The Amazing Sand Bottles of Andrew Clemens

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These amazing sand bottles were made over 100 years ago by deaf mute artist Andrew Clemens  (1857 – 1894) of McGregor, Iowa. The amazing pictures – each pixel is  made from a grain of colored sand – have survived intact for over 100  years, without the use of any glue.

At the tender age of 5, Clemens lost his hearing and voice to encephalitis. After he graduated at the age of 17 from the Iowa Institute for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb in Council Bluffs, he began to experiment with sand art. Clemens collected naturally occuring, multi-colored sand from the Pictured Rock region of Iowa. He devised special tools to arrange the sand in intricate designs and then pack it tightly in chemist jars and bottles without the use of any glue.
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At first, Clemens’ work was simple and geometric in nature, but he gradually improved his technique and could create complex pictures (the Eagle and American flag seems to be a popular motif) that include overtones and shading, and involved about a dozen colors.
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What amazing process it must have been: the window in front of Clemens work table was a popular place for McGregor residents to hang out and watch as the artist, dubbed “the portrait painter without a brush or even paint,” spent hours creating his masterpieces.
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Clemens entertained special orders from clients (many of his sand bottles include the names of his customers), and charged anywhere between $5 to $7 per bottle (about $110 to $160 in today’s money). The artist created hundreds of bottles throughout his lifetime, but few survived.

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