Hey, Vulture Culture folks! This is just some of the art supplies (including LOTS AND LOTS of hide pieces, bones, skulls, and other specimens) that will be available during both open-to-the-public and event-only vendors’ market hours at FaerieWorlds at the Cuthbert Ampitheater in Eugene, OR next week, June 17-19. (I’ll also have some completed tails, ears, masks, and other art, of course.)
As you may have noticed, I haven’t been making as much VC art since the pandammit began, and I have totes full of stuff that I’ve acquired over the past almost-quarter-century. I need the space, and I feel bad for everything just sitting there, and this will be the first opportunity anyone will have to purchase any of this. (Yes, anything unsold will go online after, but in-person gets first pick of all the best stuff!) Here’s the vending schedule for the weekend:
1pm Vending Village Opens – Free to Public until 4:30pm
8:30 Vending Village Closes
11am Vending Village Opens – Free to Public until 4:30pm
8:30 Vending Village Closes
11am Vending Village Opens – Free to Public until 4:30pm
6pm Vending Village Closes
Plus it’s my first vending event since the pandammit started, so I’d love to see some folks in person (I’ll have masks available at the booth for anyone not comfortable being in close quarters unmasked even outside.)
Hi, all–long time, no chat! I’ve been busy in other areas of my life, trying to rebalance myself as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on both my professional and personal life. (I’m doing okay, just BUSY!)
One of the ways I’ve been keeping my sanity more or less intact has been through customizing Breyer model horses and other animals. I recently finished up an incredibly elaborate project involving six Breyer animals of various species, customized into Pleistocene animals with reproductions of actual cave paintings painted onto their sides. You can see more pictures and details about these models at http://thegreenwolf.com/cave-painting-models/.
I am officially opening up for offers for these models, which took me over a year to complete. I am ONLY accepting offers for the entire set of six, NOT individual models. If I do not receive a satisfactory offer, I will be listing these individually on Etsy at amounts of my choosing. Offers MUST BE EMAILED to firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday, September 7, 9pm PST.
Current highest offer as of this posting is $1600! Yes, you CAN make more than one offer before the deadline!
A few important things of note:
–There are LOTS of pictures and other details about these customized models at http://thegreenwolf.com/cave-painting-models/ . If you need more information, email me at the address above. I will ALSO update the current highest offer on that page on a daily basis.
–I will be creating a contract with whoever gives me the best offer. Said person will be required to complete the contract before models are shipped.
–Offers do NOT include shipping costs. I will be shipping these models in multiple boxes due to their size and fragility. International shipping is available; be aware of the higher chance of damage en route. Packages will be insured.
–Paid-in-full is preferred to payment plans. I may accept a lower offer that is PIF if the higher one requires payments. NO TRADES.
–These are being sold primarily as art pieces; for model hobbyists, I do NOT guarantee LSQ; as these are handmade works of art, they may have minor flaws like irregularities in paint or plastic/putty. Also, as the cave paintings are particularly delicate, it may not be a good idea to be carting these around to events; they are intended to be art enjoyed in situ.
–Due to the amount of hairing on these models, a small amount of shedding is to be expected. Also be aware that these are NOT meant to be handled on a regular basis.
–I am available for repairs for the life of these models; just contact me!
Any questions? Want to make an offer? Contact me at email@example.com
If you’ve been paying attention to my social media or my shop links at all, you may have noticed that I haven’t really been posting much in the way of new hide and bone art for the past year or so. It’s not that I’ve stopped; I still make some fun things for my Patrons on Patreon every month, and I make some bone, tooth and claw jewelry on Etsy to order. But ever since events dried up, I haven’t been regularly making new batches of costume pieces or other Vulture Culture art. My usual M.O. was to make all sorts of new things for an upcoming event, and then once the weekend was done and I was home, post whatever hadn’t sold on Etsy. And since there haven’t been events…well…I’ve just found myself doing other things.
Some of that is because I’ve had to scramble to make up for the lost income; events were a pretty big chunk of my “pay”, and losing them meant having to tighten the belt. I also lost several other income streams thanks to the pandemic making it unsafe to be around groups of people, which didn’t help. So I had to rely on what was left, along with adopting a few new sources of bits and bobs of cash here and there.
