Joe Black’s Amazing Badge Mosaics

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We’ve featured some pretty awesome mosaics here on Oddity Central, from Oksana Mas’ wooden egg mosaics, to the sweet jelly bean mosaics of Peter and Roger Rocha. But there are plenty of other incredibly talented artists out there who use the most unusual materials to create their art. Joe Black is one of them.

Using thousands of handmade badges depicting various images and icons, from the Vietnam War to Elvis Presley, Black manages to piece together amazingly detailed portraits. And if having the patience to create such wonderful mosaics wan’t impressive enough, nearly every one of the badges used is made by Joe Black himself, and relates to the artwork in some way. For example, the portrait of Superman is made up of corporate and fast food logos to depict the notion of goodness defeated by our ever-growing need to consume. A mixed media artist by definition, Black also makes use of oil paints, acrylics and other mediums to complete his modern masterpieces.

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Bamboo Drift Racing – A Combination of Speed and Balance

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I couldn’t stand still on a cane of bamboo even if it was on land. To think that there are people who can balance themselves on a bamboo pole floating in water! It’s probably the world’s thinnest boat.

Bamboo Drift Racing is actually a sport in Southwest China’s Guizhou province. Competitors stand on a bamboo pole and paddle using a thin stick of bamboo. Considered an exotic minority sport in China, the rules have changed over the years. In fact, although the tradition is to use bamboo, competitors now use a similar-looking strip made from green fiberglass. This offers better buoyancy and makes the boat more durable . The fiberglass sticks also help increase speed, and can be taken apart with ease later on. Still wondering how in the world it’s possible to row while standing on a stick? The trick, apparently, lies in the waist. All the balancing is done by controlling the bamboo using your waistline.

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China’s Magical City of Ice

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Ice sculptures are common in wedding parties and other occasions, but nothing you’ve seen before can compare to the ones displayed every year in the city of Harbin in China. While the place is cursed with terrible winters, the tough locals have managed to make the most of it.

A typical winter in Harbin, northern China, would see temperatures go as low as 2°F (that’s –19°C). Strong, cold winds blow in from Siberia, making almost everything freeze over. But the residents of the city keep themselves busy for several weeks during the winter season, hosting the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. The sculptures made as a part of this festival aren’t anything like your typical faries and unicorns. Artists and engineers get together to build massive structures out of ice – a small town if you will, consisting of churches, pyramids, pagodas and palaces. The structures are filled with modern amenities like elevators and escalators. Multicolored lights are installed inside the sculptures, making them look very beautiful in the dark, after sunset.

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Amazing Packaging Tape Portraits by Max Zorn

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Ever been frustrated by sticky packing tape getting all over the place? I’ve been there. So when I learned about this artist who uses brown packing tape to create detailed works of art, I was seriously impressed.

Artist Max Zorn creates street art consisting mainly of portraits. His only tools are rolls of packing tape and a scalpel, but the results are astounding. The translucent portraits are hung over street lamps for the final effect, with multiple shades created through layers of tape strips. What is really impressive is that Zorn essentially works with just a single colored tape, creating several shades as he goes along. The sepia-toned art pieces have an incredible detailing, and are a delight to look at.

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Top 10 Most Unusual Christmas Trees of 2011

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Every December, we hear reports of bizarre Christmas trees in the making, and on display. We bring you a roundup of 10 of the most unusual trees that caught our attention in the Christmas season of 2011.

The Japanese Gold Tree

We’ve previously featured this tree made completely of pure Gold, here on OC. A creation of Japanese jeweler Ginza Tanaka, the tree is worth $2 million and unusual enough to make it to our top 10. It weighs 12 kg, is 2.4 m high, and is decorated with plates, ornaments and ribbons – all made of gold. Talk about a golden Christmas!

Creative Artist Makes Artworks with GPS Maps

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For Michael Wallace, the streets are his drawing board and maps, his canvas. For a paintbrush? He uses his bicycle! GPX Riding is what he calls his art. Confused? So was I, at first.

