When I crawled out
from under your boot
I wasn't so small
Echo After Therapy and a Good Haircut
Wax poppet: beeswax, bones, wick and cloth. 2014.
I've had quite a few people inquiring as to where I find my bones, and how I treat them, so I thought I'd blog about the day to day logistics of supplying my bone addict habits...
This is my worm farm.
It's a pretty simple set up. An old bathtub, propped up, with an old watering can under the plug hole to catch the water (or worm juice as some people call it). It should be in a shady spot, avoiding full sun, especially mid-day glare and heat. Keep it away from your chooks, ducks and dogs, and other worm/bone predators.
Use cow or horse manure and organic matter to fill it, then place in your worms. These are a special type of worm, particularly suited to composting. Mine are called Red Wigglers. You don't need many to start off, a handful or two will do. They will multiply swiftly, and when the population level reaches peak numbers, you may find, one moonlit night, a exodus happening, with some of your beloved worms seeking new homes.
Cover the worm farm with an old blanket or carpet. Use the watering can to water the farm, then place it back under the drain hole to collect the nutrient rich excess. When the watering can is full, I tend to reuse it to water the farm again, but you can also use it to water seedlings, with fantastic results. (A word of caution, do not use on vegetable seedlings that are to be consumed in a short period of time. Especially avoid putting it on lettuce and other water rich plants.)
Don't overwater. The poor buggers drown. You also have to make sure you keep up the organic offerings, and occasionally add cow or horse manure too.
There are many varied opinions on what you can and can't put in a worm farm. Some people won't add anything dead, but obviously they aren't bone fiends like me. I have put road kill bones, whole wallabies (that have died natural deaths on my rural property) birds, and lately a black swan into my worm farm. It's important to remember that if the dead offering is too rich, and too large, in relation to the overall worm farm mass, it may overwhelm them. It's better to set up an additional worm farm if you need more workers, and quicker results.
Then I sit back and leave it to my Wigglers...
The process isn't particularly quick.
Occasionally I'll turn the farm's contents and add more organic matter, but that's about it. A quick peek now and again will ascertain when the worms have finished. A strong stomach is needed at times, but let's face it, the stages of decay are part of it, and if you're squeamish, bone collecting probably isn't for you. My black swan (found by a friend on the side of the road) took almost a year for my Wigglers to breakdown. They aren't fast but they are thorough.
When I have collected my bones from the farm I rinse them (taking care to make sure all my worms have been removed from cracks and cavities first!). After rinsing I soak the bones in a weak bleach solution. It is very important to make sure the solution is WEAK, otherwise it will bleach the colour out completely and weaken the bone structure.
I don't usually bleach bones that have been exposed to the elements. The natural colours: soft green hues and varying shades, have an inherent beauty that I take care not to alter.
I sort my bones into sizes and types, according to my needs. I'm happiest when both my wax and bone supply are well stocked. You never know what you may need midway through a sculpture.
I tend to use the bones of wallabies, native hens, and other Tasmanian native wildlife in my sculptures. I avoid anything from slaughterhouses, or creatures that people have killed to eat. The bone vibe is different from those who have died of natural causes, or by road accidents. I treat the animal remains with all due respect, and never forcibly remove body parts.
(A final note: some local councils don't allow the removal of road kill. Others use noxious poisons on the road verges. I never pick up roadkill or bones from such areas, as I have no wish to use toxic chemicals in my sculptures.)
The Seven Deadlies II: Superbia
Wax poppet: beeswax, bones. cloth and wick.
Series in progress. 2014.
I'm delighted to share the news that a selection of my wax poppets--among them my Hexen, Bone Fairies and Djinn--are now on show at Cobweb Designs.
In fact the first one has already left the gallery, bound for her new home! If you are passing by the township of Cygnet, in southern Tasmania, drop in to see them. If not you can find details on Cobweb Designs facebook page (see the above link).
My thanks to the lovely ladies at Cobweb Designs. I'm proud to add my poppets to the photographs I already have showing there, and to be part of such a wonderful group of local artists.
I thought I'd add the artist statement that accompanies the poppets, as it tells a little of their story, their origins and their antics....
Gothic Belles. 2013.
“Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back.
Through night dreams, through events half understood and half remembered.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
Women Who Run With the Wolves.
I’m the proverbial bone woman. If you’re driving around Cygnet, Tasmania, and you see someone with a box under her arm, searching the verges for animal bones, and studiously avoiding your eye, that’s me. I also hoard beeswax, as local beekeepers well know. I get anxious when my stock is running low. I also attract bees, and unfortunately wasps.
I’ve been making beeswax, bone and wick poppets for about a year and a half, having made a prototype back in 1999, as part of my post graduate degree at the Institute of the Arts, A.N.U.
My Gothic Belles came first. They are Gothic heroines with attitude. Damaged, scarred, burnt and flawed, yet containing an enduring inner strength, they are archetypes of female resilience in the face of historical, societal impositions.
Gothic Belle: Fallen Belle 2013
Gothic Belle: Masked Belle 2013
I soon found myself making the first winged Gothic Belle, the bone wings serving as metaphors for the possibility of healing, metamorphic flight.
Gothic Belle: Self Portrait 2013
In turn the Bone Fairies, Djinn and Hexen emerged from my bones and wax. Women are to witches, and witches are to fairies, and all that, and my art has always revolved around the magical, mythological and the spiritual.
Freed from their corsets and crinolines, my poppets began to act in an unpredictable manner, becoming Wild Women, flying around on broomsticks, trooping, dancing, seducing, dancing on wicks and soaring on the trapeze.
Bone Fairy: Wick Dancer 2013
Bone Fairy: Wick Dancer 2013
Bone Fairy Trapeze 2013
But once freed the Wild Woman cannot be tamed, and my poppets have a darker element. The Bone Fairies and Djinn are creatures of ancient Celtic lore, and pre Islamic myth, and bear no resemblance to the diminutive Victorian version that dwells at the bottom of the garden.
Trooping Bone Fairies 2013
Bone Djinn 2013
Bone Djinn 2013
I start each poppet from the bones up, selecting each one according to the creature I am to make. Some poppets spring fully formed into my head, and demand that I conjure up their bodies straight away, others creep up on me. While I’m making them my dreams are filled with spirits and bones, and my house is permeated with the scent of beeswax.
I’m currently working on a series of poppets depicting the seven deadly sins, the first of which--The Seven Deadlies--Luxuria—is on display at Cobweb Designs. Each poppet has her accompanying demons, and are proving to be a lot of fun to make. I’m also working on more Hexen, having already produced the archetypes the Seer, and Raising the Serpent, and the Hedge Rider.
The Seven Deadlies--Luxuria 2014
Tasmanian wax sculptor, photomedia artist and writer.