The beetles and I, or The things I do for art.

9 years, 11 months ago 38
Posted in: Work in Progress
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"I....I, I can't do this..."

So, I bought a collection of exotic, taxidermy beetles because I thought it would be a fantastic idea to cast them in sterling silver, set them with stones and turn them into fabulous head dresses and accessories for my dolls, but the problem is that now that I have it, I can’t bring myself to harvest the parts I need. No, not because they are beautiful, which they certainly are, but because they gross me out. I’m scared to touch them.

And dear god, do they smell bad. Especially after I opened the sealed box. I don’t know what repulses me more: the thought of having to dismember them or the nauseating stench they emit. And I can’t figure out if it’s formaldehyde I’m smelling or decomposition of their fat, juicy beetle intestines. I know they are supposed to be emptied out for preservation, but I do not want to cut into one and find out otherwise.

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"I can do this, I can do this...oh, for crying out loud, get it together!"

I didn’t think it would be this hard for me to do this. I just assumed that my excitement over making beautiful objects from muli-legged creatures’ body parts would automatically override my fear of dismembering them. Well, that hasn’t happened yet. Every day for the past two weeks I’ve been trying to get used to the idea. A couple of times a day i get a glass of water or occasionally, a beer, sit down in my arm chair across from the display case and look at it for fifteen minutes like it’s a staring contest. So far, the bugs are winning it. When I work at my desk, the case is directly behind me and countless times during the  day I suddenly inerrupt my work flow, swing around in my chair, put my feet up on my desk and look at it some more with a withering stare. As if i’m trying to catch it off gurard or something. Just sit there and look at my dead, gaint insects while imagining beautiful crowns with scorpion pincers and beetle legs.

I’m not even really sure of what exactly I’m going to make with them. I know it will come when I’m working. I have a sixth sense about that stuff. I just need to start working with them.

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"Wow, that's gross."

I’ve decided to take this to my friend/casting technician, Ryan, to help me dismember these beetles. There is strength in numbers. Worst case scenario is that Ryan will freak out even more than me and then I will feel like the brave one and my squeamishness will disappear.

It’s got to get done. I can’t let my fear get in the way of art. I will have to get over myself. And that’s it and that’s that.

38 Responses

  1. noxy says:

    ROFL… this post made me giggle. Your face says it all in these pictures. I feel your pain. I too would be incredibly grossed out at the thought of dismembering creepy crawlies. *shudders* Good luck with it, I’m sure whatever you manage to create with them will be absolutely fantastic and, one would hope, all worth it. :)

  2. awww marina I feel your pain!!! I’ve collected some interesting insects (though not so large and spectacular as yours) with the thought of using them in costumes for my enchanted doll…. but mine too sit inside their box untouchd by me, terrified of going near them.. sigh!!!

  3. Becky says:

    As someone who has handled dead insects on many occasions for entomology projects when I was younger, I can tell you it’s not as bad as it seems! For these larger bugs I might suggest you get a face mask of some sort because I imagine they’ll be quite dry and powdery. I of course can’t be sure how your insects were preserved, but when I was doing it, I used to freeze them, and then pin them on foam blocks using wax paper and entomology needles and then a few days later, voila! Dry bugs! (preserved only using nearby moth balls so other bugs won’t eat the corpses) And by dry, I mean bone dry like paper or twigs. Just try taking a larger leg off one of the smaller beetles and I think you’ll find it’s not nearly as gross as it might seem!

    (wow, this is such a weird topic for me to offer advice on, haha!)

    I’m really excited to see what you do with these guys for the Enchanted Dolls! I’m very much reminded of a book called The Bee on the Comb by Kit Williams, when I think about it. Best of luck!

  4. Marina says:

    Becky,

    I can’t thank you enough for this informative advice. It certainly helps me a great deal. Thank you. I’ll start with a leg.

  5. miss LK says:

    I believe the final result will be amazing with ED so may the force be with you!

    I see giant beetles, a scorpion… is there a tarantula in the corner?(this one will be very interesting if you decide to do something with it).

  6. Marina says:

    I doubt I will do the Tarantula- that one’s too much for me.

  7. rem says:

    Wooow! That big grasshopper is amazing! So many cool beetles~!! I love bugs, I need to get me one of those sets, too! <3 *drool* Oh…and yes, good luck…do remember that they are dead…and can’t hurt you. Hehe… ^_^

  8. Nunt says:

    You did count them originally right? I mean, you don’t have an itching feeling down your back at night, with one or two bugs missing from the display… ;) I got a gross story that includes a beetle, my underpants, 5 AM and a lot of screaming and hopping about, but I think I will refrain telling it for your sake.

    Just remember if it itches, sometimes it really IS a beetle :D

  9. Kamila says:

    Were there no good PLASTIC alternatives available? LOL, you poor thing. Have fun with them bugs ;)

  10. Crystal says:

    I just would be careful. I think you really should wear a mask like someone suggested. What little organisms they could harbor who knows? I don’t mean to scare you. If they smell, it seems something is going on.

  11. marla says:

    wow! sounds like a real problem you’ve got on your hands!! i love the idea of cast beetles with gems for headdresses!! i’ve use several dead beetles, bird skulls etc. in my art and i love it! hope your friend can help you out! looking forward to seeing the results, i know they will be fabulous!!

  12. ~Mia says:

    Poor Marina! *Hugs*
    Oh! They’re nasty! Nasty! Nasty!…
    Yes, please wear a mask protect yourself!
    That’s a super idea to ask your friend Ryan to help!
    eeei! runs away…..

