In January 2014 I had the great pleasure of traveling to Myanmar (Burma) with a group of friends. It was an amazing experience. Among many memorable sights were the beautiful gold Buddhas and the pilgrims applying gold leaf to earn merit. This influenced my work as I started applying gold leaf to some of my skull art and I utilized pearls, gemstone beads and tube beads in ways that evoke the landscapes and colors of the countryside and city sights.
The top piece is a Water Buffalo skull with gold leaf and embellished with stick pearls and amethyst. Below, three small pieces from the Myanmar series include (from left to right) a mink, a fox, and prairie dog. I use a composite gold leaf for most of these pieces, but the fox (center) features 24-carat gold leaf brought back from Myanmar--the same gold leaf squares that the pilgrims purchase to put on the Buddha statues.
Dappled Grey (homage to Debra Butterfield)
Dappled Grey - I got this wonderful, old, yellowed horse skull with worn teeth and a wonderful forehead slant on eBay, and knew it needed special treatment. I remember seeing Deborah Butterfield's twig horses as a young artist, and wanted to use some of her materials with this piece. The branches are from birch and redbud trees, drilled to be able to be strung as "beads."
6x6x6 Pieces - The criteria for the show was smaller works that were no more than 6 inches cubed. I had just finished the beaver skull--which is actally quite a large skull for that animal! I made the copper chicken and stand to add a piece with more personality and whimsy, and the young robin is one of my favorite early small works.
Blue Lapis Beaver, Copper Chicken, Young Robin
View Virtual Tour of Mink Stole on YouTube
Click on the center arrow to view a slide show featuring a sampling of totems & amulets including:
Bison - turquoise
Steer - pearls
Deer - amethyst
Catalina Goat - onyx
Coyote - pearls
Fox with copper stand - pearl & carnelian
Chickens - pearl
Chicken with hammered copper stand
Muskrats - pearl & seed beads
Winter weasel on sterling stand - pearl & crystal
Feline - pearls, brass & seed beads
Rabbit - pearls
Songbird on sterling stand
Group of small skulls
Some of these beaded skulls are on display at CARNIVORE (1042 Pleasant, in Oak Park) and at the Illinois Artisan Shop (2nd. Floor, Thompson Center, Chicago). Others are headed to exhibits around the U.S. in 2015--watch page 1 for announcements and schedules.
The larger skulls are intended to hang on the wall or sit on a
table, mantle or pedestal. The smaller pieces are available with or
without the wire stands. I am working on new pieces, too--a deer, steer,
coyote, rabbits and more chickens. I'm also getting some beautiful ram skulls with curled horns, and some interesting skulls from Africa -- watch for new designs soon!
I find some people respond to
the simple elegance of the skulls sitting on a wood base, while others
like the personality the wire stands provide--what do you think? I am
interested in reactions and feedback! Feel free to e-mail your thoughts
most often asked question I've had so far is: where do you get your
skulls? This all started when I picked up a discarded bison skull at my
uncle's farm and started looking at its beautiful planes and surfaces.
I brought it home and cleaned it up, all the time thinking about how
I'd like to accent it with chunky and smooth turquoise beads. I also
felt like I had to practice on some smaller pieces, so I found some
chicken skulls through a local butcher, and then I went on eBay.
Yes--you can get lovely, clean skulls online--and, all kinds!