A few weeks ago, I was walking home from a neighborhood street festival, when I happened upon this animal skull on the ground. It was already decomposed, leaving nothing but the bare bone skull completely intact. The skull was found in front of an abandoned apartment building with a known rat colony living inside. Examination of the skull, revealing the telltale talon-like teeth confirmed my suspicions that the skull once belonged to a common city rat. I was overcome with a sense of revulsion of disgust. Immediately, I knew what I needed to do. I took the skull home, intent on the purpose of fashioning it into an article of jewelry.What follows is the steps I took in this process.
Rats carry diseases, so my first priority was sanitation. When handling the skull, I did so only with gloves or by using these tongs shown above. I set water in a pan to boil, then placed the skull in the boiling water for about 12 minutes. The boiling water adequately killed off any germs that might have been remaining on the skull.
After the rat skull was sufficiently cleaned and sanitized, it was time to begin the bleaching process. There are a couple schools of thought with regards to taxidermic bleaching - most maintain that a soluble acidic solution, such as a 20% hydrogen peroxide solute, was the favorable way to go. I chose to use a pure household bleach solution, though I'd read that pure bleach can render the bone brittle and prone to breakage. Rats, after all, caused the Black Plague and subsequent epidemics, so before placing it on my body I wanted to ensure its utmost sanitation. I chose the stronger method of the two.
I poured about 3 capfuls of pure bleach into a container of water and allowed the skull to soak overnight. Whatever nasty microbes may have survived the boiling water bath surely met their end in the bleach. Oddly enough, the boiling water bath turned the two front teeth a strange orange color...and I am still unsure why this occurred. The red teeth also did not turn white after the bleach bath, and makes the skull just that much more macabre.
I let the rat skull bake in the sunlight to complete the bleaching process. Once it was adequately dry enough, I strung it onto a brass chain. Using a pure bleach solution did cause the bone to become very brittle. A few teeth and pieces broke off in the bleach, and more broke off in post-processing handling. When wearing the necklace, I have to pay very careful attention to the skull to ensure that it doesn't break even further. I'd still rather deal with a very delicate piece of jewelry over the possibility of dangerous microbes surviving on its surface. Perhaps I will apply a layer of clear coat varnish to the skull, to strengthen it. I haven't decided yet - I do rather like the matte bone texture.
Wearing this rat skull challenges my notion of what is typically considered to be a filthy creature. Rats are a dirty nuisance in Chicago, but I have rendered this rat into a harmless necklace. I receive many reactions when I wear this necklace - fascination, disgust, incredulity, appreciation. Most people are unsettled to discover that this skull belonged to a city rat. Their hands recoil instantly from the charm until I explain that it was sufficiently sanitized. Any piece of art - whether it be a painting, a photograph, or functional art such as fashion - has the power to inspire emotion in people. This necklace certainly inspires such feelings. I'm not saying this necklace is Art With a Capital A, but I do believe in the power of symbolism. It has been an experience in learning to separate the rat's history as a harbinger of death from it's current benign state as my necklace.
Edit: Apologies if this post was uncessarily pretentious.
(images via jak & jil)
It's too bad that I'm not very crafty...these necklaces from Lanvin's Fall/Winter 2010 menswear collection are ripe for a savory DIY. The matte black chains-'n-horn necklace in particular looks quite easy to recreate. Hmmm...perhaps I have some projects to attend to while I am looking for work?
(comme des garcons dress, boyfriend's belt, jil sander shoes)
My early birthday present this year - an optic print Comme des Garcons dress. It's so rare that I wear prints, but when I saw this on the sale rack at Saks, my eyes were immediately entrancted by the geometric squared print with inverted colors. It flows perfectly with the square tattoos on my wrists, and the drapes flatter my figure perfectly. I have to admit, I feel a little ridiculous wearing it, but perhaps a bit of print to break up my mostly monochrome black wardrobe is a necessary addition.
Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons have opened up a shop in New York City. Offerings include impeccably designed silver and gold jewelry, mystical harnesses crafted from vintage piano pieces, and occult trinkets and books. An arcane delight for the senses. The silver earrings in image #5 are so esoteric and exquisite that they give me reason to wear earrings again. First place I plan on checking out when I visit NYC in September.
(images and news via The Cut Blog)
(complexgeometries top, silence&noise vest worn as a skirt, zana bayne belt, boyfriend's belt, maison martin margiela shoes. click images for hi-res)
I do tend to dress rather simply. Instead of colors and prints, I focus on monochrome colors with an emphasis on shape and form. In order to keep my outfits from becoming too bland, I pay special attention to minor details. It's all about the minutia here. It's the little things that spruce up a plain outfit.
Complementary makeup. Lined, slight cat-eye eyeliner and peach lips. Also, I'm rocking a fishtail braid which unfortunately is being obscured my bitch handle. Yes, that's what those small dangling locks of hair by your ears are called.
I "borrowed" my boyfriend's belt and layered it with my Zana Bayne 3-strap belt. The mishmash effect pleases me greatly. Also, I love the holes in my complexgeometries top. Wearing this top makes me feel like a ghost.
The layered rings trend seems to have taken a life of its own, but I choose just a few statement rings for effect. The Marc by Marc Jacobs bone ring is one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. It's small and discreet, and likely to go unnoticed by most, but I know it's there and that's all I need. The gold band is a family heirloom - it was given to my father for his Bar Mitzvah, then he passed it on to me when I graduated high school. I never take it off, regardless of what I'm wearing.
These Maison Martin Margiela shoes were purchased for $1.00 on eBay. Yes, $1.00. As in, 100 pennies and 4 quarters. They are authentic, but were sold at this price because they need to be repaired. I almost like the torn leather stitching...but I know I should get them fixed.
After being silently irritated that I don't have a plain black draped skirt (and too broke to buy one), I decided to improvise. I pinned a jersey vest in the proper places to obtain a skirt. No one can tell the difference. Underemployment has taught me clever ways to reinvent my existing garments. But I look forward to day when I can buy clothes again...it's been far too long.
Valerija Kelava for Versace by Mario Testino, from Fashion Gone Rogue
Absolutely blown away by this campaign. Perfect black-and-white minimalism. Valerija Kelava, one of my favorite models, looks unbelieavably gorgeous here. It makes me really want to buy this dress. Unfortunately, I can't afford that, so I suppose the Rumi Neely Machinery dress will have to do.