Back in 2012 we featured a brief video about a small automaton that could almost perfectly mimic the song of a bird. Using mechanics similar to a clock, the fully automated wind-up device sucks air into a small bellows and forces it through a tiny whistle that sounds exactly like a singing bird. What my non-automata-knowledge-having-self didn’t realize at the time was that the century-old gadget was just one part of a much more intricate miniature automaton called a singing bird box.
The invention of singing bird boxes is attributed to Swiss-born watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz who also played a significant role in the creation of The Writer, a programmable automaton of a writing boy that recently inspired the movie Hugo. The basic device includes the bellows mechanism mentioned above along with a fully articulated bird with a moving beak, rotating head, and flapping wings. Several 18th and 19th century watchmakers including Jacob Frisard, Frères Rochat, and Charles Bruguier, were inspired by Jaquet-Droz’s to create their own opulent variations of singing bird boxes which are highly prized by collectors today. Variations include cigar holders, singing bird guns, and jewelry/makeup boxes.
One fantastic source of many antique bird boxes is London-based Douglas Fisher Antique Automata who carefully films almost all of their devices and makes them available on their YouTube channel. Included here are a few of my favorites, and you can also watch a number of fantastic technical videos about singing bird boxes filmed by Troy Duncan. (via The Presurfer)
If the artwork is on train tracks, is it still called street art? Rail art? Either way, we’re loving this series by Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo in which he cleverly converts the horizontal lines of train tracks into a canvas. The series, which have been popping up on railways throughout Portugal since early this year, often use bright, neon colors which create a nice contrast between the dull gray rocks and tracks. Each work is accompanied by subtle titles that can be playful but also harbor critical or cynical undertones.
The artist also goes by the moniker Bordalo II, an apparent ode to his grandfather whom he saw “painting the city of Lisbon.” You can see more of his work over on his website or Facebook page. (via Laughing Squid)
Hitachi Seaside Park is a sprawling 470 acre park located in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan, that features vast flower gardens including millions of daffodils, 170 varieties of tulips, and an estimated 4.5 million baby blue eyes (Nemophila). The sea on blue flowers blooms once annually around April in an event referred to as the “Nemophila Harmony.”
If you plan on visiting, the park offers a great English language flower calendar to help plan your trip. You can see many more photos of the grounds here. (via Bored Panda)
Chinese artist Ah Xian lives and works in Sydney where for nearly two decades he has explored aspects of the human form using ancient Chinese craft methods including porcelain, lacquer, jase, bronze, and even concrete. The artist often uses busts of his own family members including his wife, brother, and father onto which he imprints traditional designs with a vivid cobalt blue glaze. Via Asia Society:
These sculptures by Ah Xian establish a series of multilayered oppositions. The most overt is the tension between the sculptural form of the bust and the painted surface designs, which the artist likens to the oppositions of West and East. The bust is part of a Western portraiture tradition dating back to the busts of ancient Roman times and the designs are derived from Chinese decorative traditions, unique to China and in some cases to the studio-kilns at Jingdezhen. Such an opposition can also be seen as the relationship between the personal (since many of the busts are of Ah Xian’s family, including his wife, brother, and father) and the political (a statement about the artist’s own Chinese heritage articulated outside China).
The works collected here are mostly from his Human Human and China China series, though you can see many more works on Craft Australia. (via I Need a Guide)
For the 2013 KOBE Biennale artists and designers were invited to create environments inside industrial shipping containers as part of the ‘Art in a Container International Competition.’ Designers Masakazu Shirane and Saya Miyazaki created Wink Space, a modular installation made from mirrors that formed a giant kaleidoscopic tunnel. Not only was the piece an fun immersive environment, but it was also an experiment in building with zippers. “We wanted to create the world’s first zipper architecture. In other words, this polyhedron is completely connected by zippers. And in order to facilitate even more radical change some of the surfaces open and close like windows,” says Shirane.
I just stumbled onto the Instagram account of Tolga Girgin, a Turkish graphic designer and electrical engineer who experiments with calligraphy. His latest pieces involve a number of 3D lettering pieces that use shadow and perspective to make it appear like the letterforms are lifting off the page. Very cool.
Using large thin sheets of Chinese rice paper, artist Bovey Lee (previously) meticulously cuts intricate scenes of plants, roads, people, and architecture with an impressive array of cutting implements. The near weightless artworks are mounted against silk before being hung on gallery walls.