Art comes in all shapes and forms. Sometimes the canvas for artistic expression is even a living, breathing creature. Japanese artist Aki Inomata is using 3-D printer technology to make stunningly gorgeous shells for hermit crabs, and we’re in awe of her creations.

Aki designs the shells to look like famous architectural locations, like Tokyo or Santorini. They’re so beautiful that the crabs look like they’re carrying diamonds on their backs. But there’s also a message behind the artist’s choice to fashion the shells to look like different cities. She’s using the medium as a way to explore immigration and cultural identity. In a video for the South China Morning Post, Aki says, “The crabs can now move to different cities from all over the world and exchange homes…Hermit crabs carrying a part of a different creature on their back are identified by their shells rather than themselves. I thought this was similar to the fact that I am Japanese, but I can also change my nationality to French so I aim to incorporate these ideas into these pieces.”

The name of the project is called Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs? When hermit crabs aren’t gifted with such artistic abodes, they are usually forced to scavenge for gastropod shells to carry on their backs. Such shells are in limited supply, so sometimes they even have to fight other hermit crabs for a shell. If a crab is unable to find a shell, it will use wood or even garbage. Shells are crucial to survival for a hermit crab. The shell protects the crab’s soft abdomen and prevents the crab from drying out. Without the shelters they carry around on their backs, hermit crabs would not be able to survive. As the crab grows, it will change shells to accommodate its changing body.

Check out Aki Inomata’s exquisite hermoit crab homes in the video below. We love this amazing art project, and we’re inspired by the artist’s use of animals in her work. In another project, she made a coat for her dog from her own hair and a matching coat for herself from her dog’s hair. (We kind of want to hang out with Aki. And her dog. Just saying.)