Leo Olson - The Bone Witch.
You can find handmade ethically sourced oddities and other art made by The Bone Witch in person in these locations listed below. Plus keep up with The Bone Witch on Instagram or Facebook to find out when the next live show is happening!
Go Ask Alice - 1125 Pacific Ave Santa Cruz, CA
Resurrect - 4135 Piedmont Ave Oakland, Ca
A traveler through life.
I have seen things from the most beautiful mountains and oceans, to roadkill and garbage.
It became clear that the latter are signs of a much greater issue.
I vowed to treasure and honor the animal, plant, and spirit of our beautiful world.
Self taught in the science of taxidermy and osteology only using what has been left behind, found, recycled or donated ethically.
I use many aspects in my creation, upcycling bones, metal, what some would consider trash and use intuition to bring new life to things once forgotten.
Combining these elements with my long standing love for art in its many forms.
My mission as an artist is to show the beauty that rests in the darkness and to lend a voice to those who can only whisper.
Interveiw with The Bone Witch
1. How did you come to be such a prolific portraitist and how has your personal background supported your artistic leanings?
Starting from the beginning. I was born and raised on the east coast of the U.S. in New England.
I spent much of my time growing up outside adventuring in the woods. The best memories are from wondering misty forests with pine needles blanketing the forest floor. There is a certainly quality to the stillness of the nature. I observed the wildlife with joy from the birds in the sky to the crawling creatures that lay under foot. I quickly fell in love with identifying animals, plants and minerals in my adventures. From a young age I found every form of art and creation fascinating. Always making art out of anything and everything. Tiny houses out of pine needles and moss, walking along a fallen tree was more fun than any roller coaster ever could be. As a child you learn great beauty lyes in the smallest and strangest places.
I finished school at age 14 and had my first job that year also. I was raised in a religious cult which I broke free from at age 20. Often in which I was discouraged greatly by many around me being told not to make art was a regular occurrence. Now I have the utmost respect for spiritually however, I ultimately believe the individuals must have the right to choice and it must encourage the arts. There is an ageless thread that ties art, science, spirituality, and magic together. After breaking free I moved to the west, hoping to find a piece of myself.. I ended up finding it in art and creation. Since I've been out west inspiration has been over flowing. From this new incredible place in the now, the roots of my past, and strings tied to the future.
2. What is it about the occult, witchcraft and the like that attracts you? Is this something that you practice or is it used more as inspiration?
The threads that lead throughout time. You can trace them back centuries.
The art from all those centuries a go built from stone to tell stories for thousands of years leading up to us and beyond. Ancient creators of our past, the ones with no name that painted and pushed stone until they worked their fingers to the bone. Because there was a message that needed to be carried. I've never been to college, or taken art classes. I've studied folklore and fashion from across the globe. A variety of cultures, and time periods incorporated with the appreciation for the body form, fluidity, flora fauna, and a slight sense of the macabre. Since the macabre is a part of our daily lives, I like to show a different side of death. Death is a brave new beginning.All of these lend great inspiration to what I am already pulled by the magnet's of the universe to do.
"Witch" is a term I set out to reclaim. A witch has been thought of as the green wart covered creäture that lives alone in the woods only to eat children. Or used in an insulting manner towards women. Not everything that has been given a bad name, or has fallen prey to superstitions deserves such a fate. There is no defined line between light and dark, good and evil. There are many shades to darkness, just as there are many kinds of light. I don't believe in practicing magic on any other individuals, I believe it is for self work and others can aid each other if asked. I believe witch refers to the innate ability to understand the natural realm and the science behind magic. I can always remember receiving dreams and visions. Feeling a certain familiarity with stories of the occult from across the globe. As those stories grew roots in my life I started to believe in what some call synchronicity. Ultimately, I believe magic is up to each persons experience. I find myself searching for different words to use beside witch, magic, energy and spiritual. But they are the best ones we have for now. As those beliefs grew they become a practice. I believe that we are dying from the moment we are born. Then its a conscious choice to live, to be continually growing, to strive for moments of true happiness, to actually live your life.
3. What do you hope your audience will think or feel after viewing your work?
I could never assume what another person would feel, but based on what others have told me, its brings some very different reactions. I think that if art can make you feel something its working, which makes all of those reactions valid. When we look at art, we feel things from our own lives and find the symbolism that applies to our interpretation.