And, honestly, I’ve needed a bit of a break. I’ve been making hide and bone art for over two decades now, and while I love it, any artist eventually wants to explore different media for a while. Sure, I’ve stretched my Vulture wings in new directions, going from costume pieces and ritual tools to assemblages and the Tarot of Bones. But ever since the Tarot came out, I’ve been feeling….not really burned out, but a little creatively wrung out, at least. I’ve really appreciated my Patrons and Etsy customers who have helped me keep a hand in that particular medium, while also allowing me to head off in other directions, too.
Which is to say that if you have been paying attention to the aforementioned social media and shops, you may have also noticed that I’ve been increasing the number of customized Breyer model horses and other animals I’ve made over the past couple of years. This might seem like a heck of a departure from skulls, bones, and other dead things. But in a way it’s really me getting back to long-neglected roots.
See, I was a horse girl when I was a kid. Or, rather, I was a wannabe horse girl. I never got to lease or own a horse, and even now in my early 40s I’m still about the greenest rider you’ll find. (Seriously, I need one of those kid-proof horses that’s seen it all, done it all, and is probably more trail-smart than I am.) But I was obsessed with horses from a young age. It started with my very first My Little Pony that I got Christmas morning, 1983 (Applejack, if you must know), and then exploded further with a book on how to draw horses and my first Breyer model (Black Beauty 1991 on the Morganglanz mold) in my preteens. Horse actually took over for Gray Wolf for a few years as my primary animal spirit during my teens, so we have a very long history indeed.
And since I couldn’t have a real horse, I ended up collecting model horses, mostly Breyers with a few old Hartlands for variety. I had over 100 at the peak of my collecting, but I had to sell them all in my early twenties when I was between jobs. In hindsight it was probably for the best because having less stuff made it easier to get through the period of my life where I was moving about once a year, but I do miss that collection.
Back then I did my part to add to the artistic end of the model horse hobby, mostly with badly blended acrylic paint jobs and terrifying mohair manes and tails. But it made me happy, and that was the most important thing. Even though I only knew a couple other collectors in my little rural area, and my only real connection to the hobby was through the quarterly Just About Horses magazine Breyer put out, my collecting really made me happy in the same way that my first fur scraps and bones would catch my interest a few years later.
2020….well, it sucked. We all know that. Pandemic, political stress, financial roller coasters and more made it a really tough year for anyone who wasn’t wealthy enough to hide away and weather it all. And many of us found ourselves with more time at home, in need of distractions and solace. It ended up being a time where many people rediscovered their love of childhood hobbies. I’m one of those people. I’ve been slowly edging my way back in for the past few years, starting with repainting a few old Breyer models found at thrift stores, and then gaining momentum as I found that not only was I much better at customizing these models than I used to be, but I was having fun without the pressure to make a living off of it. (Yes, I love my hide and bone art, but when an art form is your bread and butter, it changes your relationship to it. But that’s a post for another time…)
So 2020 saw me really ramp up my customization efforts. I had to stop for a few months in summer and fall when I moved to a spifftacular new living space on the farm I’ve been working on the past few years (with, by the way, THE best studio space EVER!) but as the days shortened I found myself making more dedicated time to repainting and otherwise customizing models. I even started keeping a few of the models I’d bought to customize that were in better condition to create a small, but slowly growing original finish collection, and that really helped me feel like I was back in the (not actually a) saddle.*
That’s why a well-established artist of organic, pagan-influenced arts made from fur and leather and bone and feather suddenly started painting all these secondhand plastic ponies. It’s giving me that deep injection of childhood nostalgia balanced with adult skill and perspective, and it’s offered me a much-needed break from the exhausting schedule I’ve been living the past decade or so. Because suddenly, even with the time spent rearranging my income opportunities to make sure I could stay afloat, I found myself with a little time that hadn’t been scheduled to death, and when I thought about what I wanted to do with that time, I gravitated toward one of the few creative outlets in my life that was purely for fun.**
In a way having all my events canceled was one of the best things that happened to me, because it made me slow the fuck down. I no longer had several weekends a year where I had to spend weeks beforehand making art and otherwise preparing to be away from all my farm responsibilities for 4-7 days at a time, with all the packing and moving and setup and vending and teaching and teardown and going home and unpacking and exhaustion that goes with each event. I realized just how much each one was taking out of me, especially as I’ve gotten older. And I also recognized how much pressure I had been putting on myself to ALWAYS MAKE MORE STUFF FOR ETSY EVERY WEEK OR ELSE.
