The VVitch

by bonnie ~ May 16th, 2017

I have been extremely busy recently with my new project Bakeneko Designs and very much need to tend to this blog with updates and save if from neglect. For now here are Photos from a magazine editorial I lent work for.

THE VVITCH for Volition Magazine
Creative Direction Daina Renton
Photographer William Henry Scott
MUA lornaagnew_makeupartist
Model @yveeees
Clothing Magdalene Celeste
mouthpiece and crown Bakeneko Designs

Haunted meat

by bonnie ~ January 13th, 2017

Im outside the abattoir and the first thing I notice is the smell. It’s a hot day and you can hear the air is thick with flies. Small pieces of flesh and gristle are stuck to surrounding pieces of disused machinery, turning to jerky in the sun. I start to walk towards the building.
The entrance is large, big enough for a truck to drive into it, and is lined with heavy plastic fly stripping. They are filthy, covered in splatters of blood, brains and hair. I move them apart and then it hits me, a wall of sound. Machines are grinding, animals are screaming, what is see is a vision of hell.


My grandfather was a butcher. He used to be able to tell how an animal lived and died by looking at its meat, like a kind of clairvoyance. If an animal died in a panic there would be a red flush visible.

In my dreams I saw machines. Machines used to grind animals, to slit their throats, to remove their hair. Machines I could never have conceived of, things so far away from a normal line of thought. I had never seen of heard of these machines before, but they were very real. Its as if the meat was haunted. Eating it had ingested the memories, the pain. Impregnated in them was knowledge of things I knew nothing about.

I saw this years ago and when I did I knew that flesh was talking to me

“Naturally then, the mountains, the creatures, the entire non-human world is struggling to make contact with us. The plants we eat or smoke are trying to ask us what we are up to; the animals are signalling to us in our dreams or in forests; the whole Earth is rumbling; straining to let us remember that we are of it, that this planet, the macrocosm is our flesh, that the grasses are our hair, the trees are our hands, the rivers our blood, that the Earth is our real body and that it is alive.”
David Abram


“When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”
Jonathan Safran Foer

“Flesh has the force of violence in it, and the negative emotions of fear and hatred.”
Ayurveda

The day I stopped eating meat lead to the night I stopped dreaming of the abattoir.

polecat taxidermy process

by bonnie ~ December 2nd, 2016

Polecat taxidermy on commission. This is a step by step guide to the process I used. I am completely self taught and took all steps on my own initiative.

First I work out where I want to start skinning by keeping in mind how I want the finished piece mounted. As she is going to be stood up on a piece of wood it’s best to make the incision on the stomach as this will be least visible when sewn back up.
I make a parting in the hair and follow this as I cut. You want to be really careful when you cut to not rupture the stomach as it will release all its contents.
One of the most important disciplines I’ve leant over time is to know how much pressure to apply to the scalpel.

I peel back the skin and release it from the flesh by cutting these gossamer membranes. You only need the weight of the scalpel to do this so I apply no pressure and just drag it along to cut the skin free. You can see on the right the side I’ve worked on compared to the side I have not.

Progress over the ribs and up to the spine. At this point I turn her over and go in from the other side.

Both sides complete making a gap.

On to the leg I first push these up out of the skin by using the natural leg bend then skinning all around the leg until i can push my thumb through. Here I cut it off at the ankle. Sometimes I keep the bone attached as it can then be used to anchor the foot when the inner form is made.

Completing the lower half and front legs using the same method as before.

The head is by far the most tricky, you need to be really careful and patient when cutting out the ear canal and the eyelids.

Skinning complete. I keep the lips and nose attached and will remove the body but keep the skull. I will remove all the flesh from the skull and then build it back up again in milliput (an air drying epoxy putty).

Removing the flesh from the skull.
It took about an hour and a half to do this, it is quite arduous and fastidious work. To do this I used a scalpel, pliers, tweezers and two different pairs of scissors. It is important to change the scalpel blade frequently, it’s paramount that the blade is incredibly sharp. Then I build up the removed flesh with miliput. I use the other side as a guide and try to mimic it.