  13. annina says:

    haha wow, hat off to you, the idea of dissecting them grosses me out!
    but the results you’ll get will be so cool i’m sure, i’m already imagining different headdresses!!
    as miss LK says, may the force be with you, lol!

  14. winternight says:

    I really had a laugh when I saw this entry! I would feel the same, I’m sure. Well, if you can get past it, you’ll certainly get some visceral reactions to your work, the effect will be amazing. Just please, PLEASE no tarantula… I won’t even be able to look!

  15. Kimmi says:

    Marina, I’ll help you!! I don’t mind bugs. Hand me the scissors ;)

    Haha. This entry cracked me up.

  16. ~Jenny~ says:

    I’m curious how the casting of dismembered insects in sterling silver will be. I don’t really understand the process. When you will be casting them, will there be parts of insects covered in sterling silver in the headdresses/accessories? =S

  17. annina says:

    yech, i just thought of something, maybe when you are dissecting, wear some kind of protection glasses along with a face mask, in case there is something in the bugs, so it won’t go in your eyes.

  18. Laura says:

    Marina, you need to overcome your fear and do this. I would like to help you, but I am to far. This will not be problem for me. Just do it and imagine beautiful peaces of jewelry you can create with this bags. Good luck!!!!!

  19. Leah says:

    Wow, and ew. From the pictures you posted of all the insects, I think the one I could never bring myself to do is that tarantula. I HATE SPIDERS! You’re certainly braver than I am, I hate creepy crawlies. Even IF I had the motivation for using them in artwork, I would probably just use the displayments as references and wind up sculpting the pieces I wanted instead. The only word I can really think of saying is just wow….

  20. Diana Dang says:

    Oh gosh, you’re already brave to even buy that whole collection. I would be so repulsed to even think of having different species of beetles and insects in one spot near me!

  21. Kimmi says:

    Come on people, they’re just bugs. And they’re dead, so they can’t even crawl on you or hurt you.

  22. Megan says:

    Hi Marina…To echo Becky, that awful smell is probably the napthalene (often in the form of moth balls), which keeps corpse-munching insects from eating your dead bugs. I was an entomology major in college, and we killed bugs using a “kill jar” (a jar with poison-soaked plaster at the bottom) and then mounted them to boards or in boxes with pins. No taxidermy or formaldehyde necessary! Insects just get really dry and crispy…they don’t really have blood and guts like we do…so they don’t need to be emptied out and they also don’t rot. I used to be pretty squeamish about insects, too, but you get over that pretty quickly as an entomology major! As you learn more, it becomes easier to realize things aren’t as disgusting as your imagination has led you to believe!

    I can’t wait to see the finished product! Good luck!

  23. Anelise says:

    Pretend they are little lobsters, everyone takes them apart!
    Most dead bugs are all dried out inside, the inside will have neat textures, little trabeculae- think of what you will find!

  24. Marina says:

    Thank you, Megan for your expert advice and everyone else for you support. It’s very helpful.

  25. kelly says:

    My advice would be…do something else! yeck!

  26. silvana says:

    Oh my God, im never touch anyone these insects…urgh….good luck to you and all for beautiful things you can made with them!!!

  27. Anne (UK) says:

    Your face just says it all Marina and whilst looking at your face I’m sure I was grimacing in a similar way myself!
    There would be no way I could handle those insects even though they’re dead!
    I’m sure though that if you can overcome your fear and revoltion you will be able to create something extra special just as your dolls are.

  28. Mariella says:

    Oh God! , I see it and feel like them are going to revive in any moment , good luck ^___^

  29. Courtney says:

    I absolutely adore insect taxidermy in those shadowboxes. I never bothered to wonder if they would smell when opened….yuck!

    Is it possible to spray paint them a color like silver so that when handling them they look less like bugs and already more like bits of jewelry? Just an idea.

  30. Sophie says:

    wow…i can’t wait to see what you do with these…er…beetles….XP i can barely look at them and they’re safely just a picture on a webpage XD I like megan and becky’s sdvice on drying them out….what an idea…i’d be too scared to be within a five-metre radius of any one of those bugs…i’d probably just end up sculpting them from clay or even wire and beads…lol

  31. Anika says:

    Perhaps you should try something a bit more potent then beer to steel your nerves?

  32. Coffeemonkey says:

    Marina,

    Let me start off by saying how beautiful your work is. Your work is the epitome of everything I long to work towards as an artist. You are a real inspiration to the rest of us. Truly amazing!

    As for the beetles, your post had me spewing the milk I was drinking from my nose I was laughing so hard. And that photo of you is priceless. I sure hope you find a way. I can only imagine what you’ll end up creating with them!

  33. Nick says:

    I thought this might give you some motivation http://www.insectlabstudio.com/. The style is very similair, and may give you some ideas..maybe. *smiles*

  34. Nick says:

    I apologize about the spaces, no idea how that happened.

  35. Nick says:

    Oh I found this as well.. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/archive/200204A22.html

    Apparently a set of sterling silver insects appraised for 30,000-50,000 on the ‘Anitques Roadshow’ 4 years ago. Impressive.

  36. Nick says:

    Note to self…. DO NOT put words above links.

  37. Carl says:

    Marina,
    Your work is everything I ever thought that dolls should be!Beatiful…absolutely.Now about bugs.A paper dust mask is a great idea…but get a little bottle of lavender essential oil and put a single drop on the mask.Not only will it block the smell ,but lavender is supposed to relieve stress… which you get from cutting up bugs LOL. Also as these are bug parts that you are casting in metal,have you ever thought of some gorgeous enammelling??

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