So the model horses are really sort of a symbol of the childhood joy I’ve managed to recapture, wresting time and energy back from my workaholic tendencies. I’ve even been thinking about what my professional life is going to look like once the pandemic eases up enough to allow events again, and whether I’ll put the same amount of time toward vending and and teaching at conventions and festivals as I used to. (There are a few favorites that I’m not going to miss for anything, so don’t worry about me dropping out entirely.) But for the first time in a very long time, I’m relearning to prioritize myself, and figuring out that maybe I don’t have to go hell-bent for leather every week, every year, in order to keep the bills paid and the critters fed.
And maybe, just maybe, it’s okay for this dead-critter-artist, pagan-nonfic-author, teacher-vendor-farmer, to indulge herself with something fun, and bet on the ponies to help her get through the tough times.
(P.S. Amid everything going on, I am back to working steadily on my next book, which I mentioned in this blog post almost a year ago. As a recap, its working title is Coyote’s Journey: Deeper Work With the Major Arcana, and it’s a deep dive into that section of the tarot using pathworkings with the animals I assigned to the major arcana of the Tarot of Bones. It’s not just a Tarot of Bones book, though; it’s a good way to get a new, nature-based angle on the majors in general, as well as hopefully gain a better understanding of yourself. My goal is to have it out later this year, self-pub of course, and at the rate I’m going it may end up being my longest book! Stay tuned, and if you want to get excerpts of the work-in-progress, become my Patron for as little as $1/month!)
*At the height of my “horse girl” phase, I had a really beat-up pony saddle I’d bought for ten bucks at a yard sale, and got a cheap saddle stand for it and put it in my room. And yes, I occasionally sat on it and pretended I was riding an actual horse. Hey, it made me happy at the time, and it was the closest I was ever going to get apart from a trail ride every few years.
**Yes, I do sell my customs. But I don’t make them on a schedule, I take commissions VERY sparingly, and I’m getting to stretch some new creative muscles, especially in the realms of sculpting and painting, so this is primarily for my enjoyment. The sales are just a side benefit.
It’s been over a year since I wrote a brand new blog post with anything other than a bit of promotion. Truth be told, I needed a break. I started my first blog in 2007, I think? Earlier if you count Livejournal as a blog. For a few years I even had multiple blogs going at once, and that just got exhausting.
But it gave me time to work on other things. As you may remember, four years ago I moved my art studio out to the coast to a farm owned by a friend of mine. I gradually moved my entire life out here, and I’m now a full-time resident. I’m still self-employed, with my art and writing joined by a small contract doing a bit of environmental education locally, and selling eggs from my chickens.
Yes, I have chickens! Twenty of them! And a tank of guppies and platies, and a dog. And there are other animals I get to take care of here, too, so that keeps me pretty busy. I also spend what little bits of free time I have outside, whether I’m hiking, taking the dog for a walk, or fussing around on iNaturalist.
Like so many other people, my life has been shaken down to the core the past few weeks with the COVID-19 pandemic. Because I already live a pretty isolated life (but not in a bad way) I’m at fairly low risk of contracting the disease, though I’m still careful. However, all of my streams of income have either been severely cut or evaporated entirely within the past month, which has meant I’ve had to adapt quickly. It’s going to be a lean year for sure.
