From teddy bears to Tamagotchis, it would seem people have always been obsessed with having teeny tiny cute animals around them - even if they're not alive. Sure, they may not be able to do much apart from look adorable, but just seeing their cute faces and feeling like a parent (just for a second) is enough to make anybody have a great day.
But now, one Japanese artist has taken tiny cute animals to a whole new level with her stunning collection of painted stones.
Akie Nakata - known simply as Akie - has loved picking up stones ever since she was a child, selecting the ones she felt had the best "character". Speaking to My Modern Met, she said: "Stones have their own intentions, and I consider my encounters with them as cues […] to go ahead and paint what I see on them."
The artist started painting stones back in 2011, and after taking a walk along a riverbank, she spotted a particular pebble that she believed looked like a rabbit. Since then, Akie has been turning pebbles and stones into incredibly detailed cats, dogs, mice, birds, possums and more - and now she delights her 83,000+ Instagram followers with her wonderful creations.
Opting to paint the eyes last, Akie considers her work complete when "the eyes are now alive and looking back [at her.]" She says: "To me, completing a piece of work is not about how much detail I draw, but whether I feel the life in the stone."
Her creations are utterly adorable and incredibly realistic, and Akie says that when she holds one in her hand, she feels everything it has "silently witnessed over the millennia".
Believing every stone has its own story to tell, Akie breathes life into each one with her art. She reveals: "Sometimes I paint while I talk to the stone as I hold it in my hand".
Akie now hopes that people treasure her pebble pets as they treasure their own lives, because, as she puts it: "We all stand on the same earth, and we come from the same earth."
And if you'd like one of Akie's creations to treasure in your own home, she often updates her followers with their availability on her Facebook page.