‘My favourite skull. That is a lot like asking a parent to pick a favourite child!’
There is something really exciting about finding a diminutive envelope on the doormat, with a hand written address on the front, an Air Mail stamp and two letters stating its starting point – NY. (Yes, New York in the US of A.) What with 99.9% of our ‘mail,’ so to speak, ‘dropping’ into our inbox’s, instead of through the letter box, it can be so easy to lose touch with the importance of giving and receiving authentic mail, and I’m not talking bills or anything like that, I mean hand written letters, random scraps of drawings and smoothed out pieces of newspaper clippings. In this case, inside the tiny envelope was an even tinier zine. Fur, Hide and Bone is astonishingly beautiful, original and delicate. There’s a drawn/painted cover, hand written pieces all the way through, and intricate drawings of bones, animals both dead and alive and fragile pieces of the natural world.
The 14 page zine was created by editor Erika Harada, so she could share her passion about ‘Natural History and the collecting of dead things,’ and encourage others to share their experiences too. Harada re-writes the submissions in her own hand writing, which gives the zine a wonderfully personal feel, almost as if you’re reading the notebook of a good friend. Harris leads the way to start, discussing how the American Museum of Natural History inspired her as a child.
‘My fascination with the exotic, unfamiliar landscapes and animals recreated faithfully in glass cases eventually led to me collecting and sketching bones and taxidermy and obsessively researching the various animals I learned about at the museum.’
One of the pieces Harada shares with us is her juvenile hyena skull. It’s really interesting reading that as she progressed with her research into hyenas, she began to feel closer to her skull. She also goes on to defend this unlikely hero, and explain how hyenas are not only the harbingers of death.
Harada soon gives over to other writers and illustrators, such as fifteen year old Carolyn Smith, who is studying to become a wildlife and scientific illustrator, and who collects mainly out of awe. And Katie Innamorato who creates artwork using road kill or rejected skins. She says, ‘I am respecting the animal and giving new life.’ And I agree. I looked her up.
I think my favourite piece in this gorgeous little zine, is by Lisa Pawley who talks about the most treasured item in her collection.
‘It sits in a wooden box with smaller bones from the same species, and when I take it out to admire it, I am reminded of my own mortality. This item is a human thoracic vertebrae. Memento Mori- Remember you will die. This well known Latin phrase comes to mind when I hold a human bone in my hands.’
I enjoyed savouring every page of this astonishing morsel, lingering over the fascinating fragments of other peoples’ lives and what they do with the results of little deaths in the natural world.
Fur, Hide and Bone on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/89372839/fur-hide-and-bone-zine?ref=br_feed_1