Now using the built up side as the guide I complete the other side. As her eyes are black with no visible iris or pupil it’s ok to use a black bead the same size. I didn’t have any that fit but these red ones are a perfect size so I will use them and paint them with nail varnish. Nail varnish works well as it leaves a smooth high gloss finish.

Removing the brain. There is a hole at the back of the skull where the spine would have attached so I widen this with pliers. After that it’s a case of scraping it all out with cotton buds.

Removing all bits of flesh and fat still attached to the skin then massaging in borax powder.

I make the form with wood wool wrapped in thread. Layers are added to copy the shape and a wire ‘spine’ using the body as a guide. It’s best to add less than you think rather than more as it’s easier to add to it then remove.

Bending the top of a piece of wire to put in the leg. The loop at the top will cut as an anchor when I cover it with miliput. A leg shape is sculpted then a wire is pushed through the pad and the skin rolled back over the miliput form.

With both legs done the miliput can be molded through the skin to get the correct shape. A wire is put through the wood wool form into each leg (using the looping method as before).

Sewing up the body and packing more woodwool where needed. The back legs are then completed like the front legs.

Pinning the eyelids in place while she dries.

When the skin contracted the eyelids raised and moved passed the eye. To rectify this I sculpted some with miliput and painted them.

I want her standing on a piece of wood so mark where the feet will do then drill a hole the depth of the exposed wire. I then put miliput in the hole then insert the wire.

All complete she is now ready for her new home.

The last thing I do is bury her body in my garden so it can return back to the earth.

Quis hic locus? quae regio? quae mundi plaga?

by bonnie ~ September 13th, 2016

It is hard to wake up and have to continue the role of only one person when sometimes I do not feel like that person. My waking life can be consumed with the effort of keeping a continuity. I look in the mirror and I don’t know who is looking back, I don’t know who they are. That is not my face, that is not my body, that is not my gender. my sexuality can shift, it can disappear completely. I try to map my body with tattoos so I can return to a constant but that constant is not residing in my skin.

the phone used to not work. i would franticly be trying to find peoples numbers but they wouldn’t be there no matter how hard i looked. i was always trying to call you and i could never get through. now the phone works just fine. in fact im not even sure where it is because i just stopped caring about it. i know all my numbers are in there but there is so no one i want to call. we haven’t spoken in months and i barely even thought about you. it is crippling how alone i feel.

after returning to school i was at first so happy to just be doing something rather then nothing. now time has gone on i am up to the realisation that i never intended to finish i just wanted to pretend i was taking part for a short time. the teacher is telling me off in front of everyone and i get up and leave. i go out into the woods and get lost. i do not care where im going, i do not care if ill ever find my way out.

in a room between corridors there is an infirmary. the first time i went in there i was so shocked i thought there was no way i should be seeing this. the patients were varying degrees of deformed and mutated. some had lost parts of their skull and you could see the brain pulsing weakly under sallow skin. limbs were twisted and gnarled, eyeball rolled into the back of the head. contraptions were keeping some functioning, some had large stomas and other surgeries to perform bodily acts. everything was bathed in the whitest most sterile light. the mood was very upbeat and cheerful, the nurses homely and helpful. no one seemed to be acknowledging the horror in the room. the normality of everything was terrifying

Dear David Chedgey

by bonnie ~ August 23rd, 2016

“In every woman’s bedroom is a spider”

A space between the front doors. This time the wall was accidentally broken and we found our way into it. A tiny white staircase was leading down outside somewhere. Knowing that I was far too grown to ever fit back down it again. that path was shut off from me forever

He ran his finger along the line that they met, telling me with his eyes to keep them closed because only he could open them. My mother watched whilst trying her hardest to bypass the instinct that this was wrong and instead convinced herself that it was all perfectly normal.

DEAR DAVID CHEDGEY,

When you moved in you built a sofa in the room next to the kitchen and claimed a spot as your own. It was the best place to sit as you have a perfect view of the TV and there was a shelf to put a drink on. I hated you, I hated that a strange man had come into my house and built sofas with places only he could sit. I sat in your place and I was determined I would not move. What could you do? Physically force me? Shout at me? What could you do to a child? This is what you did, you sat beside me and took your trembling old withered disgusting hand and you ran it up and down my leg. You said ‘this is nice. oooh this is nice’. I got up.
At night I would hear the two of you having sex, that revolting old man and my mother, and with the  same rasping shaking voice your words would shudder out your mouth ‘oooh, this is nice’


Saying your name gives me synthesia, I can literally taste and smell you.  You smell like something putrid and rotting, you smell like seeping wounds and hospital food, I can taste decay on your name, I can feel something like melted rotten cheese on my tongue and sliding down my throat. Just writing your name makes me gag.

