Animals & Bones & Taxidermy. My relationship with them all.

Now I know that in certain hipster circles, bones, antlers, and taxidermy and things like that are really trendy.  But I don't care.  I grew up with taxidermy, antlers, bones and animal skulls in my house ever since I was a little girl and I've been obsessed with it since forever.  I will never hunt and I am extremely sensitive to seeing animals suffer.  But I do at least respect those who do hunt who use every part of the animal and do everything they can to avoid letting the animal suffer.  I was vegetarian for a period of time but I ended up becoming very sick and my anemia became very severe and dangerous so red meat has to be a part of my weekly diet in addition to supplements for iron.  I try my best to both respect those who don't believe in eating animals or using animals for any human benefit while also respecting those who are on the opposite end of the spectrum.  But I of course have a problem with those who torture, harm, or mistreat animals.  Nothing makes me as heart broken as seeing little lives being mistreated.  My entire family has an extreme sensitivity to animals suffering and we are all very passionate about treating animals well.  So much that every time my parents say, "Ok, we are not getting any more pets..." inevitably, my dad or sisters come home with a kitten or a dog they found somewhere and say, "We need to take care of it!"  Or my mom sneaks home some new chicks because they are too cute.  Haha.  I grew up with:  peacocks, chickens, horses, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, birds, fish, hedgehogs, deer in the back yard, bears digging in the trash, you name it.  We love animals.

So now that that preface is out of the way, I love bones and animal skeletons and skulls.  Both having grown up with them and being an art major who mostly focused in portraiture and the study of the human body, I just am fascinated with the structure of animal bodies.  I love how bones and bodies over time deteriorate and become a part of nature again.  I think they are both sacred and simply and purely a part of nature and the earth.  My family is part Cherokee in addition to a ton of other nationalities and I was raised Christian with a liberal and Buddhist influence so the reverence of nature and animals is a huge part of my family.  As bones deteriorate, I think they can take on a similar look as crumbling branches and I think it is so beautiful how all things decay and crumble to the earth.  I hope to have a small but special collection of skulls, antlers and bones as I get older.

My parents' house has a lot of antiques in it including a lot of different kinds of animal antlers.  Something I love about antiques is that they're basically like an upgraded version of thrift finds.  Investing in antiques means that usually the value of your antique will increase overtime so it is a wise investment.  And your carbon footprint is low when you simply reuse old things from the past like decorating with very very old antlers and tables and such.  Something I loved about growing up around a lot of antiques and very old antlers is that I felt surrounded by history.  And I want that to be a part of my future home too.

My dad has an AMAZING bull skull that he traded for with a friend when he was a few years younger than me in his college years.  It's name is Gilbert (spoken in a French accent like "jeell-beeeerr" haha) and I will get to inherit it when I am older.  It is in incredible condition with huge horns so when I do inherit it, I need to keep it somewhere safe and special.  Right now, a 600 sq ft apartment that we will probably move out of in 6 months or so is probably not the right place for it.  So in the meantime, I have been on the hunt for an antique bull skull to tide me over.  Yesterday, I found this skull (in the photo above) at the Fremont Market which is a Sunday market here in Seattle that happens throughout the year, and I am SO excited!  This bad boy is going in my studio so I can stare at it all day while I work.  I basically need nothing else in the entire world now I think.  I've got my love, my home, my studio, my work, my family, and a bull skull.  Life is complete.  What more do I need?  Ok, maybe I need a puppy then my life will be complete :)

How do you feel about animals?  Are you vegetarian or a hunter?  Do you have any skull or antler collections?  Cats or Dogs?


Tish said...

I've been really into skulls (real or very fake) as decor for a while now, too. I don't think I could handle a real taxidermy animal, though.

Cai said...

I'm a vegetarian!
My mom, who is not, likes real taxidermy/skulls. I think this faux-taxidermy trend is adorable, though.

Jess said...

I grew up in the country in a family of hunters & fishermen, so there were dead animals all over our walls...and live ones running around our yard. We even had a pet raccoon named Mo! :)

I'm tender-hearted about animals too. I always said if I had to actually kill the meat I eat, I would definitely become a vegetarian. I almost cried when I hit an armadillo with my car once, and those things are CREEPY.

The Vintage Gypsy said...

Hi there! I'm a vegan (mostly), and so of course I love animals! I am fascinated with their bones as well. I think because I have become more in tune with my own soul, I value the animals more too now. Before I would never think about even touching a part of a dead animal, but I was scared! Now I feel more and I appreciate the process of death more too. Just a few days ago I went rock collecting and stumbled upon a skull of what I think was a coyote or possibly a large rabbit, I don't really know. I was surprised with myself when I went to it and picked it up. I found a few other pieces around on the ground and decided to bring them home with me. So I guess I just started my collection! I have a dog named Bear and he is the sweetest!!! He just followed me home one day and never left. Best.dog.ever. He loves to hike with me too! <3

Cristina Rose said...

i'm vegan/gluten free but i had to because of health issues (opposite of you :)) these day i get my iron from molasses so i am no longer anemic but its hard to eat differently and avoid things just to avoid the consequences. but i love taxidermy and skeletal remains. one of my favorite shows is oddities but my fascination with the whole world of preservation came a long time ago. from butterflies actually, the shadow boxes. they dont freak me out. although i do get mad it exists where hunting happens just for the sake of it, but i love the antiques and foraged ones. because to me it is beautiful. we are taught in society to fear death. the skeletons come out on halloween as a means of fright but not all cultures are frighren by preservation and remains. in some places its revered! sadly i dont have any real taxidermy (besides my butterflies) aside from some fakes but in the future , or when im financially able i want to splurge on the stuff. its also the medical aspect that fascinates me., knowing the bones - the placements, what these does and why not just in humans but all animals. i believe beauty does just just pertain to what is considered socially "normal" , anatomy be it skeletal or taxidermy applies too the only issue i could ever see is if it was inhumanely done

thank you for posting about this

Angie Bailey said...

