

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JM Gershenson-Gates is a Chicago-based jeweler who creates unique accessories from discarded watch parts, in a bid “to show the beauty of the mechanical world, a place generally hidden from the public behind metal and glass.”

On his website, Jason Gershenson-Gates says he has always been fascinated with mechanical things. The son of a “gearhead”, and the grandson of a railroad man, he used to always take apart his toys to see how they worked, but never seemed to be able to put them back together again. Nowadays, he takes apart old watches collected from all over the world and rearranges their parts into fantastic designs. Although his Mechanical Mind jewelry series is nothing short of awe-inspiring, in both size and design, it’s his latest series of mechanical insects that caught my eye. The idea of making miniature arthropods and insects out of watch parts and dead automotive light bulbs apparently came to him recently, after a jewelry show this past summer. He was experimenting with watch part anatomy when he decided to create fragile spider and insect legs. One thing led to another, and now Jason has an entire menagerie of incredibly detailed mechanical creepy crawlers.


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