On the one hand, there’s the stress of not knowing what my future will hold (no matter how good I am at divination!) On the other, the shifting around of responsibilities and priorities, and so many things now being put on hold, has left me the opportunity to move some projects up the to-do list. For instance, I have a few books that are either out of print or just about to be that I’m moving over into my self-publishing efforts; hopefully the first of those will be available later this week (and yes, I will post here.) This involves doing an entirely new interior layout and cover for each manuscript, plus whatever minor edits are needed. I don’t like to rewrite my older works entirely, partly because the information is still good, and partly because I’m in a very different place in my life now.
But that also means I have room to write new books, too! I mean, I have other things going on right now, but I’m making time to work on a manuscript that I actually started a couple of years ago, and then had to back-burner due to life happening (and needing to get Vulture Culture 101 out the door.) The working title is Coyote’s Journey: Deeper Work With the Major Arcana, and while it will be based on the animals of the Majors of the Tarot of Bones, it will be useful for anyone studying Tarot in depth regardless of what decks they use. Each chapter will explore some of the messages and concepts associated with each card in detail, followed by exercises and meditation ideas, all written within the story of Coyote (the Fool) going to meet each of the animals associated with the other cards.
I have no idea what the timeline is for publication. A lot depends on how well I’m able to keep paying the bills on an even thinner shoestring over the next several months, and what other side gigs I manage to scrape up to keep things afloat here. But for now, once I get my OOP/almost OOP titles squared away I intend to put a lot more focus on Coyote’s Journey, and hopefully do a little blogging on the side, too.
On that note, I’d just like to remind you dear readers that art and books are still the backbone of my income, and while I have always appreciated every single sale (seriously, I still sometimes squee when I get notification of a sale in my inbox), they matter even more now. If you’d like to help support my work, here’s how:
Note: This was first published on No Unsacred Place around 2011-ish, which went defunct a few years ago (RIP–it was a good site). Then it was on Paths Through the Forests, but I split from Patheos a couple of years ago due to philosophical differences with their new ownership. As they have not honored my request to have my writing taken down, and I don’t want to direct more traffic to them, I am slowly reproducing my work from there here. That way if I want to share this post with someone it will come from my site and not theirs. Please help me by sharing this link around–thank you!
The beauty of the wild is the long gesture of life in time. The beauty of skin and fur and feathers, the beauty of blood, the beauty of bones sinking into grass.
–John Daniel, from The Soul Unearthed
That is the quote I painted on a recent creation of mine, shown in the picture above. My canvas was a piece of rawhide left over from a drum kit. The visual punctuation of the entire piece included an eclectic mix: a rooster feather; a coyote toe bone; a sea urchin spine; and two pieces of deer hide, fur and leather.
I chose the quote deliberately for that piece. There is a certain ambiguity to the words, flowing from one end of the life-death cycle to the other. “Life in time” breathes and pounds its heart, while the “bones sinking into grass” create a vivid image of the core structure of the animal, all the rest borne away, disintegrating into nourishment for the flora. In between, the hides and the blood are left open; they may be alive and running yet, but the blood may also be sluiced upon the ground, and the skin stripped from muscle and tendon and prepared for preservation.
In much of the United States, people have a poor relationship with death, to include that of nonhuman animals. The idea of the “poor, dead animals” (particularly those that aren’t carved up on a dinner plate) is often enough of a shock that no one wants to think, let alone talk, about it. We eat beef and pork, not cow and pig, and very few of us ever eat anything that’s looking back at us; even the shrimp are conveniently decapitated for our culinary comfort. The most common discourse about dead animals seems to come from some animal rights activists who quite often use guilt, shame, and shock to try to convince unsuspecting leather-clad omnivores into changing their ways. When the choices are either silence or stigma, there doesn’t seem to be much room in between for more moderate discussions.
I choose what I perceive as one potential moderate path, tempered with much awareness. For over a decade I have been an artist of animal remains, part aesthetics and part spiritual work. On the one hand, I very much appreciate the lovely curve of bone and the lush texture of deerskin, the intricately veined colors of feathers, and the varied structures of the hairs of all sorts of furs. Beyond animal parts as an artistic medium, though, the core of my work is funereal. From the beginning my art has been about reclaiming these remains from being trophies or status symbols, and a significant portion of my “supplies” is made of old fur and leather coats, reclaimed taxidermy, and the like.(1) I guide these remains to a better “afterlife” with others, as has always been my role with them, and everything I make with animal parts gets a full ritual purification as part of my pagan practice.
