Well, the Prism Textiles exhibition Untold is less than a month away and I’m still working on “Brittle”, my osteoporosis-inspired pieces. Taking it to the wire as usual!

I have made progress, though, you will be pleased to hear. I had a load of oxtail bones that I originally thought I would try to add “ribs” to, as in the sample below.

But then I decided to try connecting several of the bones together to represent a spine, as osteoporosis sufferers often end up with crushed vertebrae. This was a bit tricky – it took three attempts to get it right. The “spinal cord” connecting the bones was too squashed, until I had the idea of inserting some small discs of bone to keep the shape.

Drilling problems

Previously I had constructed whole bones out of paper yarn or wrapped the yarn through natural holes in the bone. But then I wondered about drilling some very small holes into bones to thread the yarn through.

I had some very small drill bits (1.5mm) – but only a large power drill, which was unwieldy with such small bits. I had some success, but managed to break three drill bits because it was difficult to prevent the bit from bending and then breaking because I couldn’t see what I was doing properly.

Thankfully, my friend Emma, who makes beautiful jewellery, offered to let me have a go with her jewellery drill. What a difference it made! The flexible shaft made it so much easier to drill tiny holes – I managed to finish the rest of the bones without breaking a single bit. 🙂

Here’s a scapula (shoulder blade) and ring of bone that I drilled to attach and weave the paper yarn.

I initially left the weaving on the scapula open and fringed the ends. However, I then decided that it looked too fussy compared with the very clean lines of the bones, so I rewove it with the ends together and threaded away the ends.

Colour matching

The other issue that you can see from the photos above is the contrast of the bright whiteness of the paper yarn against the more subdued colour of the bones. Although I had attempted to bleach the bones with hydrogen peroxide, they were never going to be as white as the paper yarn.

So I decided to go in the other direction and stain the completed pieces in tea, to tone down the whiteness of the yarn. This was much more satisfactory – below are before and after images of a test sample I made.

I now have just a couple more bones to weave and am considering how best to display them.

The Prism Textiles exhibition Untold runs at the Art Pavilion, Mile End Park, London E3, from 6 to 18 April, open daily 11am-6pm. If you would like to attend the private view on 6 April, please email me or subscribe to my newsletter – the next one will include an invitation.

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