I was first made aware of Fire and Bone when my boyfriend alerted me to a Kickstarter campaign that they ran back in the July of 2016, for their fourth collection. “Hey, come look at this Kickstarter I’m backing!” he called out from his office. I am ashamed to say that knowing the man’s proclivities, I may have rolled my eyes a bit, expecting it to be board game or some sort of RPG-related nerdiness. “Ugh, alright, just a sec,” I probably replied, accompanied by a long, deep sigh.
I was, however, surprised and delighted when he presented to me an image on his laptop screen lined with miniature bronze animal skulls, ready for wear or display, that had been digitally captured and cast in metal. So finely detailed! So tiny! So adorable! I urged him to back the project right then and there (and apologized internally for my cruddy attitude.)
Fire & Bone makes tiny, true-to-life, animal skull reproductions derived from high-resolution 3D scans of original specimens, carefully miniaturized in a digital process, then cast in metal using traditional techniques. Each skull can be worn or displayed on their optional wood collectors base.
Describing themselves as “armchair scientists and lovers of the natural world,” the creators of these wee wonders–Jason Bakutis, Chris Boynton, and Matt Kroner–share a love of natural history museums, wunderkammer and exploring the outdoors. And of course, each of them have dedicated shelf space for their own curios, curiosities, and collectibles!
How did these miniature marvels come to be? According to the Fire and Bone team:
“We met while working as designers at a 3D printer manufacturer. Before 3D printing and scanning came along the only way to get a miniature animal skull was to sculpt one by hand out of wax, which left a lot of room for errors and inaccuracies and lack of detail, or to cast an actual animal skull which limited you to using small animals like mice and birds. High resolution laser scanning and 3D printing allowed us to miniaturize any skull we could get our hands on and maintain an incredible level of accuracy and detail. There are still a lot of potential pitfalls between real animal skull and cast metal miniature (we learned the hard way) and it took all of our expertise and a bit of time to perfect the process.”
Regarding the animals that they choose to feature at Fire and Bone:
“We try to choose animals that are interesting and appeal to as many people as possible. Animals like the Sabertooth, Gray Wolf, and Raven we choose because they are our personal favorites. Some skulls lend themselves better to the miniaturization process than others (fish and snakes tend to have too many delicate bones to cast well, for example). As long as we can get our hands on a specimen we can scan it. We’re always on the hunt for new skulls and we love taking suggestions from people about which animal they’d like us to make next. We tend to keep our new collections a secret until we release them, but there might a cave bear in our future.”
…and as to the focus on this particular osteological aspect–the skull–of the creature:
“We like skulls because they’re so interesting and can tell you so much about the animal (what they ate, how they hunted, how they moved, for example) if you know what to look for. They can also be powerful symbols and have always played an important role in human myth and spirituality. They’re also just as interesting when they’re miniaturized as they are at full scale. A miniature femur doesn’t look like much.”
The creators at Fire and Bone hope that customers will wear their favorite animals and add them to their own curio shelves; that their creations will allow people to connect with their favorite animals in a new way, and that they give them a deeper appreciation for the natural world. “Skulls”, they note, “are incredible and fascinating, and being able to look really closely at a miniature specimen and see all of that detail and structure is like holding a piece of a natural history museum right in your hand.”
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