inomata_shell_new_york
Aki Inomata

If you’ve ever gone into a beachside souvenir shop, you’ve probably seen spare hermit crab shells painted with soccer balls or Raiders logos. Japanese artist Aki Inomata would scoff at such nonsense. Well, OK, I scoff too, but Inomata is actually producing something way better: 3D-printed shells shaped like architecture.

inomata_shell_house
Aki Inomata

Inomata scans the inside of the crabs’ shells, then models skylines, houses, windmills, or castles on top of that template — guaranteeing the crab a comfortable fit every time. Once the model is complete, she prints the shell in clear plastic.

inomata_shell_castle
Aki Inomata

The artist says she was inspired by ideas of identity and nationality:

I overheard that the land of the former French Embassy in Japan had been French until October 2009; that it was to become Japanese for the following fifty years, and then be returned to France. This concept made me think of hermit crabs, which change their shells. The same piece of land is peacefully transferred from one country to the other. These kinds of things take place without our being aware of it. On the other hand, similar events are not unrelated to us as individuals. For example acquiring nationality, moving, and migration. The hermit crabs wearing the shelters I built for them, which imitate the architecture of various countries, appeared to be crossing various national borders. Though the body of the hermit crab is the same, according to the shell it is wearing, its appearance changes completely. It’s as if they were asking, “Who are you?”

inomata_windmills
Aki Inomata

You’d have to be a really devoted pet-lover to actually buy an original work of art for your hermit crab to live in, though. Probably best to just give it the one you bought at the beach shop, with the painted-on Juggalo symbol.