You and I were the ghosts of cats and managed to whisper into the house. I tried to access the secret doorway put I found just a regular cupboard with a regular wall behind it. There was a body on the bed and when I pulled it over it was a young girl with blonde hair. I tried to wish you out of the room but you knelt on her face and she became nothing but an old blue dressing gown. I thought about meeting her in my old room and tearing her to pieces. I shut my eyes and when I opened them she was still gone and you were still there

Absense

by bonnie ~ December 15th, 2015

I have been gone for the longest time but I am aiming to be getting back to being active in the new year. Please bear with me,  I am coming alive again

‘Promises’, Bonnie Wood ,15/12/2015

Taxidermy

by bonnie ~ October 10th, 2014

Taxidermy

When I first started doing taxidermy I began as most people do with frozen rats and mice brought from stores that intended them as reptile or snake food. At the time I had no ethical issue with it as I thought (and I hate this line of thought) that it was better to have them made into ‘art’ or something ‘beautiful’ instead of becoming food. I considered myself to be doing ‘humane’ and ‘ethical’ taxidermy in the respect that nothing died with the intention of it being used in my work.

I continued this way for a while mainly selling my work via myspace and really enjoyed what I was doing until I got a message from an artist after I sent him a friend request. He told me he couldn’t accept my request because he disagreed with my use of mice and rats. He said that the way the rats etc are farmed can be in horrible conditions and that as a sentient being it was disrespectful and cruel to obtain them. At the time his words really affected me and made me see things from a completely different perspective that has always stayed with me.

I spoke to the pet shop I got my rats and mice from and asked them if I could give them back the skinned bodies to be used as food and they said I could. This felt fine to me for a while until I started to think about it in more depth. Although carnivorous animals of course have to eat meat it is not necessarily our place to keep carnivorous pets in the first place. I myself have several carnivore animals and there is no way round it morally that I can think of exempt perhaps from solely feeding them road kill (which has its own issues like disease etc). My conclusion with this is if you are going to claim something as ethical or humane you are going to have an infinite number of problems to overcome when concerning morality.

After this I started to work solely with animals that had died of natural causes or by accident, again this was fine with me for a while until I started to feel very uncomfortable by what I was doing. When you take an animal and make it into ‘art’ you are imprinting it with your human ego. You are living for your own means through its body. I believe you really have to greatly respect the creature and do not monopolise its remains for yourself. It’s not yours to play with, respect its nature and do not go against it. Also consider the relationship between what parts of it you use and what parts you dispose of. Mainly taxidermy just uses the skin and in some case select bones. What of the tissue, fat, muscle, organs that remain? Do you throw it in the as garbage or can it be used or respected in some way? This is another instance where you could use the meat as food for yourself /other animals or bury it to fertilise the earth. I believe you should let it go back to the earth it came from in some way or another.

With my work incorporating taxidermy and fashion I wanted to represent a ‘momento mori’ in the face of frivolity. I wanted it to be mocking of human vanity and a reminder that ‘beauty’ is nothing but temporary. We are all just walking memories made of dust, the standardised ideal of beauty (be it human or other animals, plants etc) will always bloom then hang in the balance for a microsecond until it falls into rot. Even great mountains will fall and crumble into the sea, absolutely nothing lasts forever. When George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Everest he said ‘because it’s there’. The hubris of humanity is that we feel that we have to ‘concur’ nature, we cannot simply leave it be. My most favourite personal physiatrist and mentor said she always wanted to climb Alps but decided that they were not for her. When she told me I thought ‘exactly this’. Something’s just aren’t meant for us to have so we must not try to take them.