Over the years I’ve gotten a wide variety of reactions to my work, from awe to indifference to outright hostility. Thankfully the responses have canted toward the more receptive, whether in person or online. I get the distinct feeling, though, that most people, regardless of their views, are highlighting certain individual facets of the work that, together, I tend to take as a whole.Most of the people who favor my work seem to primarily connect with it on an aesthetic level. They like having something pretty, whether as something to wear, or as a “powerful” ritual tool. They appreciate it as art, which is perfectly fine. At the other end of the spectrum are the occasional activists who come in swinging; they see the death and the remains, to the exclusion of anything else.
On some occasions, though, I will meet people who bring my art home both as art, and as sacred remains. They haven’t glossed over the fact that what they hold was once living, often combining the parts of animals that never would have met in life (such as the cow and the sea urchin in my wall hanging above). But they still see the beauty in those remains, and in the fact of their death. They can appreciate the loveliness of a long-dead deer’s ribcage seated in a field, and the arrangement of those same ribs into a totemic shrine. They know they carry lives in their hands.
I have not lost sight of the living end of the cycle, either. I have always donated a portion of the funds I make from selling my art to nonprofit groups that work to preserve both animals and their habitat, as well as informal donations to friends and acquaintances in need of help with emergency vet bills and the like. I think my partner, S., put it best when he told me that my most powerful alchemy was taking the remains of animals that had often died cruel and inhumane deaths, and turning them into funds to help those creatures still living and the environs that support them.
And I do my best to educate people about the sources of the remains; I maintain a database of international, federal and state laws on possessing and selling animals parts in the US to help them make educated decisions. Nor do I lie about those of my “materials” that are byproducts of the fur industry; I do not claim they’re roadkilled or “natural deaths”, or wild instead of farmed, to try to assuage people’s guilt or to make me look more ethical in their eyes. To do so would be an insult both to the people I speak with, and the animals themselves, never mind my artistic and spiritual work.
This work with the remains is another foundational part of my nature-based path, and as I write in this place over time, you may see me refer to the “skin spirits” as a collective term for the spirits of all the animals whose remains I work with, skin, bone and otherwise. My nature-based paganism is rooted in all of the life-death cycle, and this is how I seek the beauty in that which is all too often ignored, or so symbolized as to be almost entirely removed from the gritty reality.
(1) I have become so known for collecting dead critters in certain circles, in fact, that I have been over time gifted with a number of antiques that were inherited by people who had no idea what to do with them, and so decided I was a good next stop for Grandma’s fur coat, or Uncle Doug’s deer heads.
So I had a special request from one of my Patrons over on Patreon. They wanted to get some advice on storing art supplies, which sounds simpler than it actually is. See, if you’re an artist, you probably have a tendency to buy way more supplies than you actually need in the moment, often spurred on by creative impulses that say “Hey, look at this neat thing–you could TOTALLY make something out of it!” Which is how, over the years, I have ended up with everything from a vintage floorstanding radio to a full-sized taxidermy hyena to way more tchotchke shelves than anyone has any business owning.
Having been a hide and bone artist for two decades has at least given me the opportunity to figure out how to best store lots of big, bulky supplies like fur coats and antlers. Now, I am not one of those people who has an entire basement floor to work with, with walls full of shelves holding a hundred identical plastic tubs, each neatly labeled in legible handwriting. You won’t see my studio in a magazine extolling “Twenty Enviable Artists’ Spaces.” But I’ve made do with a whole bunch of living situations for me and my stuff.
The first thing you need to think about when stashing your art supplies is the space you have to work with. My living quarters have ranged from a single bedroom to a spacious two bedroom apartment. Storage has been everything from tiny closets to the laundry room. These days my current studio includes not only part of a house but a loft in a barn for storage as well. (I am incredibly spoiled, believe you me.)
