On her family farm in Tisdale, Ash Sophia developed a unique hobby. Walking the fields, she’d often stumble upon animal bones. She happily started collecting them, even though her parents weren’t as enthusiastic about the practice.
That childhood fascination with bones, especially skulls, informs her artwork today. Under the name Essence of Ash, Ash uses bones as a canvas for intricate mandalas, a geometric figure symbolic in Hinduism and Buddhism, giving beauty to something discarded and finding therapy in the creation of each piece.
Ash has completed about 50 skulls since starting the artwork three years ago. The pieces bring together different parts of her life into one beautiful final product. In university, Ash studied archaeology, completing a bachelor’s degree and working on two archaeological digs, one in Macedonia and one in Cyprus.
Since being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, the mandalas have acted as therapy to help quiet the mind. Focusing on the patterns and reflecting on impermanence is grounding and helps her deal with daily symptoms.
Ash works with trappers, taxidermists and farmers to source the bones that often would have been thrown away or left to disintegrate. Each skull is legally and ethically sourced. She consults with the Ministry of Environment to ensure she has all the proper documentation to own and sell the skulls.
Though some of her skulls come in ready to work on, she also processes some of them on her own. It can be a gruesome process to remove all the flesh and smell from the bones, but even that stage of the art has become a kind of meditation for the artist.
Ash enjoys working on a variety of different types of animal skulls, from fox to bear to deer. She recently acquired wolf, lynx and coyote skulls from a local trapper.
She has also started working on ostrich eggs. It’s a nod to her Ukrainian culture and the tradition of pysanka.
Coyote, wolf & lynx
Ostrish egg, lynx & fox
Essence of Ash
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