I decided to concentrate on traditional taxidermy which I had previously shunned. I used to consider it ‘weird’ to want to recreate a dead thing to look living. I don’t feel that way anymore, I feel that it is more that you are trying to explore and understand something. I never had a problem understanding death, its life that’s the greatest mystery. I also have reverted to methods that don’t use chemicals so the taxidermy itself will not last forever but rather will one day rot also. Decay is not ugly, rotting is not ugly. It’s a very beautiful harmonious natural thing, wanting something to last forever is quite the opposite. In turn I believe anatomy is not scary or horrific but something miraculous. I have had people really turn away in disgust over images of the taxidermy process only to marvel at how good it looks when it’s finished. The skin is not the sum total of an animal’s parts, so why is only the skin appealing? In Plato’s ‘the republic’ he introduces the idea of forms and ideals making up our perception and asks you to try and determine where the essence lies. How much of something do you have to dismantle before it ceases to be what it is?

Anthropomorphic  taxidermy is something I have very split opinions over. On the one hand I find it incredibly distasteful and vulgar, but on the other quite amiable. Mainly the current trends in anthro taxidermy are the ones I dislike the most. The main victims are again rats and mice because of how easily it is to obtain them and stuff them. I have seen so many badly stuffed little rodents in all manner of humanlike poses ranging from simply wearing a suit or dress to elaborate ‘steampunk’ attires. Again I myself started out this way and have even made my own ‘zombie rats’ which I now feel completely ashamed of. To me it totally pushes the barrier of taste. Having said this I am a very big fan of Walter Potter’s work. To me his playful works are quite joyfully naive and endearing. He was very much looked down on by the taxidermists of the time who considered his work to be whimsical nonsense of little skill. I like the idea of this, of him outraging scientists. This is mainly due to potter acquiring animals that had died by natural or accidental causes. While the top dogs were shooting elephants to create grand scale taxidermy Walter was happily constructing kitten weddings or bar fighting frogs. I feel that his approach was with a pure intention and that he respected the animals far more than those that would kill then just to reconstruct them. I also have a soft spot for vintage badly done taxidermy. Viewing it is like you are looking through the eyes of someone trying to understand an animal in their own way. It has a very primitive charm.

I feel at odds a lot when working with taxidermy and after nearly a decade doing so I still haven’t come to conclusive answers over what I feel is right and wrong.  Beings shed their earthly husks all over the planet while we grow flowers just to cut them down to put in vases.  Is the body really that sacred? When something is dead its dead, you are just left with the form and not the soul. With a world mainly run on fossil fuels Is it hypocritical to sit here writing about the ethics of a few animals while happily being a passenger in a car run on a million tiny prehistoric bodies? I know I am totally nihilist in my thinking so there is no reason for this to fundamentally matter to me.  I guess in a universe that is indifferent to good and evil it becomes necessary for me to attribute my own meaning to life.

The problem of ‘ethics’

by bonnie ~ February 28th, 2013

A while ago I decided to research the sellers of Etsy offering work and using animal remains and ask them about their ethics and how they source their materials. I was going to do a ‘name and shame’ about it but have decided not to for a few reasons. The first being the sellers nearly all lied to me. They would tell me the bones were found on a farm, or their friend was a vet or a pet shop owner etc. Due to this I can not name them with absolute certainty even though I know from their work that this was most likely not the case. Instead I’m going to highlight what to look for when buying from one of these people in the hope that it will educate people into knowing the unhappy truth about where most of the remains are obtained.

Mink.
I know that you can buy these bones very cheaply, cleaned and in bulk lots of ebay which is why they are used a lot. If you dont agree with using remains from a mink farm I would ask you to take a really good look at the bones posted below then look through a ‘taxidermy accessory’ makers work. You would be really surprised at how a large amount of them use these bones. Some of them seem to only consist of mink remains.

one of the main ebay sellers, click for link

The above seller I have contacted before to ask where they get the bones from and they replied telling me it was from a fur farm.
The thing about fur farms is they can differ dramatically in the way they treat the animals. If you have been brave enough to sit through the entire infamous PETA video of a chinese fur farm you will know too well how the utterly horrific and haunting atrocities that go on there (this is a video that will stay with me for my entire life). This, however, is a far cry from some of the more humane mink farms. This leaves you the personal moral debate as to whether you would happily buy the remains of an animal that has been bred for its fur to harvested. Some people believe if an animal is being bred for vanity and fashion it is less ethical compared to animals being bred for food. Personally im not on either side as meat can be produced in far more harrowing conditions then the humane mink farm.
When I asked the seller if they knew if the fur farm the mink remains came from was a humane one or not they said they did not know.
Note-  A lot of carnivores have similar shaped skulls and bones so what you really need to look out for is the size.