THANK YOU for posting this. I love love love animals as well and while I don't hunt, nor can I ever imagine myself hunting, I do respect people who hunt and use every single part of the animal. This was NOT always the case. Before I met Jen, hunters were pretty much devils in my book. I found out that a friend hunted or their family did? I pretty much was no longer their friend. What can I say? I didn't understand and I was sheltered with two animal loving parents. When I met Jen and we became friends she expressed interest in hunting and well, you know our story (I think.) Even her interest in hunting meant nothing to me, as I was her best friend and girlfriend and I didn't really *care.* However, I did try to convince her hunting was bad, etc., etc.

Over the years she's taught me that some hunters do not go out for game hunting, which both of us really dislike. They go out and hunt, but they bring home the meat for their family which lasts a LONG time and the hunter KNOWS the animal was killed in a way that was not torture, slaughterhouse, etc. which does make sense. If I were to ever hunt, that would be why.

Anyway! I never got bones, skulls, taxidermy, etc. and the more I've seen them around the web the more uncomfortable I got. No one's ever really explained, like you have, so thank you! I think your interest in them is a healthy one, especially as they aren't just "trophies" from someone hunting just for the thrill. The bull skull is beautiful!

I was wondering one thing, should Jen and I ever come across beautiful antlers (I do love them)... How do you know the animal was hunted for the meat, etc. and not for fun? Is there anyway? I doubt they come with a certificate, heh. But I couldn't - personally - buy them without knowing but I don't blame anyone who does!

ANYWAY! I do eat meat, though it's getting harder and harder for me to do so. Steak and potatoes is one of my must have meals and I love BBQing hamburgers in Summer, etc. I do feel more comfortable buying meats and cheeses, etc. from our local natural grocery store where everything is humanely made and sold.

Victoria Kotongan said...

I feel a little odd weighing in because I am a hunter. :) But it takes all kinds, yes? I grew up on an old reindeer farm before I moved to where I am right now (Unalakleet). It was just my immediate family and my father's parents that lived at Egavik. We used every part of an animal.

While I don't currently carve or use antlers for handles on ulus, I continue the tradition of respecting any animal that I harvest and use every part that I can. It's part of my culture. (Not only respecting the animal but also hunting and using the animal.)

I was a vegetarian for a period of time after I moved out of Unalakleet because I didn't know where the meat that was in stores or restaurants came from. Raw meat in stores still looks very unnatural to me.

I have a dog and love animals. I also have respect for the natural course of life up here in the arctic.

Tamber said...

My friend recently called me saying he was going to stop over with a surprise, and he brought me a bull skull that he got from a yard sale that a dive bar down the street was having. (It hung up in there for years). Needless to say, I was very excited about that!

This topic is something I think about a lot. I enjoy collecting bones for many of the reasons you describe. When I use them I always make sure they were not killed for the sole purpose of their bones being harvested. I have a hunter friend who brings me great bones of animals that he eats or finds in the woods and I try to be as respectful as possible. Hunting is not something I've ever felt called to do...but I feel like somewhat of a hypocrite at times being a meat-eater that hasn't been brave enough to face the reality of the process, hands on.

I'm re-reading the book Full Moon Feast this year (each chapter along with the corresponding moon). I recommend it for anyone heavily considering what they eat, it has some very real and gently put information on eating animals and animal products.

Johanna said...

Hi Moorea, I really enjoyed and appreciated this post, and congratulations on your prized bull skull! Throughout my 20's, I've ridden a similar train of thought about animals (to eat or not to eat?), and after 7 years of being vegetarian, I married a hunstman, we traveled the world, and well, that was the end of that. (Just try to explain to a sweet Russian innkeeper why you cannot eat the oxe tail stew she made just for your arrival, I dare you.) My husband, who loves animals dearly and cries every time he shoots a dear, believes that if you choose to eat meat, then you should be able and willing to kill an animal for its meat. It sure does instill a deep appreciation of the animal, the earth, and where our food comes from. (And yes, I did it. I harvested my own chicken dinner.) I'd rather eat a happy wild animal than a suffering caged one from a factory farm. Of course, we use every part of the animal, right down to the skull, which is hung and admired for years to come. I adore the natural aesthetic of skulls and bones. We were just gifted a lynx skull and a box of assorted caribou antler pieces from a friend in Alaska. If you have any suggestions for antler crafts, I'd love to hear about them!

Johanna said...

One more thing! I can't help but admire this wonderful community of thoughtful commenters here on your blog! I love this place. (Can a blog be a place?)