We’re winding down the days here in 2014, so it seemed appropriate to look back on the year as we usually do and reflect on some of the most popular and interesting things we covered over the last 12 months. It’s always exciting to see the articles that rise above on Colossal. In past years the editorial focus here has veered mostly toward design and contemporary art, while this year articles focused heavily on science, history, craft, and performance. That shift is definitely noticeable in this list. So here, loosely ordered on popularity, are the top 12 articles on Colossal in 2014. See also 2013 and 2012.
1. 271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800-Page Book
In 1692 an artist known only as “A. Boogert” sat down to write a book in Dutch about mixing watercolors. Not only would he begin the book with a bit about the use of color in painting, but would go on to explain how to create certain hues and change the tone by adding one, two, or three parts of water. The premise sounds simple enough, but the final product is almost unfathomable in its detail and scope. Spanning nearly 800 completely handwritten (and painted) pages, Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, was probably the most comprehensive guide to paint and color of its time.
2. A New Acoustic Instrument That Creates Sounds like a Digital Synthesizer
The Yaybahar is a new acoustic instrument designed by Istanbul-based musician Görkem Şen that emits music right out of a retro sci-fi movie, a remarkable feat considering there isn’t a bit of electricity involved. The Yaybahar can be played in a variety of different ways using mallets or with a bow, relying on a combination of two drum-like membranes, long springs, and a tall fretted neck to create music.
3. LIX: The World’s Smallest 3D Printing Pen Lets You Draw in the Air
The latest contender in 3D printing pens, the LIX raised over $1 million on Kickstarter.
4. 888,246 Ceramic Poppies Surround the Tower of London to Commemorate WWI
To commemorate the centennial of Britain’s involvement in the First World War, ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper conceived of a staggering installation of ceramic poppies planted in the famous dry moat around the Tower of London. Titled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” the final work consisted of 888,246 red ceramic flowers—each representing a British or Colonial military fatality—that flowed around the tower (and the entire internet) like blood.
5. The Cloud: An Interactive Thunderstorm in Your House
Cloud is an interactive light and speaker system shaped like a cumulus cloud that simulates a thunderstorm both in light and sound based on external input from either a remote control or motion sensors.
6. Table Topography: Wood Furniture Embedded with Glass Rivers and Lakes by Greg Klassen
Furniture maker Greg Klassen builds intricately designed tables and other objects embedded with glass rivers and lakes. Inspired by his surroundings in the Pacific Northwest, Klassen works with edge pieces from discarded trees (often acquired from construction sites, or from dying trees that have begun to rot) which he aligns to mimic the jagged shores of various bodies of water.
7. An Abandoned Bangkok Shopping Mall Hides a Fishy Secret
Professional cook and photographer Jesse Rockwell discovered something wholly unexpected when he descended the steps into the basement of an abandoned shopping mall in Bangkok where he took these amazing photos.
8. Polyphonic Overtone Singing Demonstrated by Anna-Maria Hefele
A chilling demonstration of polyphonic overtone singing by Anna-Maria Hefele, who demonstrates the almost inhuman ability to create a harmony of two notes at a time using a single breath.
9. Psychedelic Paint and Poured Resin Artworks by Bruce Riley
Chicago-based artist Bruce Riley fills canvases with abstract organic forms made from layer after layer of dripped paint and poured resin. While looking at images of his work online, it’s difficult to grasp the depth and scale of each piece which can be penetrated by light from multiple angles, casting shadows deep into the artwork. Riley works using a number of experimental techniques, frequently incorporating mistakes and unexpected occurrences into the thick paintings that appear almost sculptural in nature.
10. Absurdly Expressive Dog Portraits by Elke Vogelsang
Based in Hildesheim, Germany, Elke Vogelsang is a professional photographer who mostly shoots portraits of people and pets, but in her spare time spends plenty of time with her trio of rescue dogs who frequently find themselves in front of the camera.
11. Sheets of Glass Cut into Layered Ocean Waves by Ben Young
Self-taught artist Ben Young is a man of many exceptional talents from surfing and skateboarding to repairing furniture and working full-time as a qualified boat builder. He’s also spent the last decade exploring the art of sculpting with glass, an endeavor that’s become increasingly rewarding as galleries and collectors have started to take notice.
12. This 16th Century Book Can Be Read Six Different Ways
Sure, the Amazon Kindle might have dynamic font adjustments, and it can hold thousands of books, but can it do this? Printed in the late 16th century this small book from the National Library of Sweden is an example of sixfold dos-à-dos binding, where six books are conjoined into a single publication but can be read individually with the help of six perfectly placed clasps.