When I got a hang of what he’s been doing, I was simply amazed. He explains his artwork on his website in simple terms, “GPX Riding is my general term for using a GPS device to track and record my location while riding my bicycle. In short, I use GPS technology to record where I go in a planned effort to create massive images.” Massive images indeed, his gallery of artwork displays pictures of guns, hammers, snails, monsters, scorpions and more. Pretty basic stuff if you were drawing on paper, but very complex if you are tracing it out with your bike.

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Juhyou – The Beautiful Snow Monsters of Japan

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The words “beautiful” and “monster” don’t usually go well together, but when talking about a breathtaking natural wonder like the snow-and-ice-covered trees known as juhyou in Japan, we thought we’d make an exception.

Every year, during the cold winter months, snow monsters make their appearance on the snow covered slopes of Japan’s northern prefectures. But instead of running out of their way, tourists flock to these places to admire their natural beauty. Every one of these juhyou monsters is uniquely shaped by Mother Nature, who uses strong winds as her tools and thick layers of snow and ice as art mediums. Juhyou translates as “frost-covered trees” and is a popular phenomenon that takes place in many of Japan’s northern ski resorts.

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Chateau Guédelon – A 13th Century Castle in the Making

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It is sometimes unbelievable how beautiful architecture was created in ancient times, without the use of modern technology. A medieval construction project in Treigny, France, aims at understanding exactly how this was possible. Guédelon Castle is a project that is being completed with only the materials and techniques that were available to man in the Middle Ages. Of course, it’s going to take decades to complete.

The construction of Guédelon Castle started back in 1997. Michel Guyot, the owner of the nearby Saint-Fargeau castle, first got the idea of the project when he was restoring his own property. Over the years, the project has matured in terms of complexity, and has become a major tourist attraction. Today, it has created over 55 jobs and draws around 300,000 people every year. It also acts as an educational backdrop for school excursions. The design of the castle is based on the architectural canons laid down by the King of France,  Philip II Augustus, in the 12th and 13th centuries. The work done is mostly manual and slow, involving materials such as wood, earth, sand, stone and clay. The blueprint of the castle includes a moat and six towers. What’s even more fascinating is that the workers dress in the garb of medieval times.

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Ancient Documents Claim Jesus Lived to Be 106 and Died in Japan

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There have been bizarre claims before that Jesus Christ lived and died in India, with his tomb located in the state of Kashmir. In what can only be a testament to his omnipresence, another claim has been made to Christ’s whereabouts before his death, this time by the Japanese.

So the story goes like this – Christ visited Japan between the ages of 21 and 33. Of course, this is conveniently supported by the fact that the Bible skips over large periods of Christ’s early life. He spent this time studying the native language and culture, before returning to Jerusalem. What about the Crucifixion, you ask? Well, it wasn’t Christ that was crucified at all. According to this theory, it was his younger brother Isukiri, who took his place on the cross. In the meantime, Christ fled to Siberia. After a few years, he traveled via Alaska and arrived at the port of Hachinohe, 40km from the village of Shingo. He lived the rest of his life in the village, where he married, had three children and died at the age of 106.

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Szopka Making – A Colorful Polish Tradition

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The beginning of December each year sees the transformation of Rynek Główny (Main Market Square)  in the Polish city of Krakow, into a beautiful Christmas market. Arts and crafts, ceramics, sweets and more are put up for sale. Excellent food in the form of grilled oscypek cheese and Polish wine are available too.The szopka, a crèche competition, is of course the major event.

On the first Thursday of December, crèche masters from around Poland and other parts of the world display their szopki at the history museum in the Krzysztofory Palace. The winning models are placed on display throughout the Christmas season. The szopka is a traditional Polish folk art that has its origins in the Middle Ages. The tradition is a rich and colorful one, having evolved over the ages. The szopki depict the Wawel Cathedral, which is a part of Krakow’s Wawel Castle with a Nativity scene set inside its doors. Some of the models are as small as 6 inches while others are around 6 feet high.

