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MIDVALE — A small store in Midvale is infested with bugs — thousands of them — and the owner wouldn't have it any other way.
Jean-Michel Arrigona, owner of Natur at 94 W. 7720 South in Midvale, really likes bugs.
"I'm crazy about them," Arrigona said. "My whole life I've loved animals. I've loved insects."
Ten years ago he started putting bugs in frames as a hobby; he had a full-time job as a furniture builder. But a few months ago, he started a business where he sells bugs as fine art. His work area is filled with containers of various species from around the world. He has drawers filled with bugs, big and small, ready to be framed.
"I have people in all parts of the world who catch them and then prepare them, fold them carefully," he explained.
He has about 12 to 15 suppliers in China, Australia, New Guinea and several other countries in South America.
The bugs arrive in small packages, flat and brittle. He then uses various methods to relax or restore the creatures to their original size, just like they looked when they were alive.
"All I have done is pose them and frame them," he said. "The colors are natural, the shine is natural, the texture; nothing is put on them to protect them, it's not needed."
The colors of the insects can be very vibrant, and some customers don't believe he hasn't altered the insects in anyway.
"It takes convincing," he said. "They think I've done something to them, that I've put a coat of something on them, but that is completely natural."
Arrigona said he knows a framed exotic bug isn't for everyone, but for those looking for something to catches people's attention, one of these frames will certainly do the trick.
"Interestingly enough I have a lot of executives who have bought them, a piece for their office," he said. "It's often a conversation starter. Some have used them for gifts for other executives."
He also sells his bug art to museums who sell the items. He sells to galleries and to private collectors as well.
Prices range from $7 for a small bug up to $1,800 for the larger pieces of art.
"I like to see it open people's eyes, maybe realize something that they weren't aware of before," he said, "realize how gorgeous these creatures are."