A Colossal Year: The Top 12 Articles on Colossal in 2014 

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

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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

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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

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Historic Royal Palaces

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

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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

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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

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Photo © Jesse Rockwell

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Photographer Spends 20 Years Documenting How We All Dress Exactly Alike 

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For the last 20 years, unassuming Dutch photographer Hans Eijkelboom has traversed the world, picking a spot, be it in Shanghai, New York, or Paris, and meticulously photographed what he saw. “I take between 1 and 80 photographs a day, almost every day, 12 months a year,” he says, referring to his “Photo Notes” project, which has now been turned into a book titled People of the Twenty-First Century. The “Photographic Journal,” published by PHAIDON, is the largest, most comprehensive work of his to date, and includes thousands of photos that, together, create a fascinating picture of mankind.

The “anti-sartorial” photographs of everyday people capture specific visual themes – people in red jackets, men with bare chests on roller blades – that are grouped together with the date, city and time range they were taken. And this combination and repetition is what makes the photographs so powerful. Viewed separately, they would hardly even catch our eye.

“I don’t use this diary to show what happens in my life but as a method of visualizing the development of my world view,” writes the artist. Much like the way stalagmites form in caves over hundreds of years, Eijkelboom’s landscape is the result of a methodical fixation to the banality of everyday life. Hans Eijkelboom’s “People of the Twenty-First Century” is available for around $26 (Via Citylab)

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A Tree of 511 Interconnected Pliers Carved from a Single Block of Wood by Ernest Warther 

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Photo by Paul & Margery Zeller

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Photo by Paul & Margery Zeller

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Photo by SneakinDeacon

As the story goes, Ernest “Mooney” Warther was a boy growing up in Ohio when he encountered a man who taught him how to carve a pair of working pliers from a single piece of wood—using just 10 cuts. Whether it was that single epiphany, or the machinations of his incredibly inquisitive mind, Warther would quickly become one of this most notable wood carvers in America.

Warther’s most significant carving before he changed his focus almost exclusively to locomotives, was a tree created from 511 interconnected pliers using the same technique he learned as a child. The piece required some 31,000 cuts and each branch can fully articulate like a functional pair of pliers all the way down to the base of the trunk. Watch the video above to see Warther’s son David demonstrating the technique (seriously, it’s almost miraculous at the end, well worth a quick watch).

If you want to see more of Warther’s work, there’s an entire museum in Ohio where you can also view is wife Frieda’s meticulously organized collection of 100,000 buttons. (via Atlas Obscura)

Update: An earlier version of this post stated the person in the video above is Ernest, when in fact it’s his son, David. (thnx, Natalia!)

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A 3D Ship Projected onto Curtains of Water at the Amsterdam Light Festival by visualSKIN 

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Romania-based architecture collective visualSKIN arrived at the Amsterdam Light Festival with a splash this year, installing a three-dimensional projection of a 17-century ship against a backdrop of water. Titled ‘Ghost Ship,‘ the installation makes use of two intersecting images projected onto perpendicular curtains of water that can be viewed from multiple angles. The piece is in reference to a Dutch East India Company ship, The Amsterdam, that was wrecked in a storm during its maiden voyage to Batavia in 1749.

In a fortunate coincidence, and unbeknownst to visualSKIN beforehand, Ghost Ship also rests on the former site of a large water fountain designed by sculptor Albert P. Termote that was removed more than a decade ago. You can see more views of the installation right here. (via Designboom)

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Spectacular Ice Formations Atop a Windswept Mountain in Slovenia 

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After a long period of pummeling wind, snow, and ice, weather photographer Marko Korosec sensed an opportunity to climb Mount Javornik, part of a mountain range in eastern Slovenia and the location of a popular ski center. What he discovered can only be described as otherworldly. Trees and lookout towers fully encased in hard layers of rime ice, formed by high winds and freezing fog. Korosec says some of the ice spikes growing off the tower reached well over 3-feet (100cm) long. To see more of his weather photography and additional images from this shoot, head over to his 500px page. All photos courtesy the photographer.

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Shadow Knives: Silhouette Artwork Cut from Butcher Knives by Li Hongbo 

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Cheetah, Metal, 35 x 9.8 x 1.7 cm, 2014

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Wasteland, Metal, 35 x 9.8 x 1.7 cm, 2014

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Gaze, Metal, 35 x 9.8 x 1.7 cm, 2014

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Hawk, Metal, 35 x 9.8 x 1.7 cm, 2014

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Lotus Pond, Metal, 35 x 9.8 x 1.7 cm, 2014

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Bones of a Snake, Metal, 200 x 38 x 9 cm, 2014

Artist Li Hongbo, whose flexible paper sculptures we’ve admired many times here on Colossal, recently created a new series of silhouette artworks as part of a solo show at Contemporary by Angela Li in Hong Kong. Each piece is delicately cut from the knife leaving a complementary negative space from which it appears to rise. Hongbo says the pieces are meant as a warning, that “human beings will eventually destroy themselves because of their gluttony and their abuse of animals.” You can see more from the series here. If you liked this technique, also check out paper sculptures by Peter Callesen. (via My Amp Goes to 11)

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