Trying to make a living as an artist can be a hair-raising situation, but Adrienne Antonson hasn't let that bug her.
Instead, she's found a niche by sculpting bugs -- out of her own hair.
She's pretty good too. So good that Ripley's just bought six of her "mast-hair-pieces" to display in their museums.
It's a unique niche, but it's one that Antonson, who recently moved to Asheville, N.C., from Vashon Island, Wa., is happy to have, as it combines two longstanding interests into one bugged-out hairy genre.
"When I was young, insects were my favorite thing," she told HuffPost Weird News. "They captivated me. I am humbled that they are so tiny, but can do so many things we can do -- and fly as well."
Antonson also had a thing for hair growing up.
"My mom actually used to save hair and bring it out on special occasions," she recalls.
"She saved my baby hair, as well as the hippie hair she cut off before my brother was born," Antonson said. "It's a fun thing to pull out and look at. It shows history. You can see the color and texture and changes over time."
But it was only a couple of years ago that she came up with the idea of mixing her two loves to make a hairy, buggy, artsy version of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.
"We were living on an island near Seattle near an alpaca farm and it just seemed like something fun to do," she said. "Plus, I used to kill insects with nail polish remover when I was a kid for my collections, so I think I was a little guilty."
She added, "Working with hair requires me to be meticulous, but I rise to the challenge."
Antonson uses different techniques depending on the insect she is recreating. Sometimes she sews the hair and other times she she paints it or uses hairspray.
"The idea is to create something as beautiful and textured as the insect," she said. "Even better, I don't take their lives."
Antonson uses mostly her own hair, which she says is long and straight, but she has other people she can call on when something else is needed.
"There is a 90-year-old woman who sends me hair that is perfect for wings," she said.
But she is not looking for donations from strangers.
"I need to know whose hair I'm working with and have a connection with them," Antonson said. "Like a good friend, or my 4-year-old niece who chopped off her hair without permission to give to me."
As excited as Antonson is about her work, she was even more excited when Ripley's Entertainment contacted her hoping to buy some of it.
"It came out of the blue," she said. "But it just seemed too cool that I feared it was a joke. It's such a weird institution. I loved going there as a kid."
Unbelievabely, Edward Meyer, Ripley's vice president of exhibits and archives, was initially bugged by the idea of purchasing her pieces.
"My initial response was 'yuck' because I don't like bugs, and using human hair to create anything -- especially to a bald guy like me -- is disturbing," Meyer admitted. "This was quickly replaced by real wonder. These bugs are truly beautiful. The praying mantis is so realistic, you think it's going to attack you."
Although the amount Ripley's paid is confidential, Antonson says it was enough that she and her husband were able to relocate from Seattle to Asheville.
Now that her art is getting noticed, she is hard at work on other bug-related pieces.
"I did between 35 and 40, and now I'm starting work on another 30," she said.
As such, she is happy she won't have to worry about running out of material.
"Much of my work centers around sustainable concepts ... the idea of using what you have," Antonson said. "Human hair is the epitome of this idea -- it's free, self-sustaining and immediately accessible."
There is another reason she loves her work: the sheer shock value.
"I enjoy the response my art has on viewers -- they seem attracted and repulsed at the same time," she said.
Antonson's works are currently at Ripley's headquarters until a decision is made on where they should be placed.
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