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    There was a bloodbath in the bathtub. Red slasher-film splatters against the white porcelain, flecks of fur and guts clogging the drain. A gallon-sized plastic freezer bag on the floor contained frozen rabbit heads. Cassandra Michele’s roommates stared in horror from the doorway of the apartment’s only bathroom as she attempted to remove skulls from flesh. “There’s so much more blood in them than you think there would be for just a head,” Michele says. “The bottom of the tub was just totally full.”

    The one skull that didn’t break now hangs inside Bean coffee shop on Goss Avenue. Its gold-painted jaws hang open, seemingly in fury, with the bones of its siblings splayed on either side. A deer skull — sleek and long — nestles in lush white faux fur, a crown of pearls and vintage chains adorning its forehead. In matching filigree frames, a triptych of skulls and gold-leaf-encrusted wood lies on a bed of dried flowers. More is more for Michele, who calls herself a maximalist. Layers upon layers of teeth, dehydrated roses, fur, wood and jewels create works inspired by “bone churches” she visited in the Czech Republic. “Busy is good,” she says.

    The 31-year-old has been creating this artwork since she started collecting skulls and sun-bleached bones during a hiking trip out west in 2013. She found piles of whole skeletons where wolves brought their kills. Sometimes people gift her bones. Her aunt, for instance, gave her the rabbit heads, which she bought from somebody who bred rabbits for food.

    Michele keeps materials throughout her Old Louisville apartment — boxes under the sofa, drawers of dried flowers, beads and jewels. An elk skull with a three-foot expanse between its horns sits against a wall in her living room. “I don’t know what they’re going to look like when I’m done with them,” Michele says. “I have an idea, but they’re always kind of evolving. In a way, they’re kind of never actually done until somebody takes them away from me.”

    You can follow Michele on Instagram at @_meshandlace_.

    This originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine as the Meet bit. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photos: Cassandra Michele // Instagram

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    About Jennifer Kiefer

    Germantown transplant. Louisville native.

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