KONFRONTATION, pt. 1 details the background to the project.

I have begun exploring bone and horn as possible materials for my project. 

I purchased a piece of hunting memorabilia – a trophy mount of the antlers of a Roe deer (complete with sawn-off skull fragment) – from the local fleamarket.

After a very confronting trip to the butcher, I purchased some cheap bony cuts, including sliced beef shinbone and pig feet. More confronting was having to handle the pieces themselves (having not touched meat for around six years, it is a very alien concept to me…) and extracting the usable material from the cuts.

First, the pieces are simmered for a long while in water with a bit of detergent. This helps break down the fat, marrow and remaining tissue. For me, the smell was horrendous. It was rich and heavy, and loaded with the artificial citrus of the soap didn’t help. It smelled like an old kitchen. In fact, the whole 32sqm of my flat smells like an old kitchen, despite all the windows being open, and copious amounts of air freshener. A part of me keeps telling me I shouldn’t deny myself the full extent of the experience, but my nausea dictates otherwise…

Scraping off the excess flesh and removing the marrow was also less-than-enjoyable… The marrow became this sloppy, gelatinous mass, which was to be pushed out with a brave finger. Fortunately, it revealed on one piece a stunning area of lacy, porous bone. Less than ideal for traditional carving, perhaps — but something I’d like to exploit.

After boiling away the tissues, the bones are to be sunned for at least a few days. Thitutorial on bone preparation details the rest of the process, which I am yet to complete. This succinct supply and prep list is also really helpful. Luckily, most of the tools can be found on a jeweller’s bench, and I will happily improvise where necessary.

Luckily, I also obtained a small piece of pre-prepared cattle bone to play with. It is a beautiful material, dense and chalky, with subtleties of texture and colour throughout. It polishes beautifully, too. My preference is to use a nail bufffer (the dispoable kind, usually with two emery surfaces and two buffing surfaces adhered to a cushioned board), which is what I often use on my melamine pieces, after initial emery (anything up to 600). 

The smell released from the bone from carving is also pungent (though not as much as the boiling, fortunately). It has the distinct smell of umami – the proteinous aroma present in meat, mushrooms and human semen… 

I’ve included some pictures of this intitial research below, but I should warn you in advance – it’s not so nice to look at. But then, we’re all part of the system, right?

Roe deer trophy mount, sliced

Roe deer trophy mount, sliced

Roe deer trophy mount, sliced

Roe deer trophy mount, sliced, with skull piece

Cattle shinbone, after initial boiling

Cattle shinbone, after initial boiling

Cattle shinbone, in different stages of preparation

Cattle shinbone, in different stages of preparation

Cattle shinbone, after initial boiling

Cattle shinbone, after initial boiling

Pig feet, ready for boiling

Pig feet, ready for boiling

Pig foot, ready for boiling

Pig foot, ready for boiling, knuckle intact.

Tools for working with bone

Tools for working with bone

Roe deer trophy mount, large red deer antler, cattle shinbone

Roe deer trophy mount, large red deer antler, cattle shinbone

{N.B. This post has been edited for clarity.}

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