Hubert Duprat employs insect craftsmen – a species of small, hairy-winged critters called caddisflies. These cousins of moths and butterflies, sometimes called “sedge-flies”, have a genetic predisposition towards waterfront property: their habitat includes streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and temporary waterbodies formed by rainfall or springs. Duprat uses adolescent bugs to create gorgeous tubular forms out of gold leaf, pearls and gemstones.
He began his work with caddisfly larvae in the early 1980s, after spotting some natural cases alongside a river in southwestern France. Seeing the intricate designs, he wondered how the larvae might adapt if they had different building materials.
At larvae stage, the insects range from one to three centimeters long. The young grubs (a favored appetizer for freshwater trout) instinctively construct cases around their mushy bodies for protection. These open-ended tubes serve multiple purposes. Tiny stones increase traction as the larvae travel fast-moving streams, and any sharp protuberances make the tube (and, by extension, the larvae) more difficult for predators to swallow.
Formed by bits of local material, patched together with a self-produced silken thread, the cases provide brilliant camouflage. According to The Fly Fishing Fella, in nature “these cases are constructed from shells, sand grains or plant material, with each species usually being particular about the materials it uses for construction.” See an example below.
Duprat collects larvae from their natural habitat and brings them to his studio lab where he gently removes their own natural cases and places them in special tanks filled with various semi-precious and precious stones including turquoise, coral and lapis lazuli, as well as sapphires, pearls, rubies, and diamonds. They immediately tuck in constructing new protective cases, creating natural art in a scientific setting.
Child labor, to be sure, but who exactly is the artist?
The resulting jewel-encrusted creations are unusual and unique, organic interpretations of the delicacy seen in Faberge eggs. Duprat doesn’t seem to have a website, but you can see a slideshow of
his their amazing works here.
I far prefer this jewelry made by insects to jewelry made from insects, don’t you?
Images of golden caddisfly cases from the artist’s Tumblr site