If there's one thing I find hard to resist, it's a piece of decorative art that fulfils no other purpose than to look great and isn't run of the mill. I like things that are a little different, that have been collected, found or inherited. Pieces from flea markets and beaches, travels and vintage shops. It's all those pieces that make my home feel personal to me. Whilst each piece alone might not seem all that special (ok, they are to me, but that's another story), mixing and displaying them all together is what makes it personal. Actually, that goes for every home - we might have some similar pieces, but the way we put them together is what makes it truly ours.
Now, before I go any further, I have to say that I don't shy away from taxidermy, skulls, sea creatures or other decorative animal products. However, I realise that this might not be to everybody's taste which is of course absolutely ok. I have even run into some small issues with my tiny taxidermy chick on a photoshoot for the simple reason that it might offend people. As far as I'm concerned, I eat meat, wear leather shoes and carry leather handbags, so it would seem somewhat hypocritical to get squeamish and all excited about stuffed animals and skulls - especially when the skulls are so gorgeous! So when the lovely people from Skull Bliss contacted me asking if I'd be interested in a collaboration, it didn't even take me two seconds to think about it! A beautiful and ethically produced, hand carved skull? Yes please!
When I say ethically produced I mean it. The skulls are actually nothing more than what is left at the butcher after the meat has been taken off the animal for food, so no animals are killed purely for their skulls. Most Indonesians are Hindus who will have a deep respect for the animals they kill for consumption. This means that they will look to waste as little of the animal as possible and by doing so honour it. The skulls are carved with decorative as well as religious symbols by Balinese Master Carvers who have taken a decade to learn and perfect their skills. Skull carving has been a part of Balinese culture and tradition for a long time and is not something driven by a sudden Western interest in the skulls. As living off their art is often impossible for these Master Carvers (just as it can be hard for a lot of artists all over the world), they often have to give up their passion and craft in order to provide for their families. Skull Bliss pays them a salary that will allow them to follow their creative passion as well as feed their family. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't get more ethical than that.
When it came to choosing one for me, I let my eye and gut feeling lead me. It's one of those things: I can look at a whole collection and will instinctively know which one is "the one". So, whilst checking out the carved cow skulls and the buffalo skulls, I discovered the ram ones and my decision was made. The overall size, shape of the horns and carved pattern were just perfect. I couldn't wait for it to arrive. When it did, I had to figure out a way to hang it up. I had been told that hanging a ram skull onto the wall isn't practical or usually done because the horns go so far back. Cue some intense head-scratching: I wanted it on the wall and had to find a way. Then I had that proverbial lightbulb moment! A single shelf bracket with enough length to be fixed to the wall on one side that would give the horns the required space. Since the skull has a hole at the back where the bracket would fit in perfectly, I didn't even need to drill into the skull or alter it in any way - that would have been way beyond my comfort zone anyway for fear of damaging it.
So there it hangs now. On my wall, complementing the small collections and plants around it. Of course things won't stay like this forever, I will (as I always do) change the small items around, add to my collections, feel the need to freshen up things. However, one thing is for certain, that skull will not move (at least not until I move home) and remain on my wall as a beautiful piece of art with a long tradition and history.