Hobbies serve the purpose of preventing people from reaching the point of insanity. They provide a source of drive and determination, an escape from the inevitable tortures of everyday life. Collecting quarters, playing catch, writing novels, mountain gliding, automation, macaroni doodling, life requires distractions that bring happiness. Some hobbies canbe simple activities that can be done with a group, others belong only to their founders.
Bailey Oliveira, a UWG Anthropology student, creates art from roadside carrion. She uses the decomposed remains of former house pets to make beauty from life’s most terrifying epidemic. She crafts jewelry the old fashioned way, going back to how Azilian culture cultivated necklaces and beads from bird bones and snake vertebrae.
“I swear it’s not a serial killer type thing,” said Oliveira. “It’s just so sad to see such a waste of life on the side of the road. I would walk my dog bast this dead opossum and I’d watch it decompose. I found it really interesting to watch. So when it finally turned all skeleton, I dried it out and picked out which bones I wanted.”
Earrings made of raccoon ribs and crows feet, opossum carcass charms, vertebrae necklaces, Bailey’s pieces are elegantly crafted. The beauty she adds takes nothing away from the peculiarity of the material, a magnificent blending of fashion and oddity that is rare to come across. “I typically always go for the ribs, spine, always the face and whatever I can get of the skulls. Spines are fun! A lot of times the spine is still inside the corpse and it’s just a little strip of tendon I can use,” said Oliveira.
Oliveira gets contributions from her brothers, who will often bring her variations of corpses to experiment with, however she owes graces to the vampire chickens that clean our roads. “Vultures are like my spirit animal,” said Oliveira. “Every time I see one I know something’s dead and that makes me excited because they make it easier for me since they pick the meat off.”
Bailey’s art is as unique as can be, but she’s not the only one of her kind. Her inspiration comes from a Georgia artist known for her naturistic style. “There’s this artist I’m really inspired by named Gogo Ferguson over in the Cumberland Islands, she has an exhibit where she guilds bones,” said Oliveira. “The one I remember the most is a gold-plated racoon pecker.”
If this article inspires anyone to follow in Bailey’s footsteps in the art of bone crafting, fear not. All you need is bleach, toothbrushes and the most resilient of stomachs. “The process just depends on how I find the animal,” said Oliveria. “Sometimes I have to scrape the brain out of the head cavity or cut an eyeball out, one time my brother brought me a deer and I had to overcook it to get the tongue out and it wound up coming out with the esophagus attached and the boiling pretty much killed the bone.
“If vultures and coyotes have already picked it apart I’ll just throw the bones I need in a trash bag and put them in bleach, scrub the nasty chunks off with a toothbrush. Bleach will take apart the calcium and ruin the bone but I’ll let them soak if it’s a really strong bone, it’s gross but you just gotta get in there,” Oliveira continued.
Rotting animal carcasses aren’t the most accessible thing in the world, especially with predatory competition like foxes dragging them around. Bailey always makes the most out of what she can get her hands on. “Deer vertebrae are good because they’re so big, I made a ring once out of opossum vertebrae, small things like raccoons and cats work really well, even though dead cats make me really sad,” said Oliveira. “I really wanna make earrings out of vole skulls, but I can’t find two voles because they’re so tiny.”No matter how obscure your hobbies may seem, the most natural art can be derived from the strangest of places.