This one’s made of bone. It’s a miniature skull carved from the bone of a water buffalo by an artist who used to be part of the ivory business. The ban on ivory caused some hardship among these craftspeople, but rather than just condemn them and leave them to their fates, some people stepped in and encouraged a new approach using material that was essentially a by-product of domestication.
This is clearly bone and not “fake ivory.” It is not intended to fool anybody. It’s instead a way for the members of this fair-trade group to use the skills they had in a way that could be marketed to the West.
I seriously would have bought the skull, regardless.
It’s not high art, but consider the size and the material (which is unlike ivory in many ways, too) when you look at the features and detail carved into this piece. The workmanship is solid.
I like that the mandible is carved out, so you get the sense of a jaw bone, rather than just a mass at the bottom of the head.
Also, notice the scalloping around the ears. That’s just whimsy, there. The artist lives in Malaysia. They're not into “day of the dead” stuff—and that shows through the rest of the skull.
I keep this bony little bit in a miniature china cabinet, so it looks massive.
And of course I'll have to now look at the rest of the cabinet's contents.
To be continued…