If you’ve been to the Flea Off Market, Consider, Dot Fox, or The Pink Door, you might have noticed some particular jewelry. Wire wrapped beach glass, or asymmetrical bead designs, bullet casings, and what caught my eye - the bone. They’re sold under the label “Dead Things,” all hand made by Louisville artist Sarah Moeding.
“Those labels? I hand stamp them all. It’s really tedious,” she tells me with a laugh. But it’s a statement that shows you how serious she is about her work - it goes beyond just making art; her work is her lifestyle, and vice-versa. “It is very important to me to use as much as I can that already exists in the world in general; I very rarely buy anything new,” in an apartment full of antique and second-hand pieces mixed with the supplies of her trade, it seems as if almost everything was hand-selected over time to find the perfect mix of eclectic, macabre, and perfectly artistic. “I want that philosophy to extend to my art, as well.”
Originally from Minnesota, Moeding has been making art her entire life and selling jewelry for about a year - but why the skeletal theme? “I’ve always been fascinated by dead things,” she says. Knowing this, her sister once gave her two mink skeletons for her birthday. Not articulated - two completely unsorted bags of mink. “I started making wire-wrapped brooches out of them,” and things took off from there. Now she gets her bone from a friend working for the Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota. “He does a lot of the animal collection, and has a thirty-by-thirty bone pit in his backyard.” What goes in eventually comes out as clean bone, and he sends it to Sarah. “He refuses payment,” she says, “he doesn’t even put a return address on the box because he knows I’ll send him a check.”
With a theme like bones, there’s always the concern of unethical harvesting, and Moeding stays on the up-and-up by getting bones from a direct source like her friend in Minnesota. “All my bones are from what’s considered to be pest animals. I feel like it’s an honor to use them,” and given the alternative it’s not hard to agree - “they’d be garbage otherwise.”
Dead Things goes beyond bone art in finding dead things. Moeding finds use for all sorts of things people throw away - not just dead animals, but items left behind - their function long lost, or their usefulness expended. Things like the beach glass that she found Yelapa, Mexico - bits of what might have been bottles of soda or beer, or jugs for milk are now just small, frosted pieces worn smooth by the beach sand. Or spent bullet casings she picked up while shooting guns with a friend - instead of being filled with a fresh bullet and powder they were cast aside, only finding new life when turned into jewelry.
Moeding’s work is every bit dead things given new life. The dangling asymmetry of her work is almost jarring sometimes, but in a way that reflects the natural bits of existence - the bits that go on outside of the order we impose on the world. Her jewelry embraces the dead and discarded by repurposing the bits of fractured order we experience in broken glass, jawbones and antique chain in a masterful way. It’s macabre, but not because it’s the remains of animals - it’s a confrontation with the discarded elements of life that we ignore every day.
Moeding doesn’t stop at jewelry, though that’s where her primary focus is right now. “I tend to switch dominate mediums every few years.” Years ago it was poetry (she was published in 2001), the watercolors. She had a synth-rock band called milkbar, which while fun “killed (her) ability to do art. It was pure party music” Later there was her second band, The Deceitful Lapwings, and now that she’s relocated to Louisville it’s jewelry. Moeding is partnering up with local musician Mark Kramer for a duo project, but they’re still in the exploration phase.
With such a wide and varying range of artistic endeavors, the question was almost necessary - what’s Moeding’s artistic goal? “All of it,” she laughed, “but I do find jewelry to be the most meditative thing I’ve done.” With so much good work for sale on Facebook and at several stores around town, we can only hope she keeps producing such awesome work. Though with such a focused artistic aesthetic it’s doubtful she’ll stay static for long.
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