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Carved in Bone: A Look Inside S.O.B. Skulls

Carved in Bone: A Look Inside S.O.B. Skulls

carved_in_bone_3_smSeth O'Hara Bellamy's skull art isn't created using lasers or advanced machinery. It's much simpler than that. Bellamy uses his grandfather's dental drill to transform your European mount into an intricate conversation piece.

The Texas-born artist and owner of S.O.B. Skulls uses the ancient art of filigree (which began as a delicate kind of jewelry metalwork) to create these curling and twisting designs. The model whitetail skull now displayed at the Petersen's Hunting offices provides new discoveries at nearly every glance.

Subtle, varying angles in the carvings seem to add a thousand different ways to view what would normally be just a set of antlers. The sharp line work cut into the bone gives depth to the design — like a maze with no end.  It can be personalized, too. Bellamy often engraves details of the hunt on the skulls, everything from caliber, rifle, and length of the shot to the name of the hunter.

He's also designed state outlines, logos, and emblems for the center of the head.

"If you have a skull that has a story," Bellamy says, "let me carve it in bone."

Check out our exclusive interview with Bellamy:

How did you get into Skull Carving?

After inheriting my grandfather's dental drill, I was interested in gunstock carving and began working my .22's on visits to my mothers home in rural Texas. Early on in this process I saw an old cow skull that had been in her garden for years and thought it would be a good practice medium. I began carving, and the more bone that was cut away the more amazing the skull before me seemed. Seeing the sinus cavities, brain casing and other anatomical structures was new to me, and, as I've found out, new to most people. After I carved a few cow skulls my designs evolved and eventually I was prompted by friends and family to show them. My first event was a Dallas gun show where I had a table, an example of my work and a skull ready to be carved. My spiel was, 'Your brand or business logo carved into this longhorn skull." I received my first commission there, but the real value of that showing was realizing, after about the fifth person asked me if I carved whitetails or hogs, that the community of people who like skulls have them, and more so have skulls with meaning to them were hunters. From this also came the idea of engraving the story of the hunt (name, location, date, weapon, range, etc.) into the skull along with a centerpiece of a customer's choosing. Almost two years later this service is my bread and butter.

What is the goal for your business?

At this point my goal is to provide something new in the taxidermy world and establish myself as a known artist. Since that first gun show, my work has been hung in trophy rooms across the country, sold in auctions and more recently in galleries. So things are moving in the right direction.

Tell us how you determine the look and feel of a particular skull. What is your creative process?

Like us, every skull is different. There are always asymmetries which I incorporate into the flow of the design as I sketch it on. Looking at my work, you can see that the designs are relatively simple. The thing that makes it pop are the hollow spaces exposed through carving and the structures within. I keep this in mind while sketching. Nature takes care of of at least 50 percent of the wow factor, I just have to expose it. At the end I spend extra time sanding the bone down, always working towards the goal of making it look like it grew that way naturally. Once this is done, if there is information to be added I apply it so it tells a story as your eye tracks around the skull.

What's one thing you want readers to know about your creations?

There are a good number of people who may not consider themselves art collectors, but I like to think they now have exemplary examples of fine art in their trophy collections. On the back of every skull I've carved my initials (S.O.B.) and a number. The number designates exactly how many skulls I've carved to that point. The S.O.B., well, people remember it. To see more of Bellamy's work and to get more info, check out S.O.B. Skulls.

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