Cat skulls.
Another skull that is relatively commonly found among sellers are cats. My main concern with this is its rare to come across a genuine domestic cat skull but small bobcat skulls are easily obtained from ebay

Bobcat trapping is very popular in mainland America where the animal is native. While some trap it to protect livestock a large amount are also trapped for sport or to sell their fur and skulls. They are a relatively easy animals to trap and are done so in large numbers (although this has not damaged the population). For example here is a video of the photos a trapper took during one year of hunting. As you can see all his were trapped with a sprung steel jaw trap. This are incredibly inhumane, cutting severely into the animals flesh (often to the bone) then leaving the animal in excruciating pain until the hunter checks their traps (which can be any amount of time).
Also note millions of raccoons, coyotes, wolves, opossums, nutria, beavers, otters, and other fur-bearing animals are trapped each year in similar cruel ways every year.

A strange discovery I made when researching was that some sellers were selling replica skulls claiming they were real. For me this is a bonus as it means no animals were harmed but is disingenuous when selling. I personally would urge anyone who wants to use skulls for a purely aesthetic reason to always use replicas.

Rats, Mice and chicks

Rat, mice and chicks can be easily obtained frozen from pet shops as reptile food. Some of these rodents are farmed in very inhumane and cruel conditions. I can personally understand if the person has pet reptiles that they feed the remains to but for someone to buy the body purely to taxidermy, to me, is unethical. Some people believe it is giving the animal a better destiny then food, but not me. The animal was killed to be brought, it being for food or otherwise still means you brought its death. I have pet snakes myself that i feed rats so if i ever want to taxidermy one i will always save the remains.


Things to look out for-

Variety. This is probably the best thing to look for. If a person has a very random collection of animal remains it is more likely that they have happened upon them by chance then sourcing them all from the same place. For example if i look in my animal freezer there are owls, lizards, rabbits, snakes, parrots, magpies etc etc. This is because i have collected these from a wide variety of places, be that road kill or deceased pets or animals found by myself or friends.

The bone or skulls colouring,one way to tell if an animal skull or bones have been ‘found’ out in the wild and not brought. Unless a person is well trained or experienced it is unlikely that they can produce well cleaned bones or skulls with found remains. For example here is an uncleaned jawbone my friend found in the woods-

The use of the word byproduct. Byproduct’ is a tricky word, it instantly makes you think of something that would be otherwise discarded. Its a word that seems to get thrown around a lot with not much thought about what it means. I personally do not believe something could be classed as a byproduct if they didn’t have people willing to buy them.

Identification. See if the person has correctly identified the animal, the name of the bones etc. The use of the name ‘taxidermy’ when just concerning bones. Taxidermy means the movement of skin so bones are NOT taxidermy. May seem like i’m being picky but I wouldn’t trust the ‘ethics’ applied by someone who is ignorant to the word they are using to describe their ‘craft’.

The cry goes up to witness, the soullessness of men.

by bonnie ~ November 19th, 2012

I like to think I believe in divine totality, that I have come to terms with the world being a savage garden. I understand and respect nature is not something cute and fuzzy for me to play with. Evil is such an abstract concept, I don’t subscribe to it at all. I suffer from the indifference of the universe, a wasp does not care when its laying its eggs within a spider. Its surviving at the expense of another, its goal is not to cause suffering.