You’re going to have to be realistic about the space available to you, especially if you live with other people. It’s tempting to just let it all hang out, so to speak, but that’s not really fair to anyone besides you in your creative moments. So assess what space you can reasonably have for your supplies. It’s best to focus on out of the way spots like closets, shelves, and back rooms that don’t get that much traffic. This isn’t just to keep things out of the way, but also because these spaces are good for keeping things more or less contained.
Next, you need things to keep things in. I am a big fan of plastic bins and milk crates. They’re boxy, easy to stack and easy to move around, and are often abundant in thrift stores. I mean, if you really need all your bins to match you can go to any general-stuff store and pick up a bunch of the same type, but I have poached mine from all sorts of sources, even free piles on the side of the road after someone has moved. They’re mismatched, but they work pretty well.
Soft, squishy things lend themselves well to being stuffed in bins, like the ones in the picture at the beginning of this post. Most of mine are full of fur and leather scraps of varying sizes and sorts. I also have a few that are full of assorted smaller odds and ends, like shells and feathers and so forth. Keep in mind that the bigger the bin the more stuff you can fit, but the more you also have to sort through to find that one tiny thing that inevitably has fallen to the very bottom. You can also put hard, awkward things like antlers and bones in bins, though you may have to play a little Tetris to get them to fit right.
Crates work well for smaller hard, awkward things. However, my favorite use for them is as storage for stacks of jewelry organizing boxes. These are those shallow tray-like boxes with little dividers in them that are perfect for beads, fishing lures, hardware, and other teeny little easily-lost items. One milk crate will typically hold a stack of five, and then you can stuff some baggies of other stuff in along the side. Make sure that you don’t put things in above the top edge, or else they won’t stack properly. I use the very top crate in a stack for stuff that won’t fit neatly and might stick out the top. I don’t like to stack more than four crates up as they can get tipsy otherwise. (Plus it’s a pain having to unstack and restack them every time you want something from the bottom crate–which is a great reason to put the things you use the most in a crate higher up the stack.)
Not everything is perfectly neat, of course. I also have a shelving unit full of oddly-shaped cardboard boxes, and stacks of more boxes, and bags of packing materials, and so forth. But I make everything more or less fit, and since a lot of that stuff is either packing materials or destashed art supplies just waiting for someone to buy them, most of what’s there is temporary. (Don’t feel bad if you can’t make everything you have fit into neat boxes, so long as you can keep it basically contained.)
I also am fortunate enough to have a decent work bench. I have some small benchtop shelves for things I use a fair amount like adhesives and tools. The rest of the bench….well…the condition of that depends on how busy I’ve been. But having a flat surface that is reserved for my work helps keep it somewhat contained. If you can have a table that isn’t shared with other things (like, you know, meals) make the best use of it you can. Otherwise, put your stuff away as soon as you’re done working so that you stay in the habit of keeping things neat.
One more thing: it’s really important to reorganize and declutter on a regular basis; you can either sell or donate whatever you cull. If you watch the supplies section of my Etsy shop, you’ll notice that I destash stuff several times a year. That’s just the stuff that I think my customer base may be interested in. I donate even more than that every year to SCRAP, a Portland-based nonprofit that resells art supplies and uses the money in art education and other community projects. Not only does this help me make space for more art supplies (or, you know, things that aren’t art supplies) but it also lets me revisit what I already have in hand. One of my biggest challenges when sorting is not getting distracted by “Ooooh, a shiny thing…let me just stop a minute and start making it into something.” Usually the workbench ends up with a pile of projects-to-be by the time I’m done sorting and reorganizing.
