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Japanese Artist 3D Prints 'International' Homes for Hermit Crabs

In 2009, Japanese artist Aki Inomata began creating clear, plastic hermit crab shells with the help of 3D printing. Inspired by different cities around the world, the artist brought her creations to life through the use of technology before gifting them to hermit crabs.

The end result, Inomata's 2010-2013 project “Why Not Hand Over a 'Shelter' to Hermit Crabs?”, features miniature renditions of several international cities which are both functional and beautiful, reports CityLab. By studying CT scans of natural hermit crab shells, Inomata was able to make her artwork suitable for its residents. Whenever they please, the hermit crabs can leave their homes to settle in a new location, from New York to Paris, Tokyo to Santorini.

“The hermit crabs in my piece, who exchange shelters representing cities of the world, seem to be crossing over national borders,” Inomata writes on her website. “It also brings to mind migrants and refugees changing their nationalities and the places where they live.”

The artist's project hopes to explore these themes, as well as ideas of adaptation. By wearing their homes on their backs, Inomata argues, hermit crabs – like people – have fluid identities which can change as the creature grows.

"Hermit crabs, carrying a part from a different creature on their back, happen to be identified by their shells rather than themselves," Inomata says in a Reuters video about the project. "I thought this was similar to the fact that I am Japanese, but I could change my nationality to French."

Take a look at Inomata's shells below:

[Photo via Designboom, Video via YouTube user Aki Inomata]