Nestinarstvo – The Fire Dancing Ritual of Bulgari

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A centuries-old custom that can be traced back to the Tracians, Nestinarstvo (Fire Dancing) is a mysterious ritual in which people actually dance on smouldering embers without getting any burns.

Believed to be one of the oldest pagan rituals in the Balkans, Nestinarstvo has defied persecution by both the Christian Church and communism and is still practiced in some Bulgarian and Greek speaking villages of the Strandzha Mountains. One of this remote settlements is the legendary Bulgari village, where people still dance on hot coals, just like their ancestors have done for thousands of years.

The enigmatic ritual of Nestinarstvo begins at sunset, when the chief nestinar (fire dancer), wearing a white shirt and red sash wrapped around his waist, arrives in Bulgari’s square and begins spreading the hot embers in a circle. Street lights are turned-off  and all the villagers gather around the scorching dancing ring, accompanied by the sound of bagpipes and drums. The nestinari begin dancing around the circle, carrying religious icons, and then suddenly walk through fire, their feet lightly touching the red-hot embers, sometimes pressing down hard in circular motion. The dance continues until the nestinari put out the blaze with their feet.

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Retired Farmer Spends 30 Years Building Scale Model of Herod’s Temple

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Alec Garrard, an 80-year-old retired farmer from Norfolk, England, has spent the last thirty years working on a 1:100 scale model of Herod’s Biblical Temple.

Mr. Garrard has liked creating models all his life, but as he was getting older, he began thinking about a single big project that would see him through to the end of his life. Having always been interested in architecture and religion, the retired farmer thought to combine his two passions and create a unique scale model of Herod’s Temple. He had seen one or two other models of the structure during Biblical exhibitions, but he didn’t find them accurate enough, and he knew he could do better.

The expert model-maker started working on the project when he was in his 40’s. He first spent more than three years just researching the Biblical temple and then began constructing the model, exclusively by hand. The retired farmer cut the plywood frames of the temple walls, baked all the clay bricks in the oven and then stuck them together, and even sculpted and painted 4,000 half-an-inch figurines and dressed them in costumes. It looks absolutely amazing, but Alec Garrard says “I have been working on it for decades, but it will never be finished as I’m always finding something new to add”.

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Clock Collector Has Plenty of Time on His Hands

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With over 1,500 different clocks covering every wall in his house, Jack Schoff holds the Guinness Record for the largest collection of clocks.

A clock placed above the door to Jack Schoff’s home, in North Berwick, Maine, is meant to prepare every visitor for what awaits them inside, but the sight of 1,509 clocks adorning every square inch of a small studio apartment isn’t easy to take in, especially if it’s your first time visiting. Everyone lets out a “Wow”, but Jack Schoff isn’t impressed anymore because “everyone says the same thing.”

Unlike most other quirky collectors, Jack hasn’t always been fascinated by clocks. In fact, he only began collecting them seven or eight years ago, when health issues forced the former Portsmouth Naval Shipyard pipefitter to take some time off. With so much time on his hands, sitting idly at home, there was only one way to go – clocks. “I was going stir crazy, so I started taking clocks apart and putting them back together, you know, just for something to keep busy,” he says. He and a friend would drive throughout the Seacoast region, from one yard sale to another, buying all kinds of clocks. Then, people started hearing about his crazy hobby and began leaving old or broken clocks on his doorstep, so he doesn’t even know where some of the items in his collection came from.

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Marcus Levine’s Hammered Nail Art

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Using up to 50,000 rigid steel nails to recreate something as fragile and curvy as the human body isn’t the easiest of tasks, but artist Marcus Levine manages to to it without as much as a sketch.

The British artist’s road to his brilliant career has been anything but predictable. Born in Yorkshire, Levine attended the Jacob Kramer Art College, but instead of pursuing his dream of making nail art, he opted for career as a TV graphic designer, and later joined the family business. It wasn’t until 2004 that he finally decided he wanted to make art for a living, and moved to Budapest. He began hammering nails into composite wood boards and completed his first real nail artwork in 2005. He continued to perfect his technique, creating increasingly dynamic interpretations of his subjects and pushing the boundaries with each new art piece.