Of course, this is just the art supplies. My personal animal skull collection, on the other hand, isn’t so neatly contained. But that’s another post someday…
First, I wanted to let you know I’m open for commissions on something that’s not my usual hide and bone art. This month my $15 Patrons at http://www.patreon.com/lupagreenwolf got these awesome 3″ x 3″ mini wildlife paintings in the mail. I am now open for commissions if you’d like one of your own! Your choice of species (animal, plant or fungus) and background colors/pattern for $15 plus shipping anywhere in the world. Comment or email me at lupa.greenwolf(at)gmail(dot)com if interested! Here are a couple more detail shots:
Second, I just wanted to touch base with you about how things are going here. I know I haven’t been blogging a lot lately; most of my writing energy has gone toward putting the finishing touches on Vulture Culture 101: A Book For People Who Like Dead Things. I’ve also still been creating artwork, but I’ve also been doing some volunteer and contracted work for a local conservation organization. So I’ve been super busy, just a lot of it has been behind the scenes.
I’m hoping to have some new posts here soon enough, so keep your eyes peeled 🙂
Hey, everyone! So in case you haven’t heard, I am writing a book about Vulture Culture, the “fandom” that’s sprung up around the appreciation of hides, bones and other dead things in recent years. The working title is Vulture Culture 101: A Book For People Who Like Dead Things, and I will be self-publishing it via CreateSpace; the projected date of publication is Summer 2018. Currently, the first draft of the book is done, and I am working on edits and revisions. There’s also an IndieGoGo campaign through March 23 at http://igg.me/at/vultureculture101 which has already met its initial goal and is working toward stretch goals.
While I have spent over twenty years making hide and bone art, I do not have extensive experience with tanning hides or cleaning bones or otherwise prepared raw specimens. However, no book on Vulture Culture would be complete without tutorials on some basic processes, which is why I’m seeking writers to contribute essays!
Each essayist will be compensated with $100 and 10 paperback copies of Vulture Culture 101 once it has been published. Thank you again to my IndieGoGo contributors for helping to make this happen!
I am seeking one essay each on the following topics:
Skinning a freshly dead or frozen and thawed animal and preparing the hide for tanning
Tanning a hair-on hide, starting with a raw hide (rabbit would be best as it’s a nice small hide that’s easy and inexpensive to acquire); while you may choose one method of tanning, such as alum, please briefly mention other tanning methods like egg tanning
Brain-tanning leather, starting with a hair-on hide (deer is most popular but I’m open to other easy to acquire suggestions like goat)
Cleaning bones through maceration, starting with a whole skinned carcass, though with a brief mention of dermestid beetles and nature cleaning as alternatives, and proceeding through degreasing and whitening
Wet specimens in jars, to include long-term care, how to change out old fluids, etc.
Very basic mouse or rat taxidermy, including how to prepare the hide, positioning, etc.
The basics of skeleton articulation; there’s not space to go through an entire skeletal articulation, but at least give people an idea of the tools and methods involved, and basic steps from skeleton acquisition to final display
Essays should have the following qualities:
Between 1500 and 2000 words (you may be able to go over that a bit if you need the space)
Written in easy to read English and suitable for a general audience
Thoroughly explain the topic in a step-by-step manner; steps should be numbered
Be accompanied by at least 4-6 print-quality photos showing different steps of the process (if you have to show different animals at different stages of the process, such as for longer processes like maceration, that’s fine, so long as all pertinent stages are covered clearly)
Should not be previously published, either in print or online. If you’ve written similar essays that’s fine, just write a unique one for this project
I will have already covered topics like where to get hides and bones, and legalities concerning them, so you don’t need to go over them again. Stick to the how-tos of your topic. I will be doing some basic editing and proofreading, but you should be sending me final drafts by the due date.
Please apply by contacting me at lupa.greenwolf(at)gmail(dot)com; you will be asked to provide the following information:
Your name, general location, email address and phone number
A brief description of your experience in working with hides and/or bones and/or other dead things
Which topic you would like to write about and what makes you qualified to write about it (you can apply for more than one topic; however, only one topic will be assigned to one writer unless there is a serious lack of suitable writers)
At least three samples of your writing, published or not; Vulture Culture topics and how-to articles are extra-awesome, but send the best of whatever you have. Please also send a few sample photos showing your photography skills. You can send them as links and/or attachments.
If you are under the age of 18, proof of permission by a parent or legal guardian
The deadline to apply is March 28, 2018. Selections will be made by April 7, 2018 at which point acceptance letters and contracts will be sent out. Completed final essays have a FIRM due date of June 7, 2018, so please make sure before you apply that you can dedicate the time to finishing your essay on time. You can also send me drafts in progress before that point if you’d like feedback.
