The main subject of my work this year is bones and skeletons, I already had a few, but to get more material to work from I bought 2 more on eBay. However, one of these arrived mostly clean but had obviously not been degreased or sanitized (this was obvious due to the little friends it arrived with). Because of this we left it in a bucket of water and washing up liquid for a few days and then we got some 12% hydrogen peroxide and left the skull in a mix of this and water for a further few days to ensure it was properly cleaned, the hydrogen peroxide would also bleach the bones. A stronger solution would have worked faster, and for any stubborn areas we could have scrubbed it with a paste made up of the hydrogen peroxide and baking powder.
Some bones can be expensive to buy, so the least expensive way to get bones would be to find and clean them myself. The hydrogen peroxide is relatively expensive, but can be reused somewhat if stored correctly, getting animals from roadkill would not cost anything (although it is worth noting that I is not legal to own any part of some animals, whether you just found it already dead or otherwise)
One method to cleaning bones is maceration, where the bones are put into a bucket of water after being mostly cleaned of flesh and sealed. Heat will make the process quicker, however the process will also smell very bad so its best to do it away from any houses. The water may need to be changed every few weeks, and when doing so it’s a good idea to use a strainer as the process will separate bones from one another, teeth may fall out. Because of this its not a good method for very small animals because it will be difficult to find a piece back together all the small bones.
After maceration the bones need to be degreased then bathed in hydrogen peroxide, as said I did with the skull I bought.
Although this would be an ideal way for me to get bones, I’m not overly comfortable with going out and finding roadkill, I also do not have a garden to do this in and had to use someone else’s for the skull I cleaned.
these processes would be used by any artist who find their own bones to use in their work, or by the people the source them from. for example, Jodie Yeung is an artist i discovered at Beautiful Death Art Exhibition (link to post on that). Yeung is an artist who makes mandalas from bones which she collects from wild barn own pellets, then processes them over 3-4 days so that they are clean and white.
https://www.bonemandalas.co.uk/ – Jodie Yeungs website