Marcus Levine takes between three days and two months to complete one of his hammered masterpieces and uses anywhere between 15,000 and upwards of 50,000 nails. By placing them at various heights and distances, he can create various distinct tones and manipulate the intensity of the contours. He masters several techniques, like undulating the height of a nail or rotating its head round, but Marcus admits that light has  a big part to play in his art, as “from morning sun to evening sun the shadows across the sculptures change and affect the contrast, and by altering artificial lighting, the sculptures can appear as light as a pencil sketch or as dark as a charcoal life drawing.”

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The Unique Burial Customs of Tana Toraja

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The Toraja Tribe of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, is known for the cheerful way of treating death, and its unique burial grounds carved in sheer rock.

One of the most beautiful tourist destinations of Indonesia, the green hills of South Sulawesi are home to the Toraja, a tribe that still honors the old Austronesian lifestyle, similar to Nias culture. Most tribe members are Christians, converted during Dutch colonization, but traces of their old beliefs still remain and are most visible during funeral festivities and burial customs. The Toraja are obsessed with death, but not in a tragic sense; to them funerals are a lot like going-away parties celebrated by sacrificing dozens of buffaloes and pigs for a feast enjoyed by the entire community.

The main concern of a Toraja tribe member is to make sure he raises enough money so his family can throw the best party in town, when he leaves this world. Their bodies are stored under the family home for years after their death. During this time the remaining relatives refer to that person not as “the deceased” but as “the sick”, and raise money for the actual funeral, which is usually attended by hundreds of guests. Tourists are welcome to attend the festivities, as long as they don’t wear black or red.

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Artist Creates Dog Portraits from Recycled Magazine Photos

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San Francisco-based Samuel Price uses pieces of photographs he finds in old, discarded magazines to create intricate portraits of man’s best friend.

Sam Price’s career as a collage artist began when he was too young to afford paints and would tear up magazine and newspaper pages and glue them to a canvas. He did it out of necessity and because he has “always believed in the use of accessible materials as part of the instinctive process of creating art”. Stepping in the footsteps of artists like Pablo Picasso – a pioneer of collage art – Price uses recycled photographs as the medium for his artworks.

Unlike other collage makers, Price doesn’t use a computer as a guide when he creates his masterpieces. He spends several hours looking through discarded magazines, in the search for just the right color and shape that would fit his needs, and then glues every strip of paper himself.

Samuel Price takes great joy from creating something new and special from materials other people simply throw away, and says his work has helped him create a strong connection with many dog lovers. Through his collage portraits he tries to capture the special relationship between a dog and his owner.

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Incredible Miniatures Carved from Matchsticks

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Artists have been using matchsticks as a medium for their art for a while now. Some use thousands of matches to create amazing wooden models, others use them to create colorful sculptures, or decorate their homes in a unique way, but I’ve never seen detailed matchstick miniature sculptures before.

I saw some interesting photos of carved matchsticks last week, while surfing the interwebs for unique art to share with you guys, but I couldn’t find any info on the artist who made them. Unfortunately, the research I conducted following my find didn’t prove very successful. All I learned is they are created using fine tools like scalpels and other specialized instruments, and that they’re mostly made by artists from South American countries like Chile, Argentina and Brazil. A miniature matchstick sculpture takes around three hours to complete and it’s then placed inside a small glass cover, for protection.

Among the most famous matchstick sculptors, I’ve found Christian Hernandez, who focuses of Greek mythology themes, and Argentinian Javier Gobai, whose detailed works you can admire in the photos below:

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Gary LeMaster – The Incredible Eggshell Sculptor

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Gary LeMaster has to be one of the world’s most gifted sculptors. After all, how many people can take an egg and turn it into an intricate and detailed work of art?

