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Last time I did one of these, I scoped out a bunch of items geared toward relaxation and creating a meditation space. This week, I put together a list of things based on my loves– corvidae. Some are pieces I’ve purchased myself and absolutely love, some are ones I’ve been lusting after. Every link will open into a new window, so you can learn more about any of the pieces that might strike your fancy.
Raven Pendant — $60
I love the abstract, swirly look of this piece. It gives it a real sense of movement, and the raven is just subtle enough to invite a closer look. Source.
RAVEN Watercolor Print By Dean Crouser — Starting at $25
This high-quality giclee print of Crouser’s original watercolor painting has so much color and life to it, I love it. I’ve purchased prints from this artist to give as gifts, and they’re even more beautiful in person. Source.
Tiny Sterling Silver Raven Stud Post Earrings — Starting at $39
Detailed, lovely, yet small and subtle enough to wear with anything. Best of all? The silver’s conflict-free. Source.
Steel Raven Cuff — $50
I love the detail of this etched cuff– the swirls almost evoke a Mucha vibe for me. Source.
Raven Necklace sterling silver ‘Edgar’ — $52.96
I have this necklace, and I virtually never take it off. Not only do I love how it looks on me, the texture of this piece make it very inviting to fidget with when I’m feeling antsy. Source.
Bird Ring – Raven – Crow – Rook – Currawong — $78
I love, love, love this ring. My piece has more antiquing on the silver, making the three-dimensional raven stand out even more than the example photo. And not only does Deborah Laun make awesome jewelry, her customer service is pretty rad, too. Source.
Crow/Raven Plush PDF Pattern — $7
Are you good at sewing? More importantly, are you willing to sew me one of these cute little skooshpuffs for money? Source.
Labradorite Raven Silhouette Necklace — $165
I love the rainbow flash of labradorite peeking through the silver raven silhouette. I almost didn’t want to post this here, just in case they sell out before I can get one for myself! Source.
So, I used this web interface to check out Google’s Deep Dream code.
The results were… Well.
Can’t you… SEE?
Kind of intrigued by the sudden presence of a parasitic twin on the side of my neck (also featuring chest spider, disapproving chinmonkey, red-eyed hairbird, sad-eyed dog ghost, tiny headfrog, and tragic hair whale). The series of small parrots and windshield-cracks that now make up my upper chest were a pretty nice touch, I thought.
Diaphonization absolutely fascinates me. Juxtaposing clear flesh and brightly-dyed bones, suspending a small thing in glycerine until it floats and almost appears to take on a new life… It’s something I’d love to try, if I were to stumble on a relatively fresh, small specimen that’d died of natural causes.
Also known as “clearing and staining” a specimen, diaphonization is a process in which a (generally small) specimen has its soft tissue rendered transparent while the bony structures are chemically dyed. It’s a way of preserving a specimen and producing a visually striking wet mount that illustrates the fully articulated skeleton without the inherent headache (and room for error) of cleaning, degreasing, and articulating a dry skeleton.
How is this achieved? Step by step, the process goes something like this protocol adapted from Dingerkus and Uhler’s “Enzyme clearing of alcian blue stained whole small vertebrates for demonstration of cartilage”:
- Preserve fresh specimens in formalin to prevent decay. This involves allowing the specimen to soak in a 10% solution for at least two to three days.
- Rinse the specimen by soaking in several changes of fresh water (distilled or RO) for another day or two.
- Allow the specimen to soak in a solution made up of alcian blue, ethanol, and acetic acid for approximately eleven hours. This will stain the cartilaginous structures.
- Rinse specimen by soaking in two successive changes of 95% ethanol, for one to two hours each. Follow by soaking it in several dilutions of alcohol, from 75% down to 15%, for one to two hours each (or until the specimen sinks in the solution). Follow this with two to three hours in distilled water.
- Soak specimen in a solution of sodium borate, distilled water, and trypsin. Solution should be changed every two to three days, or sooner if it begins to turn a bluish color from the Alcian blue stain. Continue soaking until the bones and cartilage are plainly visible.
- At this point, some specimens are treated to a twenty four hour bath in potassium hydroxide and Alizarin red. This will stain bones a distinct purple or reddish color. Some specimens are treated only with Alizarin red, skipping the Alcian blue stain.
- Transfer through successive dilutions of potassium hydroxide and the preservative the specimen will be stored in (most likely glycerine with thymol), before placing it in its final container filled with the storage medium.
While beautiful, diaphonization is notoriously finicky– even small specimens can take a long time to clear and stain. In the interim, decay may set in. Alcian blue only works in an acidic environment, which may cause larger specimens to begin to break down long before the dye is ever able to reach the bones or cartilage. Specimens also need to be kept in preservative if they are going to be kept from decaying after staining. While this isn’t much of an issue with, for example, a frog or a small snake, finding a jar large enough for an animal over a foot long could prove problematic.
Diaphonization is far from a purely decorative art– while the specimens it produces are visually striking, they also serve the important purpose of offering a look at the internal structure of animals that may be too small to dissect. This means that things like skeletal deformities and birth defects can be seen in situ.
Interested in examining some diaphonized specimens? Fortunately, you don’t have to go to a natural history museum to do it. Several skilled sellers (like Lithographica on Etsy) have continued this combination of art and science, producing beautiful, display-worthy, ethically sourced specimens.
When I was a baby, I was baptized Catholic. I don’t remember much of my actual education in that religion, though, because my family began moving away from that faith when I was still very young (which, from what I’m told, makes us “lapsed” Catholics– bell rung, book shut, and candle snuffed aside, you are a Catholic for life. Just a bad one).
For this reason, I was kind of surprised to discover… well. Bedazzled skeletons. I mean, yeah, I was a toddler and raised Catholic for all of maybe two years, but you’d think something like this might have been mentioned at some point.
The decorated skull of “Saint Dominicus”. Photo by Andreas Praefcke.
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Ever since primitive man made his first mark on a cave wall, humans have crafted pigments out of things ranging from crushed minerals to charred plants.
But there’s one particular pigment that’s a bit darker, a shade more macabre, than the rest.
I am referring, of course, to “mummy brown.”
Source: Wikimedia commons.
What is mummy brown? Ultimately, it’s exactly what it sounds like — a rich brown, somewhere between burnt and raw umber. While its origins can be traced back to ancient Egypt, it experienced a surge in popularity with the Pre-Raphaelite painters. This image, Martin Drolling’s Interior of a Kitchen, heavily relied on mummy brown.
Mummy brown wasn’t just a strangely evocative nickname, either.
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I got really into UrbEx when I was a kid (snared in those awkward years between “unironically enjoying Saturday Morning Cartoons” and “my house having a decent internet connection”).
You couldn’t keep me out of this creepy abandoned school behind my house, the drainage culverts in a park a few miles away, or the sewer system (Long Island is not an exciting place when you’re twelve). At some point I found out that there were other people taking pictures of the insides of abandoned things, and I fell hard.
A theater after forty years of abandonment. Photograph © Joey Lax-Salinas, click image for source.
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