Back on 2 September 2013, a most astonishing book was published - "Heavenly Bodies" by Paul Koudounaris, an American photographer who had previously published a book of photographs of ossuaries and charnel houses called "The Empire of Death". Being both a bit of an old Goth and an ex-archaeologist, I've always been fascinated by funerary rites and how humans process death and physical remains. I bought these books as soon as possible.
'The Empire of Death' is a photo-essay, basically, of architecture built with disarticulated human skeletons, usually within some kind of church or chapel:
"Heavenly Bodies" is even more mind-blowing. Skeletons were discovered in the Roman Catacombs in the late 16th century. Believed to be the remains of early Christian martyrs, they were treated as sacred. Sent to Catholic churches and religious houses in German-speaking Europe to replace the relics that had been destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the skeletons were reassembled and richly adorned with precious jewels and costumes. Because the Catholic Church can't let a money-making opportunity pass it by, and pilgrims will pay good money to see 'genuine' saintly relics.
And you won't believe how blinging the skeletons are:
I wasn't sure if it wasn't going to look okay, or if it was going to look crap, so decided to do a trial run, as it were, by doing a skeleton hand and adding 'rings' and a 'bracelet'. I had a spare canvas that was a little smaller than A4 sized and therefore more or less life-sized so that would do. I also make jewellery so have easy access to any amount of pearls and beads. Additionally, I fuse my own dichroic glass so have plenty of spare cabochons of varying sizes knocking around that I could use.
I started by printing off a picture of a skeleton hand and took it from there (clicky for bigger):
Then I start adding the shading on the bones to make them more three-dimensional:
I then decided on which dichroic glass cabochons to use, and positioned them where they would sit if they were actual rings:
It needed something a bit more, so I added gold lined glass beads to the one on the index finger, and freshwater pearls around the cabochon on the ring finger:
I'm pretty pleased with the final effect. Then it dawned on me that this was kind of the culmination of things I've been doing over the last 10 years - making jewellery and painting, and that was pretty cool.
I posted some photos of the final picture on my Facebook page and people seemed to like it - I even had two offers to buy it, but I don't really know how serious they were. Even if they weren't serious, it was still a very lovely ego boost.
It also proved that it was a viable concept and that I could move on to planning the much bigger painting, but you'll have to wait to see that one (I'm such a tease!)