Born in New Zealand, where his father, a US soldier, was stationed at the time, Gary showed a passion for the arts, at a very young age. After the family moved to the States, he grew up learning how to use tools, and do woodworking alongside his father, while, at the same time, learning to appreciate fine arts, from his mother, a talented ballet dancer. It was his mother’s guidance that got him a scholarship in music at the University of Iowa, which he turned down to pursue a teaching degree in history and English. Although he practiced drawing with pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, the fact that he was color-blind made Gary LeMaster think his visual art was limited, and that he wasn’t good enough for art school.

After enrolling in several school programs and obtaining numerous degrees, he decided it was time he took some art courses at the University of Iowa, where he enjoyed every class he took. Although Gary regretted not turning to the arts to begin with, his graduate art courses helped take his drawing skills to a whole other level, which proved to be very important in his career as a professional eggshell sculptor.

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The Mind Blowing Paper Collages of Nathalie Boutté

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Nathalie Boutté is a talented French artist who uses thousands of simple strips of paper to create impressive collages.

Born in 1967, Nathalie lives and works in Montreuill, near Paris, where she experiments with all kinds of types of paper, to obtain the results she desires. She has always been passionate about paper, and has worked with everything from tissues to old novel pages and lately, translucent tracing paper. After the sheets of paper have been cut into long strips, they are layered in a way similar to tiles on a roof, revealing only their tips, which act like pixels in a giant collage. Although most of her artworks are pretty big, the dedicated artist says she isn’t scared of working with large formats, on the contrary, the bigger the collage, the more impressive it is. And I have to say, Nathalie Boutté’s pieces are pretty impressive.

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Cube Works Makes Twisted Artworks from Dozens of Rubik’s Cubes

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Solving a Rubik’s Cube is pretty tricky, but using dozens of them to create portraits of famous figures and recreate artistic masterpieces sounds even harder.

Toronto-based Cube Works Studio is a collaboration of graphic architects and “cubers” who use the popular Rubik’s Cube to create an art form that is retro yet avant-garde. Throughout the years, the studio has produced dozens of Rubik’s Cube artworks so impressive and detailed that people often wonder if they’re not taking the cubes apart and use the colored squares individually to create mosaics. But that’s not the case, as many photos and videos taking during the creative process prove.

Apart from their intricate celebrity portraits and artistic recreations, the guys at Cube Works have also set a few world records, including a monumental recreation of the Sistine Chapel’s centerpiece made of over 12,000 Rubik’s Cubes and a 4,050 Rubik’s Cube replica of The Last Supper. This may not be the original purpose Erno Rubik had in mind for his toy, but I’m sure he’d be happy to see it used as an art medium.

 

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Licorice Mosaic Portraits by Jason Mecier

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Jason Mecier is a famous mosaic artist who uses all kinds of materials, from sweets to pills and recyclable junk, to create incredibly detailed portraits of celebrities and pop icons.

Looking at the masterpieces Jason Mecier creates, you’d find it hard to believe he has no formal art training, but he is indeed a self-taught artist with incredible talent. His greatest inspiration is his grandmother who nurtured his artistic inclination ever since he was just a child. The artworks she created mesmerized him as a boy, and Jason remembers she was the one who encouraged him to create art using materials readily available to him. You can say he followed her advice to the letter, as he is now known as one of the world’s most gifted junk artists.

The first time I heard about Jason Mecier and his unique artworks, was when he created a series of pill portraits of celebrities who had drug problems throughout their careers. This was back in January of 2010, and since then Jason has completed his portfolio with all kinds of other beautiful creations made of various materials. Some of them are part of his RedVines portrait series, made of delicious licorice.

 

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Meet Dalton Stevens – The Button King

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Dalton Stevens, from Bishopville, South Carolina, has earned the title of Button King after he spent 15 years stitching and gluing thousands of buttons on all sorts of objects.

