I love old objects. I love the way they look – rusted, chipped, cracked. I love the way they feel – heavy, solid, or ready to crumble. They offer me endless inspiration and comfort. These are some of my favorite objects.
This is my antique wax anatomical model of a child’s jaw. Dylan and I got a large lot of old dental implements and bits and bobs from a man on Craigslist in 2008. He was selling the treasures for a friend whose father had been a dentist in New York in the 1920s. That is the extent of the information we have on our little jaw’s personal history. As to its birth, according to the lovely peeling old labels on the back, it was made in Germany and then imported to New York by a man named Gustav Scharmann. I think the German label translates to something along the lines of “Wax Preparation. Keep out of the sun.” Makes sense, and we’ve complied, keeping in it our dark hallway where nary a ray of sunlight hits.
The label under the jaw reads “Dentes decidui” which I believe translates to deciduous teeth, meaning baby teeth, and apparently, according to the internets, also known as milk teeth.
Little known and sort of boring fact about me, I only ever lost 2 of my baby teeth. The rest refused to fall out, and my permanent teeth started growing in all around them. For awhile I had nearly two complete rows of teeth, earning me the nickname Dragon Teeth, or D.T. for short (actually, that was a pretty good one, Mom). Eventually I had to have the rest pulled, 4 at a time (they could only numb part of my mouth at a time for fear that I might swallow my tongue) which was pretty much the most horrible thing ever. I became very familiar with laughing gas at that time. I remember the first time they gave it to me, the dentist told me to think of something nice like puppies, which I thought was hilarious, and, deciding to teach him a thing or two about little girls, thought of alligators instead. (It didn’t really occur to me that he didn’t know what I was thinking.) He had the last laugh when I left with a drooling bleeding face full of cotton balls. I still love alligators though.
Travel to wondrous and curious places on Obscura Day 2011.
On April 9th, I’ll be doing my darndest to attend three, count em, three Obscura Day events. If you don’t already know, Obscura Day is put on by the Atlas Obscura, and aims to be a day of expeditions, back-room tours and hidden treasures in your own town. With over 86 events all over the world, Obscura Day 2011 is shaping up to be an epic celebration of the curiosity seeker.
My own Obscura Day will start off racing with Dylan off from Brooklyn to East Shoreham, Long Island to tour Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Laboratory, (Nikola Tesla’s only remaining research facility), then we’ll book it back to Brooklyn in time for the ghost ships of Coney Island tour led by the folks from Underwater New York, and we’ll end the night at the Coney Island Spectacularium. The Spectacularium – run by friend and Morbid Anatomy’s Joanna Ebenstein, and the amazing Aaron Beebe of the Coney Island Museum – sounds like it’s going to be nothing short of incredible. From the exhibition’s website,
At the end of the 19th Century, Coney Island was the pinnacle of an astonishing era of live attractions – pre-cinematic spectacles that brought millions of people to the shores of the Atlantic to see things that were completely unique in their experience. The Great Coney Island Spectacularium will be a live exhibition and experience exploring that momentous age, bringing you sites, sounds, and immersive experiences that can’t be seen anywhere else on earth.
I’m incredibly excited and I’ll be back on April 10th with pictures and full reports from each event. I just hope my lazy self can actually make it to all three events without collapsing!
Back when we first began Observatory (the lecture space I co-run), we had a wine-soaked brainstorm session of all of the amazing events, lectures, screenings, shows, and classes we wanted to host in our then-empty room. Of all of the many ideas, the one I was most excited about was hosting a taxidermy class. 2 years later, after searching far and wide, Joanna finally found an amateur taxidermist to teach it!
Last night, I was able to squeeze into one of only 4 classes, and only then because I’m a member of Observatory. Otherwise it would have been the waiting list for me – these classes have been incredibly popular. I guess I’m not the only girl in Brooklyn interested in pulling the guts out of animals. (The class of about 15 was comprised entirely of girls…there were a few boys in the previous class, but it’s so interesting that taxidermy seems to so strongly attract the ladies. Pay attention fellas looking for a cute, hip girl with a strong stomach – they’re all at Observatory stuffing mice!)
*DISCLAIMER* I love animals, and I do not believe in the killing of animals to create new taxidermy – I only collect antique and vintage pieces that have been dead many years. These mice are no exception. Sue, the teacher of the class, gets her mice from a place where mice are raised to feed pet snakes and other reptiles. The mice she receives are too old to sell as food for pets and would literally be thrown away otherwise.
To be honest, the taxidermy process, at least for a little mouse, was much less gross than I expected. It’s a lot less about guts and a lot more about very gentle, tiny work. Well – de-braining was a bit disconcerting, but it only lasted a second and then it was over.
Here I am preparing to put my clay form into my mouse skin with a small group of strangers doing the same.
One girl putting the finishing touches on her Houdini mouse.
This mouse captain was pretty cute.
I had a time trying to work out how to keep tiny glasses on a mouse whose ears wouldn’t stand up.
My mouse! He is a young, bookish Victorian gone a-courting. I was going to give him away as a gift, but I don’t think I can ever part with him. Just look at that face! Just look at it!
More info here on the Taxidermy Classes at Observatory
When my sister visited a few weeks ago, I used it as an excuse to make tiny potpies, something I’ve been planning to do since I got ramekins for Christmas. I used a recipe via Babooblah, although it’s only fair to disclose that we lazily opted for a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. And I also further elaborated on the recipe by adding a TON of fresh thyme. Because I had it. And I can never seem to get through a bushel of herbs before it goes bad.
We prettied them up using my the little 50s Christmas cookie cutters that used to belong to my grandmother. I nabbed them from my mom’s house when I saw they had been re-employed as play dough cutters for my 2 year old niece. It just wasn’t right.
(The one on the lower left is supposed to be a turkey. I made the star really thick because there was quite a ball of extra dough. No wasting in this house.)