10 Artists With Unusual Mediums

From dryer lint to butter, check out the craziest materials artists are using around the world.

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Photo By: Salavat Fidai

Photo By: Heidi Hooper

Photo By: Jane Labowitch

Photo By: Vilma Farrell

Photo By: Anna Stoecher

Photo By: Courtesy of Savannah College of Art and Design

Photo By: Deanne Revel

Photo By: Vanessa Herman

Photo By: Deanne Revel ©Courtesy of Be Fantasy Show

Photo By: Courtesy of Geronimo Balloons

Micro Sculptures

When you think of sculptures, you typically think of art on a large scale in a public park or museum, but artist Salavat Fidai creates small sculptures so tiny you need a microscope to see them. These microscopic sculptures are carved from the point of pencils and graphite rods. There are very few masters of this art because graphite is very fragile and the process is time-consuming. Many of Fidai’s projects take days to complete and are so tiny they’re not measured in millimeters but microns. His intricate works include famous landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower.

Dryer Lint

One person’s trash is another person’s art supplies. You probably don’t think about the dryer lint you remove when you’re doing laundry, but Heidi Hooper sees an opportunity. Hooper’s dryer lint art has been featured at Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Consumer Reports dubbed her the “Andy Warhol of Dryer Lint.” Her work includes portraits, scenes from pop culture and adorable animals. Each piece has a myriad of different colors of lint creating a painting-like quality.

Etch-A-Sketch Art

The popular kid toy Etch-A-Sketch was good for a few scribbles or maybe if you were talented enough a word or two. But get the toy in the hands of Jane Labowitch and she’ll create a masterpiece. The self-proclaimed Princess Etch-A-Sketch can knock out someone’s likeness in mere minutes on a pocket-size tablet. But some of her more intricate works like the Taj Mahal have taken 10 hours on the classic Etch-A-Sketch. “I love the limitations of Etch-A-Sketch” she said. “No other artistic medium is constricted by using only one connected line.” Labowitch promises she’s not a robot and that she makes mistakes, too. If the error is small, she’ll incorporate it into the picture. If it’s too big, she’ll have to shake and erase just like the rest of us.

Coffee Filter Lamp

Don’t throw out your coffee filters! You could use them for art. Etsy artist Vilma Silveira creates lampshades with dyed coffee filters and the result is beautiful. “In my native country, Brazil, there is a rich folk art tradition and open markets where artisans craft all sorts of things using recycled coffee filters including flowers, wall art and lampshades,” Silveira said. “When I first saw a recycled coffee filter lamp and how the light filtered through the coffee stains, I was mesmerized and sure that I wanted to make this type of art.” Silveira uses water-based paint to give the coffee filters vibrant colors then the coffee filter strips are woven into metal shades. When lit, the shades resemble stained glass. “I love the fact that my art is ‘green’ and that I am able to recycle and beautify what most people would see as trash,” she said.

Veggie Instruments

Playing an instrument takes talent but building and rebuilding your instrument every day is impressive. Austria’s Vegetable Orchestra makes all of their instruments out of fresh produce. While on tour, orchestra members shop for vegetables and rebuild instruments every day to produce the same sounds for their songs. Instruments include carrot flutes, pumpkin drums, celery guitar, leek violin and pepper horns. Drills are used to hollow out vegetables and create chambers and holes in instruments. The orchestra describes their music as “strange, unfamiliar sounds whose organic origin is not always immediately recognizable.”

Sand Sculptures

Every May students from the Savannah College of Art and Design come out to Tybee Island beach in Georgia for the SCAD Sand Arts Festival. These aren’t just dinky castles. They’re giant, full-scale sculptures with intricate detail and designs. Full disclosure: This writer is a graduate of SCAD, but as a writing student I only participated as a spectator in total awe of the sand creations. And the spectators do come. The festival is one of Tybee Island’s biggest events. “It’s a sun-soaked swath of sculptural marvels,” said SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace. “Who doesn’t love an art gallery with an ocean view?”

Butter Busts

Sculptor Linda Christensen is a fan favorite at the Minnesota State Fair for her iconic butter busts. These incredibly life-like sculptures are created each year for the Midwest Dairy Association’s dairy princess and court. Most pageant winners celebrate with a crown and flowers, but these women get to have their likeness preserved in 90-pound blocks of butter. To keep the butter from melting in the summer heat, the blocks are chilled. Fairgoers can see the carving in action and ask Christensen questions via a 40-degree rotating cooler.

Medical Mosaic

Hospitals can be cold and uninviting. All those white and beige walls are depressing. But Toronto nurse Tilda Shalof and artist Vanessa Herman-Landau changed that. Together they created a mural for Toronto General Hospital using colorful plastic pieces from unused medical supplies. The giant 4' x 8' mural covers an otherwise boring white wall and used approximately 10,000 pieces of plastic that could have ended up in a landfill. For years Shalof collected the colorful plastic pieces such as lids, caps for needles, cork for test tubes, IV tubing and plugs. All pieces were clean and never touched the patient, just saved from the trash. Herman-Landau, who has mosaic experience, suggested Shalof should make a mural once she saw the hoard of colorful plastic pieces. “It was quite a playful endeavor,” she said. “We let the pieces speak for themselves as well as design.” She said the mural represents nurses and all the different things they do. The two women have had such positive feedback from their upcycled art that hospitals from all around the world are sending mural requests.

Bubble Art

If you didn’t know, there’s a professional world of bubble blowing and it’s pretty competitive. But no one comes close to bubble show Be Fantasy's Su Chang Tai. He holds several Guinness World Records for bubbles including the longest hanging bubble chain (30), the most soap dome bubbles inside each other (15) and the most soap bubbles blown inside a large bubble (779). Tai says bubbles aren’t just for kids. "I want to change people’s image of the bubble with my bubble performances.”

Giant Balloons

This is not the balloon art of your childhood. Jihan Zencirli of Geronimo Balloons isn’t about clowns making weiner dogs. The LA experimental artist creates chic clusters of balloons in various sizes and saturated colors. These giant installations brighten a space or building exterior with arches, awnings or even just a happy molecular cloud.

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