The Button King’s story began one night in 1983, when his insomnia prevented him from falling asleep. Back then, television went off at two in the morning, so he had to find something to pass the time. Searching through his old things, he found an old denim jumpsuit and started sewing buttons on it. Two years and ten months later, Dalton was still a chronic insomniac, but his jumpsuit was covered with 16,333 buttons and weighed 16 pounds. Remarkably as that sounds, it was only the beginning of his incredible experience with buttons.

Even after completing his button tracksuit, Stevens kept attaching thousands of buttons on various stuff. He glued 3,005 buttons on his guitar and 517 buttons on his shoes. His banjo, piano and his 1983 Chevette soon followed, and before long, his unique occupation grabbed the attention of the media. He was featured on a local television show, from there on CNN, and pretty soon the entire world knew the story of the incredible Button King. He was invited on popular television shows like Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Geraldo, Regis & Kathy Lee, where he would wear a button-covered outfit and play his banjo.

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Artist Makes Celebrity Portraits from Thousands of Circles

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Using an original technique he calls Digital Circlism, artist Ben Heine creates detailed portraits of celebrities like Eminem, Bob Marley or Elvis Presley.

A Belgian artist born in the Ivory Coast, Heine is most famous for his Pencil vs Camera series, which was covered by many of the major online media outlets, but his Digital Circlism portraits are equally, if not more impressive. Using a sharp round brush in Photoshop CS4, he applies thousands of circles on a black background, until he creates a colorful, realistic portrait. You might think he uses some kind of automated process to apply every circle, but that’s actually the most remarkable thing about Ben Heine – he adds every one of the circles individually. Each circle has a different color, a different tone and a different size, which makes creating a single one of these artworks very time consuming. His latest work, a portrait of hip-hop icon Eminem, is made exclusively with flat circles on a black background, and took nine days of intensive labour to complete.

A new technique, developed by Ben Heine himself, Digital Circlism could certainly develop into an important artistic movement.

 

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Chinese Transformers Fan Builds His Own Army of Robots

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All geeks love Transformers, but Yang Junlin of Huizhou, China, took his passion for the franchise to a whole other level when he opened the “Legend of Iron” factory and began producing his own robots.

Remebre that uber-cool Megatron Tank we featured a few weeks back? That was one of Yang Junlin’s iron masterpieces, but I had no idea he had created hundreds of other incredible metal sculptures. In 2006, after retiring from the army, Yang went to a concert where various steel sculptures were placed on display. Some of them were simple human figures created from twisted metal wire, but they made such an impression on him, that he decided to try and make his own steel works.

A year later, Yang Junlin opened his own factory, Legend of Iron, and hired over 10 workers to help him realize his dream of building cool robot sculptures. They use all kinds of scrap metal, from old car parts to simple sheets of steel andcreate some of the most amazing looking Transformers replicas I’ve ever seen. Although he admits his work is quite time-consuming, Yang has built over 1,000 iron sculptures since he opened Legend of Iron, five years ago, and isn’t planning on stopping anytime soon.

Check out more photos of the geek eye-candy Legend of Iron creates, after the break:

 

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Creepy Post-It Art by John Kenn Mortensen

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John Kenn Mortensen is a Danish artist who uses the common post-it as canvas for his mysterious and scary artworks.

While other modern artists search for ever larger canvases to express their artistic talents, Mortensen lets his imagination runs wild on the tiny sheets of paper we know as post-its. Most of us use them as reminders around the office, but the Dane sees post-its as tiny canvases that allow him to quickly render the creepy products of him imagination, and get them off his mind, so he doesn’t stress himself to them over them.

A professional character animator by trade, John Kenn Mortensen says he has always enjoyed drawing, but his recent ghoulish post-it artworks are inspired by the works of Stephen King and H.P. Lovercraft. Although he didn’t expect any type of response, John Kenn admits he’s pleased so many people enjoy his work.

Check the artist’s blog for his latest post-it creations

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