Yet I can feel such presence of evil, and nothing more inventive than man.

please click images for links and information

Grindadrap

I remember watching a grainy video of a machine used in a slaughter house. I’ve been forever trying to explain this machine to people and find that video again but  I never managed it. Its shot from what appears to be a hidden camera in the corner of the roof. There is a large concrete  ’box’ with sloped sides leading down to an unassuming metal grate. A fringe of blunt metal protrusions ripple like a wave slowly from within.
A small digger truck enters through a large opening in the wall that’s protected with strip plastic. Its holding a small sheep and makes its way to the machine’. It drops the sheep inside and there it sits for a few moments. Not sure what is supposed to be happening I watch the sheep jolt a few times like it was alive. It then folds in the center and starts to suck inwards. The metal fringe is catching its skin and dragging it through the grate. I am struck by two things, one that its must be incredibly powerful and secondly that it makes barely any noise. The whole sheep is pulled in and liquidised, bones posing no threat to stopping or even causing it to pause.
The digger brings through a cow and then a horse. The horse barely even fits the concrete container but is soon pulled in like the rest. It moves at a continuous unrelenting pace.

slow loris pet trade

There was a small circular island in the middle of the sea that housed a large grand castle with towers and spires that reached to the sky.
In the castle lived a boy
The place was littered with glass cases. Some were very old and dusty, some were new and ornate. They sat in every corner, every space. Along endless corridors and in forgotten rooms, silent attics and vast conservatory’s.
In each glass case was an animal. Being that there were so many cases in so many different sizes they hosed a vast array of all manner of creatures.
He sits and watches each animal die. Sometimes they take minutes, sometimes days and sometimes years. He does not speak, he does not aid them, he just sits and watches. Watches untill it is over.
He is so alone, he is the loneliest boy in the world.

harvesting blue blood

The horseshoe crab is one of the most beautiful designs I have ever seen. So perfect it has found no need to evolve for 150 million years. They were there before humanity was even a speck on the universe, they were there before dinosaurs, they were there before flowering plants. When creatures finally pulled themselves out of the water to walk on land the horseshoe crab stayed where it was and has done so to present day

sorting by gender at a chick hatchery

People must have renounced, it seems to me, all natural intelligence to dare to advance that animals are but animated machines…. It appears to me, besides, that [such people] can never have observed with attention the character of animals, not to have distinguished among them the different voices of need, of suffering, of joy, of pain, of love, of anger, and of all their affections. It would be very strange that they should express so well what they could not feel.

~Voltaire, Traité sur la tolerance

The insects are eating each other

by bonnie ~ September 7th, 2012

Even within the most beautiful landscape, in the trees, under the leaves the insects are eating each other

Francis Bacon

One day two small creatures pulled them self out of the water and formed a crysalise on blades of aquatic flora. They remained dormient for the longest time until eventually I saw the cases crack and out came two air born gossamer insects, light and fragile and beautiful and more tentative then breath.

They danced together all day, falling and rising in the dust speckled air. They were aerial ballerinas, they waltzed before my gaze untill the sun started to slowly fall and them with it. They returned to broken shells and there they stayed.

Mud puddling (so called from groups of butterflies in muddy puddles) is a process where butterflies aggravate the surface of a subject in order for it to secrete liquids from which they gain nutrients like salts and amino acids. They can also be seen drinking like this on corpses (above), blood and tears.

The Oak treehopper can be seen exerting a maternal instinct. While watching her nymphs she can see if a predator approaches. If one does, like a vespid wasp, she will put herself in its way between it and her offspring. When it finally retreats the treehopper carefully inspects her young to see if any are hurt. Once finding them all in good health she will return to her post to continue watching over them.

Lateral gene transferral (genes transferred through non-sexual activity through different species) has been observed in the coffee borer beetle. The beetle was found to be containing a bacteria that helps it break down the coffee beans complex sugars and allows it to then solely feed from this source.

Rose and his colleagues analysed the genome of the coffee berry borer beetle, Hypothenemus hampei, a small insect native to Africa that spread worldwide during the twentieth century. They identified a beetle gene, HhMAN1, that codes for a protein called mannanase, which breaks down the polysaccharide galactomannan — found in the coffee beans that the beetle feeds on. The gene closely resembles the sequence of a bacterial mannanase, and is the first gene of this type to be discovered in an insect. (source)

The majority of aphids are born pregnant, able to give birth at only ten days old. Through parthenogenesis (virgin pregnancy) and paedogenesis (pregnancy in young) the babies develop from single cells already present in the mothers body. The process of the babies forming may begin before the mother is even born.