If Hannah Tidechild’s artwork came with a recipe, it would boil down to this: putting glass to bone. The Salida-based artist’s one-of-a-kind statement pieces transform authentic animal skulls into canvases bedecked with intricate mosaic designs. The result is a colorful contemporary twist on the traditional southwestern decor staple. She typically works with large North American animals—bison, elk, ram, deer, yaks, longhorn and the like—sourcing them from hunters, ranchers and taxidermists throughout the region. (She says she’d “absolutely love” to get her hands on a moose, but apparently they are incredibly hard to come by.) She creates her designs using a host of materials such as handmade ceramic tiles, upcycled crystal beads, stained glass, rhinestones and repurposed jewelry—glittering objects that catch her eye while she’s out antique store treasure hunting around the state. She’s inspired by color, the funkier the better, and her palette passion is apparent in every one of her works. We’re obsessed, so we asked the artist to tell us more about her work.
First things first, why skulls?
They’re so beautiful and unique on their own, before any embellishment. They were a living being, they had a soul. They hold stories before I ever even place tessera [mosaic materials]. With my work, I celebrate them.
And why mosaic?
I am a very tactile person, I love texture. I enjoy the abstract nature of glass and piecing a design together. It’s like working on a puzzle backwards. No matter what, mosaic always looks rad in the end. One of my favorite parts of the process is touching and feeling the piece after it’s complete. It’s a special way to appreciate my art.
What’s your process like?
It’s very meditative and intuitive. I prefer to sit with each skull for a while and really feel out what I think will enhance its canvas. Typically, I like to begin with a focal point and work out from it—a vintage brooch, a belt buckle, a crystal. Stained glass and beading follow. I only work on one piece at a time, start to finish. My attention and intention need to be focused on a single animal until the design is completed. Depending on the type of skull and complexity of the artwork, that can take anywhere between 15 and 40 hours.
What do you hope people feel when they view your work?
I hope they are moved to perceive the beautiful and unique spirit of each animal. I aim to honor the lives they lived and give thanks for the allowance to create this work.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been working on an embellished horseshoe collection, “Good JuJu Shoes.” It’s been refreshing to work on a smaller scale than the more intricate canvases.