Colorful orchids, identical in size, bloom in UK artist Laura Hart’s studio. From their bilateral symmetry to their splashes of pigment, the glass designer’s perfectly crafted forms illustrate the strange exotic beauty of the plant species. With their soft and fleshy glass petals, Hart’s botanical sculptures appear as fully bloomed flower heads, each of which has a different pattern to reflect the diversity of the species. “My fascination with orchids spans decades and at one point I had nearly seventy in my conservatory,” Hart tells Colossal. “The explosion of color and perfume during the flowering months intoxicate the senses.”
Hart’s route to making glass sculptures has been a convoluted path alongside many creative pursuits. “Beginning with oils and canvas at around the age of twelve, treading the boards at seventeen, video production in my twenties and thirties, heritage building renovation, 3D animation design in my forties, and, at last, the glorious world of glass in my fifties,” she says.
Hart was unexpectedly brought to glass when asked to design a sculpture in steel and glass for a concept artist, and hasn’t looked back since. “I needed to better understand the glass making process in order to achieve the design, so I observed some wonderfully talented glass artists at work. I was utterly captivated and there the obsession began.”
Each flower is about twelve inches (thirty cm) in diamteter, and takes Hart up to ten days to make. She tries to recreate the species as faithfully and authentically as possible, whilst imbuing them with her artistic interpretation.
The artist creates orchid-shaped moulds using 3D modeling and animation software. “The templates for each flower are animated into shapes to simulate glass flow within the kiln to ensure that every flower will slump into the correct shape without stressing the glass in the process,” Hart explains.
Hart then cuts each petal individually and uses glass powders and frits for the first firing. “Veining is then applied from hair fine strands of glass created by pulling thin shards of glass through a flame. There can be as many as six firing processes to achieve the final result. The flowers are then sandblasted to create a satin sheen, and coated with a waterproof spray to bring out the color and prevent finger marks.”
The three-dimensional details in Hart’s glass orchids are added from cutting sheet glass which are applied to the petals and re-fired. “Once all the detail and color is applied to each petal they are fused together to create the flat flower shape. Finally, the flower is placed on the mould and fired to slump position.”
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Miniature-builder and ceramicist Jedediah Corwyn Voltz constructs tiny homes, studios, and workshops perched within or around domestic objects. Previously we’ve covered his mini treehouses—impressive structures that scale succulents and other common houseplants with the support of petite scaffolding. Recently the artist has combined two of his preferred mediums, building small-scale interior scenes in the cross-section of his handmade ceramic vessels.
The multi-piece sculptures feature workbenches, complex machinery, crystals, and telescopes which peer from the top of the converted pots. These miniature workshops will be exhibited in the group show Bad Ass Miniatures: … Causing a Little Trouble at D. Thomas Fine Miniatures in Yonkers, New York from May 5 through July 22. You can view more of the Los Angeles-based artist’s ceramic works and tiny houseplant homes on his Instagram and Big Cartel.
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The small fishing village of Houtouwan on the Chinese island of Shengshan has been abandoned since the 1990’s. Due to increased competition with nearby Shanghai and a depleted fishing supply, residents were forced to find work in other towns, leaving their own coastal village to the whim of Mother Nature.
Today the ghost town is only visited by tourists curious to see the vine-wrapped homes and other buildings swallowed by untamed greenery. Shanghai-based photographer and videographer Joe Nafis visited the area last year with fellow photographer Dave Tacon. It took them nearly 36 hours to reach the village due to lack of ferries or connection with other towns in the area. Once in town, Nafis explored the area on foot, as well as from above with his drone.
“Using the drone to explore the village first was a good idea as the paths were not well maintained and overgrown,” Nafis tells Colossal. “Some of the buildings were in tatters, while others looked like they were going through a remodel. It was all very strange. On the Sunday there were a few tourists, about ten to fifteen, and then on Monday we were the only people in the village other than the three to four that still lived there.”
You can view drone footage from the photographer’s visit to the overgrown village in the video below. He recently released an aerial time lapse video focusing on Shanghai’s urban development over the last seven years on his website, and more video-based projects by Nafis can be found on his Instagram and Vimeo. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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Philodendron Xanad is a repeating site-specific installation by Belgium-based artist Ruben Bellinkx that physically imbeds a common houseplant into the walls of galleries and homes. The plant calmly rests on one side of the wall as several of its leaves reach through layers of dry wall and wooden beams to grow on the other side.