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Artist Folds Realistic Insects from a Single Sheet of Paper

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As real as these insects might look, they are actually made from a single sheet of paper, expertly folded by origami master, Brian Chan.

I’ve been staring at Brian Chan’s creations for a while, and I still find it mind-boggling how someone can produce such realistic work by folding a simple piece of paper. But 31-year-old Chan manages to do just that, creating realistic-looking insects that almost fool the naked eye. A craft instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Brian works on his impressive paper artworks in his spare time. Talking about his beginnings in the world of origami, he says “I started by copying work of other authors about 20 years ago but after a while I was good enough to start coming up with my own pieces.” His parents encouraged him by buying him all kinds of origami books, which proved great sources for independent learning.

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Buffalo Body-Painting at Unique Traditional Festival

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What started as a means to ward off intruders, is now a full-blown festival. The people of Jiangcheng County, China’s Yunnan Province, have their bulls painted and decorated by artists for a major event every year. The bulls are displayed in a riot of colors, painted with a variety of themes.

Traditionally, the bulls were painted by the Hani people of China in the belief that the practice would protect their village, mainly by preventing tigers from wandering into their homes. Of course, the threat of tigers and other man-eaters has reduced drastically in modern times, but the festival continues to be celebrated with much enthusiasm. The China-Laos-Vietnam Bull Painting Festival, as it is called, had 48 participating teams this year. The paraded bulls were hardly recognizable, covered in colors like bright blue, gold, yellow and red. But the paintings were far from abstract. The bulls served as a canvas for some real artistic talent, landscapes, portraits, and intricate patterns adorned their otherwise brown or white skin. Even the horns were covered with paint.

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Incredible Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramee

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Can’t find any use for those thick books lying around your house? Carve landscapes out of them! At least, that’s what Guy Laramee has been doing for some time now.

An interdisciplinary artist who has been practicing for 30 years now, Laramee has done several things in his lifetime, from stage writing to contemporary music, painting painting and literature. But the work he became most famous for is book sculpture. Rocky mountain ranges, bodies of water, islands and hidden caves, you name it,  he can bring it to life out of a book, in 3D. For instance, from a set of English and Chinese hardcover encyclopedias, he has created two series of stunning landscapes, named The Great Wall and Biblios.

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World’s Smallest Theater Fits Only Eight Guests

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Possibly the smallest theater in the world, and a strong contender for a Guiness record, the Kremlhof Theater is located in Villach, Austria. It’s so tiny, it can only fit eight guests, all of whom get front row seats.

In fact, it look doesn’t look at all like a theater, more like a cabin of sorts. The stage inside measures 1.30 by 1.30 m, and runs regular shows. Built by Felix Strasser and Yulia Izmaylova, irregularly puts on shows of the opera, ballet and plays for the privileged limited audience. The guests are required only to make a mere donation, as the theater doesn’t sell tickets. The Kremlhof Theater was opened 2 years ago in 2009, with the help of the theater organization for the stimulation of the dramatic appetite (der Verein zur Anregung des dramatischen Appetits or VADA). Also involved were the drama companies, ONEX and kärnöl. Their first production ever was called “Schnee” and began in January 2010.

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Have a nICE Stay At Finland’s Igloo Village

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Ever wondered what it would be like to live in an igloo? Well, you have the chance to find out at the Kakslauttanen Igloo Village, in Finland. A hotel located in the northern part of the country, high up above the arctic circle,  is being touted as one of the coziest romantic getaways in the world.

Holidaying couples have three options at the hotel – Log Cabins, Snow Igloos, and Glass Igloos. Of course, the snow igloos get my vote for the most interesting of the three. Let’s find out more about them. Built to fit 1 to 5 people, it is literally like sleeping inside a room made of snow Of course, while the temperature outside may be dangerously cold at below -30 C, all the necessary amenities are provided indoors to keep you warm and cozy. The temperature inside ranges between -3 and -6 C. Warm down sleeping bags, woolen socks and hood are provided. The ice itself illuminates the igloo.

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