15 November 2009

Hugs not bugs

A couple of weeks ago, I started reading a new (for me) design blog called Doorknob. Like just about everything new and interesting I find any more, I found @doorknobdesign on Twitter. Doorknob is run out of New York and it's the project of a man named Kurt Kohlstedt. He finds some great things, give him a peruse the next time you're looking for some inspiration.

Anyhow, he was tweeting about a fantastic ceiling he'd found the other day and I followed his link back to the story. I was floored by it. Bah dum bum. Yes, I was floored by it. Here are the photos he ran. 

Pretty cool, huh? That ceiling is an installation in the Royal Palace in Brussels and it's the project of an artist named Jan Fabre.

It gets better. Here's a close up shot of the ceiling and you can really see how textured it is.

Even closer. Guess what it's made from.

That ceiling is a mosaic, for lack of a better term, made from the shells of 1.3 million jewel beetles. Jewel beetles are members of the family Buprestidae, and the particular Buprestid here is Sternocera aequisignata from Thailand. 

S.aequisignata is a food source in Thailand and Fabre set up a cottage industry in Bangkok to gather enough beetle shells to make his ceiling. Beetle shells that would have been discarded get upcycled here in every sense of the word. Along the way, some people who's lives aren't real fun got to make some money from what would have been their garbage. That's what I call a win win and the result is some downright arresting art.

So what do you think? Did Fabre usher in a new era in the decorative arts? Will we see beetle shell ceilings in the US any time soon? I can't wait to find out. Thanks Doorknob!


  1. Perhaps a beautiful ceiling Paul, BUT I can't get pass the fact it is made from the shells of dead Beetles. Jeweled or not, they were 'once upon a time' Beetles. :) -Brenda-

  2. Hah hah! And I say, what's the difference between a beetle shell and a seashell?

  3. Very pretty but now knowing what they are I am getting the creepy crawlies.

  4. "Calling all" Entomologists and Marine Biologists in Blogland who can answer Paul's question that he addressed to me. (It's beyond my intellectual capacity.)

  5. Hee hee. There's something about this ceiling that appeals to me on a really fundamental level. I think it's beautiful but I love the cringes it induces just as much.

  6. Well, physically, sea shells are made from calcium carbonate primarily and beetle shells are made from a polysaccharide called chitin. Who doesn't know that? Hah!

    I was asking more from an emotional level. A seashell used to have a mollusk in it and a beetle shell used to have a beetle in it. Why does one make people cringe and the other make people oooh and ahhh? I don't think there's a real answer to taht, and definitely no correct answer, but I love thinking about those sorts of things.

  7. I'm not sure what to say!! Wow. Talk about PATIENCE REQUIRED. I mean, seriously, how long did it take to attach all those beetle shells to the ceiling?? And they're not random, there's actually a pattern to them.

    Definitely a one-of-a-kind ceiling, that's for sure!!

    Thanks for the birthday wishes :-)


  8. Apparently, it was assembled by a cast of thousands.

    What big plans are underway for Ms. Kelly's birthday?

  9. Why am I thinking of The Mummy? *grin*

  10. Interesting. I always think of Cecil B. DeMille and the Ten Commandments when I hear that expression. But the Mummy works.

  11. THANK YOU Paul for enlightening 'me'. As said on more than one occasion "you are such a wealth of information". :) -Brenda-

  12. My pleasure Brenda. It's great to have a forum where I channel some of the volumes of arcane knowledge that rattle around in my head.

  13. like damien hirst's buttefly paintings, the ceilings are at once beautiful and unsettling...

    and you couldn't be more on the money about the twitter- the best source of random good stuff ever. i bookmark interesting resources as i come across them, as i'm sure most of us designers do and my bookmarking as gone way up since i've been twittering. couple the resources with the blog posts, and random ephemera, and twitter becomes way too entertaining- i'm scared to follow more people, as i'm scared to lose more time to it!

  14. I know what you mean, I keep thinking that I waste too much time on Twitter, but I get so much good stuff from it. How can that be construed as a waste of time. Even so, I need an assistant just to keep up with it.

  15. This is the best thing about blogs, when we go off topic and share what
    astonishes/enrages/enlightens us. The ceiling is dreamlike with elements of beauty and death/ eros/thanatos......

    On the topic of Grey, check out Color Me Happy's Maria Killampost "What everyone should know about Grey. She writes intelligently about color.

  16. Check out what the Mosaicists have to say about this ceiling over at Mosaic Art Now's blog. It's arresting to say the least and I'm a layman. Mosaicists are going bonkers over this thing.


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