“The plant literally grows through the wall,” Bellinkx told Colossal. “I make a hole in the wall and place the plant so that there are enough leaves on the other side. Then I close everything with wooden panels. When there is enough light on the other side, the place grows further and lasts for a maximum of four months.”
The artist is a guest professors at KASK, the University College in Ghent, Belgium in the department of Fine Arts (Drawing), and lives in Brussels. His work is currently included in the group exhibition The Raft. Art is (not) Lonely, curated by Jan Fabre and Joanna De Vos at Mu.ZEE in Ostend, Belgium through April 15. You can view documentation of the installation process for Philodendron Xanad below, and see more of Bellinkx’s temporary installations and photography on his website.
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A Project Aims to Create the World’s Largest Hanging Garden Since Babylon Within the Branches of a 114-Foot Tree
The French masterminds of mechanical delight, Les Machines de L’ile, have an ambitious new project underway. L’Arbre aux Hérons (The Heron’s Tree) is set to be the largest hanging garden built since ancient Babylon, spanning over 160 feet in diameter and reaching 114 feet into the sky. Their Nantes-based team describes the historic muses behind the project:
Inspired by the worlds of Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci, it is an unprecedented artistic project. After the Grand Elephant and the Machine Gallery in 2007, the Carousel of the Sea Worlds in 2012, the Herons’ Tree is the third phase of the Island’s Machines. Coming out of the minds of François Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice, it will be located along the banks of the Loire River, a few meters away from the house Jules Verne spent his teenage years in and where Jean-Jacques Audubon grew up and drew his first herons.
Les Machines de L’ile have been working on The Heron’s Tree since their inception in 2007, and in the spirit of democratic discovery, their team of skilled craftspeople have been sharing the prototypes with visitors to the Machine Gallery. The sketches and mock-ups for the project include a giant steel tree topped with two herons that each carry twenty passengers on circular flights. Half of the tree’s twenty-two branches can be traversed on foot by visitors, and all of the branches will support hanging terraces of plants and gardens to create a lush ecosystem. The tree itself will be set in an old granite quarry on the cliffs of Brittany.
The goal is to open The Heron’s Tree in 2022, and two thirds of the 35 million euro project cost is being covered by public funding. Les Machines de L’ile is seeking to fund the rest through crowdfunding: you can contribute via Kickstarter. You can also track the project’s progress on Facebook.
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A native of The Netherlands and now based in Australia, Amok Island depicts flora and fauna that can be found in the locations of his colorful murals. The artist’s distinctive minimal style is reminiscent of recent trends in digital design. However, his analog use of flat fields of color and geometric shapes to interpret the nuanced forms of animals and plants is a fresh take in the current mural scene.
Amok writes on his website that if weren’t an artist, he would be a biologist. He takes many of his own reference photos (including underwater), and titles each mural with the name of the plant or animal. The artist describes his passion for the natural world:
The theme of natural exploration and conservation is a strong and constant undercurrent of Amok Island’s artistic practice. His lifelong fascination with nature and her relationships and history with mankind drive the artist’s obvious appreciation and obsession with his subjects and his urge to direct the attention of his audience to them.
Amok has finished murals in twenty five countries and counting, and also creates smaller paintings, which he sometimes editions as prints. You can see more work on his website, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.
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Montreal-based fashion designer and creative Raku Inoue (previously) continues his Natura Insects series with a focus on brilliantly colored moths and butterflies. The delicate insects were created from seasonal leaves and blooms, with pastel petals and green leaves composing those made in late summer, and warmer tones and brown leaves forming the works made in mid-fall.
The artist learned the importance of utilizing seasonal materials while studying the art of Ikebana—the Japanese art of floral arrangement. This training taught Inoue to respect the nature he works with and only use what is most abundant, rather than focusing on what might look most attractive. Often after a rain he will collect the petals that have fallen to the ground, using these naturally-provided elements rather than searching for flowers still connected to their tree or stem.
You can see more arrangements from his continuing series on Instagram.
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