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    Jewelry made from bones - it seems like a niche that would easily be filled up by one artist, but in Louisville that isn’t the case. Mia Snell, the artist behind


    , has been producing amazing pieces of wearable art for several years using the same medium as Sarah Moeding of

    Dead Things

    , but the two couldn’t be more different in their rationales and results. Rather than producing duplicates and copies, Snell and Moeding are two artists painting with the same paints, and they are friends as well. I’ve written about

    Dead Things

    in the past, and it would be an injustice not to get a look inside of Snell’s process and products as well.

    Originally from Michigan, Snell has been all over the place - she left Royal Oak, MI for St Louis, MO several years ago, and while there owned a boutique called Peridot. When she came to Louisville two years ago, she realized that Louisville was a very different place from big city Missouri. “In St Louis, Peridot was unique,” she said, “I stocked goods from local artists and creators, which no one else focused on.” While that kind of business may have stood out from the crowd in St Louis, it would be just another storefront among a bunch of other locally-centered businesses in Louisville. So, rather than swim upstream, she started



    “I had been making jewelry as a side project for a while,” she told me. With a store to run, however, it took a back seat. Now that she’s in Louisville and out of the retail business, she’s focused wholeheartedly on jewelry. But why bones? Why work with something so closely that, to many people, seems so morbid? “There is a complete disconnect from death in our lives today,” she told me. Think about that - many of us eat meat, we wear leather, we likely use products that necessitate the death of another creature daily. Do we think about that at all?

    “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone come into my booth and make remarks about my jewelry while eating a burger and wearing leather shoes,” Snell chuckles when she tells me this. “I mean, they’re completely divorced from the idea of death - it’s icky to them.” Her goal in working with bone is to bridge that gap, and to make us realize that death is simply a part of living. “I want to challenge people to understand the disconnect we have between life and death. Mother nature makes something so beautiful and so perfect, and bone can be just as beautiful as anything else.”

    To Snell, death isn’t the end of something beautiful, it’s the transition from one state to another, an idea that is reflected in everything she creates. And she isn’t squeamish about exposing herself directly to the death that is necessary to her work. “I get most of my bones through a processor, but I do have friends that drop off road kill to my house once in a while,” she laughs, “and I process those myself.”

    One of the signature methods of presentation that Snell uses is resin casting. She takes a piece of bone - skull, vertebrae, or teeth (her favorite) - and seals it into a cameo-style frame. sometimes the bone pokes through, giving the piece a unique texture, and sometimes it’s completely sealed behind a clear bubble, seemingly hanging in a bit of finite space. She also works a lot with what she calls her “nautical line” - seashells, sand dollars and star fish, all small enough to fit on a necklace. It makes for an entirely different style of jewelry, perhaps because the association of death isn’t as strong with marine remains.

    However you see her art, it undeniably necessitates a confrontation with death that we don’t have in our daily lives. Whether you find that confrontation to be liberating or discomforting, it’s a moment that you owe it to yourself to have. Just like our confrontation with that weed we all know - the dandelion. “I picked that name,” Snell says, “because the dandelion occupies the exact gap I’m trying to bridge.” It’s a weed, yet it’s a beautiful flower. We play with it by blowing its seeds into the wind, yet we seek it out and try to destroy it for damaging out well-manicured lawns.

    Whether the dandelion makes you smile or recoil, it occupies the same space as death. It’s discomforting, yet in reflection upon what comes of it, we can see a sort of serene beauty. Snell’s jewelry sits right on top of that gap, creating something unique and artistic from decayed and discarded material. If she’s done her job, then you’ll stop and look. Then buy.


    Photos courtesy of Dandelion Louisville and

    Audrey Harrod Photography

    Brandon Vigliarolo's picture

    About Brandon Vigliarolo

    Brandon is a Michigan transplant, and has been working as a freelance writer since he arrived. He lives with his Girlfriend Hannah, Pico and Marionette the cats, and Marley the awkward greyhound.

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