In 2006, I made a terrible mistake. I got married.
Now, marriage itself isn’t a bad idea. But it is when you get married a year after you met the person while on the rebound, and after they pressured you into first taking you with them on what was supposed to be your solo cross-country move and then pressured you into getting married so damned fast. Needless to say, my emotional boundaries used to be a lot mushier than they are now.
And like so many people who made bad decisions, I also got a tattoo on my chest on our honeymoon. Well, we both did. And we hadn’t really thought too much about the designs, other than choosing small symbols that were personally meaningful but didn’t say a whole lot about the relationship. In hindsight, my tattoo of a dragon’s claw tightly clutching a pearl marked with my then-husband’s personal sigil was all too prophetic.
Predictably, the marriage was a slow-burn disaster. I won’t bore you with the details of its three and a half year span. Needless to say, when I finally asked for a divorce it was far later than it ought to have been. It ended amicably enough, and over time we drifted apart; that part certainly could have been a lot worse.
When I moved into my own apartment, I was stuck with the task of trying to figure out where the hell my life was going after that derailment. I’d had dreams of adventure when I moved to the Pacific Northwest twelve years ago, dreams that had been born a decade earlier when I’d first visited family in Seattle. After spending my life in the Midwest, I was ready for oceans, markets, and grand conifer rain forests. And I managed to eke out some of that during my first few married years there, though I was also entangled in career changes and relationship woes.
Now, back in glorious solitude, I could think quietly. And so I spent the next seven years taking adventures. I went to Bend, OR for the first time and introduced myself to Oregon’s desert side. I hiked Dog Mountain in a wind storm, and Elk Mountain in the snow. I got to know the coast better, both on my own and with my now-partner. I went on my first backpacking trip with the help of a friend, and then later did my first solo excursion.
That adventurousness carried over into my creative life, too. Now in full control of my finances again, I was free to make investments in my art without someone else’s worries holding me back. I got a contract with a bigger publisher. I started an annual arts festival. I created and produced a tarot deck and book. I moved my studio to the coast.
Most of all, I flourished emotionally. For the first time since I moved to the Northwest, I felt in control of my life. I could come home and be comfortable in cozy, warm sweats that did nothing for my figure but plenty for my well-being, and not feel guilty about how much time I put toward my creative work. I felt free to explore my spirituality and to discard the last vestiges of supernatural belief that were keeping me from direct immersion in what I found most sacred: nature itself, unfiltered by human mythos and superstition.
And so, seven years after my ill-fated marriage ended, I finally felt that I could cover up the last reminder of it. After much thought, I decided on one of the trees I’ve become most attached to since I moved here: Western red cedar. I seem to have a thing for cedars that aren’t actually cedars; Eastern red cedar, which was one of my childhood loves, is a juniper. Its western counterpart is no cedar, but a cypress.
Through two sessions with Chaz Vitale of Ritual Arts Tattoo, whose natural history-inspired art was a perfect fit, I watched that old ink disappear under a flourish of greens and browns. A sprig of cedar stretched its healing needles and fertile cones across my heart. By the time it was done, I could only see what had been there before if I looked too hard.
I can’t erase my past; no one can. I know that the old tattoo is still under there. But like the rest of my life, I’ve overwritten that patch of skin. It took me seven years* to regenerate the majority of the cells in my body, and it took me seven years to regenerate myself. Now I feel like I am the person I was supposed to become when I first arrived here; my adventure continues as though nothing had disrupted it.
And I can’t wait to see what’s next.
*Yes, I realize that the seven years to regenerate all your cells is a myth. I’m using it poetically. So there.
I don’t do a lot of posting about my art here on my blog because I usually like to keep it a “What’s Lupa thinking about today?” space. However, today’s theme on my various social media spots has been “How have these not found new homes yet?” where I’ve been highlighting a few older pieces of artwork that are still looking for their perfect match, and I thought I’d share here, too.