Hobbies may be divided into three broad categories: Educative, Innovative and Trendy. The educative hobbies include the noblest, most interesting, and informative hobbies like philately, coin collecting, feather collecting, collecting butterflies, and making herbarium sheets. The innovative hobbies include those which satisfy the human urge to explore new venues like: fruit and vegetable carving, micro-carving, preserving, dog grooming, and many similar ones. The trendy hobbies are prompted by a contemporary trend or new awareness. It is this third category which includes the strangest hobbies in the world. Awareness about the bio-undegradable materials and the concepts like reusing and recycling have generated some new and strange hobbies like: used engine oil painting, tape painting, body painting, and many others of which a few are given here. A strange hobby may not be necessarily a famous hobby too, but it may be attractive, weird, or unique. A trendy or strange hobby is also differentiated from the other two categories in its lasting. Some of them may pop up like mushroom growth and may fizzle out quickly. What appears strange to some people may be just very conventional for others.
1. Bottle House Building
Ancient Romans used empty vessels in construction, not for the lack of building materials, but to reduce the weight at upper levels through use of more voluminous and lighter materials. Mostly one-liter, half-liter jars, milk bottles, and wine bottles had been used in the construction of bottle houses in the 20th century. Tom Kelly constructed a bottle house in Rhyolite, the Gold Rush Town in Nevada in 1905 using 51,000 beer bottles. He collected bottles from 50 bars. Paramount Pictures used the house in a movie. John H. Makinen built the Kaleya Bottle House in Kaleya, Michigan in 1941. More than 51,000 beer bottles were used in its construction. Kaleya Historical Museum purchased the building in 1941, and it is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. Some hobbyists fill the bottles with multi-colored liquids and cement them into windows. A hobbyist used the technique to display his collection of bottles.
2. Body Painting
Body painting is a body art which differs from tattoos in that no pricking whatsoever is involved in it. Henna leaves are extracted in the form of a paste and extruded from a cone and used just like decorating cakes through the piping nozzles. The open end, in this case, is very fine, and intricate designs are made, typically on the hands, arms, and feet. The natural dye is not permanent and exfoliates within a few weeks or a month. It is not uncommon to see kids with flags of their countries painted on their cheeks in the stadiums, particularly in the cricket matches between rival teams. The World Body Painting Festival in Portschach, Austria is the biggest event of its kind, and thousands of people from all over the world participate in it.
3. Crayon Carving
Michelangelo once said ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.’ There are kids who may not know what the great master said, but they do apply the wisdom and discover stunning sculpture out of simple crayons. In fact, someone not having an eye for art but equipped with the best sculpting tools and materials may end up with just a shabby figure, while a talented and gifted person may produce excellent sculptures from as simple a starting material as crayons and using only fingernails for carving.
Cryptozoology, literally meaning ‘hidden zoology,’ is not a regular science and is the play field for the hobbyists only who study the non-existent animals. Their interest is mainly in the bigger vertebrates which have no scientific evidence but have appeared persistently in myths and popular culture since long ago. Loch Ness Monster, Chupa cabra, Big Foot, the Yetti, unicorns, and ABCs standing for ‘Alien Big Cats’ belong to this category. The cryptozoologists try to form an image which resembles the mythical animals. They also study the extinct animals like dinosaurs. Collections of the imaginary prototypes and models of these animals in different materials like stone, wood, and thick-glazed paper satisfies their curiosity.
5. Vegetable and Fruit Carving
Vegetable and fruit carving, known as Mukimono in Japanese, originated in the 16th century in Japan. Mukimono is decorative garnishing and includes cutting the vegetable or fruit’s skins, removing its contents partially, and carving the skins layer by layer to get a half-tone effect. Watermelons, papayas, carrots, and eggplants are used for this purpose by the hobbyists as well as by master chefs for presentations as garnishes with regular meals. The art is an important part of the Japanese chefs’ training. Asian girls take it as a hobby while learning basic cooking. The art was developed by common Japanese and was liked by the kings.
Whereas Islamic calligraphy had been displayed on huge buildings, obviously with very big letter sizes, it was also traditional to write it in very small font size so that the Holy Book could be carried like a locket. The art further developed as a hobby, and some calligraphers write on grains of rice with the help of a magnifying glass. This hobby is like a dying art now because it requires lot of attention and devotion, and the younger generations are only too preoccupied with their computer activities to think of being involved in such an activity. One variant of this hobby is microcarving which is comprised of carving the pits of olives or shells of some dry fruits like almonds and walnuts.
7. Taxidermy, Skin Preservation
Taxidermy refers to the preservation and mounting of skins. Hobbyists find bird taxidermy as the most interesting while the museums are more interested in big cats taxidermy. Mounted skins are displayed as hunting trophies or exhibited as decorations. Even though a fish’s skin is very tender for this purpose, it is normally mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians which are suitable for this art. A taxidermist is a multi-disciplinary artist. The animal is first skinned without opening the internal organs. The skin is preserved with chemicals and is stuffed to retain the shape. Clay or marble is used for the eyes.
Compared with taxidermy, mummification is an older art. It is different from taxidermy in quite a few aspects like the preservation of whole the body excluding the brain and internal organs. Ancient Egyptian mummies are the best examples. Mummification was not merely a hobby, though. It was handled with all the interests of a hobbyist. Mummified cats are valuable archeological finds from many historical sites of Egypt. Unlike taxidermy, mummification focused upon the preservation of human bodies. Some tribes in the Amazon rain forest are known for shrinking and preserving human heads. Some shrunken heads are exhibited in a few American museums.
9. Fancy Dog Grooming
Many pet owners are whimsical hobbyists and want to see their pet as they fancy them. Not only is the dog’s coat cleansed but also transformed altogether totally. Dogs have been seen converted into tigers, lions, pandas and almost all sorts of spotted and striped animals. To give them a closer resemblance to other animals, their hair is trimmed to suit the desired figure, and they are dyed accordingly. The National Dog Groomers Association of America is the main organizer of such events. The pet owners feel proud of their display, but it is not known exactly if the dogs like it too. They most probably feel alienated.
10. Tape Art
Efforts have been made currently to impart an awareness about the environmental issues and the dangers of using bio-undegradable materials is one of them. These are the materials like plastics which are not decomposed by bacteria; therefore, they accumulate as indelible bad patches on the surface of the Earth. Packing materials and wrapping films are the foremost among such materials. Tape from cassettes from the tape recorder are a similar nuisance. Some innovative hobbyists have utilized them by cutting, arranging, and pasting them to form some high-quality paintings and portraits.
An hour is an hour, but the quality and impact of each varies from one to the other. An hour spent in official work and the one spent in the pursuit of a hobby differ in that the first causes fatigue and tension while the latter gives relaxation. Both are equally absorbing, though a strange hobby is not compatible with everyone. Depending upon its degree of strangeness, it needs compatible persons who like to do strange things.