If you were to see a painting of flowers placed nicely in a vase on a table with the sun shining from a window in the background, what would you think of? I think perhaps most would think of beauty and life, the flowers are a growing glorious creäture and the sun shines bright of days yet to come. However I see that those flowers have been cut and will soon wilt, and the sun is casting a warm golden light from its last moments before it sets and the night takes over.
We look for pieces of our world that we enjoy seeing often, and we also seek out the things we rarely ever lay eyes on. Bones are a part if us all, we carry them with us and they are needed to make us what we are. Those skeletons we all have are a beautiful magical part of us. Magical things deserve to be seen. I hope all sides of self can be appreciated for what they are. It is the essence of life.
4. Your work includes many bones, stones, and special treasures. Where do you find most of the pieces you use as props, or even the oddities you create and sell?
I am a wandering soul, that finds things wherever I go. In my travels I have seen a varying array of what this world has to offer from the most beautiful mountains and oceans, to roadkill and piles of garbage. It became clear that the latter are signs of a greater issue. I have used recycled materials in every piece of art I am creating ever since. Finding beauty and value in all sorts of forgotten objects or to what some would consider trash, is treasure to me. I then vowed to honor and respect the animal, plant, and spirit of our beautiful world. I taught myself in the science of Osteology, a little taxidermy and entomology. We live in a world that is full of natural beauty and wonders if you know how to look. It takes a great deal of time to collect my materials as I rely on found objects. More often than not, if I go out in search of bones I will not find them. When I let my intuitive compass be my navigational guide, its leads right to where I should go.
I spend many hours in the cleaning process, I have seen many forms of decay and learned a great deal of how our bodies actually work. The materials themselves have also taught me a lot beyond the sciences. About death, life, the middle part. What is truly precious. It is difficult to witness so much loss of life. These creatures that live among us are strong and beautiful and hold the very essence of our selves. On the other side. There also is a sense of calmness that comes with this kind of creation.I am often told the energy of the bones is a happy and pleasant one, and that people would are content to be in front of them for hours. That brings me great joy to know that these creatures get a second chance for appreciation, and that others can sense the care and love I put into each one.
5. How has Fibromyalgia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome effected your work and life as an artist? What advice do you have for others dealing with pain, physical or emotional?
Since I was small I've struggled with those chronic pain disorders. I can remember seeing my first x-ray at age 8. It took years of experiments, tests, and all kinds of Doctors to tell me "You are in fact, actually in pain" as in what I am feeling physically is not a reproduction of my mind. They call it fibromyalgia and ehlers danlos syndrome, but there are no doctor given cures or answers for these "disorders". Its been a long battle with an opponent only I can see. Even if you can't see if physical pain it should never be written off if you feel it, it is real.
It is challenging to remember others can't see it (your pain) either. Because not every one feels the same kind of pain. It will be up to you to show them how you feel in different ways.
I believe that if, every step I take is in pain, I wish to make each and every single one as beautiful as possible. I find myself desiring to fill my time with creating, being outside, engaging in intelligent conversation. Being an artist is really the best way I have found to treat these so-called disorders. I have worked many different kinds of jobs and although being an artist is not the most consistent at times, it is by far the most rewarding.
The creation aspect of art let's you take your pain, fears, and frustrations and then turn them into something completely different. That is a power we all posses. Your free will, and powers of creation, will always belong to you. That is beyond beautiful, and no one can that away from you!
(As a side note to people who don't believe they experience this kind if daily pain. I ask you to help in aiding those around you who do. When you give the tiniest words of encouragement, those words hit down passed the pain and straight through to the heart. We all need more experiences like that in our lives.)
Only YOU know how your body and mind works best, educate yourself on the mechanical workings of your brain and body to aid in healing. Plants and herbs are a wonderful aid that are always close by to help if you need it. The healing process is just as personal experience as magic is, but try to always keep firmly in your mind you can heal yourself and you will not hurt forever. Transform that pain into something powerful!
6. What do you hope to accomplish in the future and are there any artists you hope to collaborate with?
In the scope of my personal self. I hope to continue to grow, learn and heal. I wish to continually sustain myself through art.
From The Bone Witch as a brand. I dream of collaborating with so many artists! there are many wondrous doors still to open! I hope to travel internationally meeting all kinds and the like-minded individuals that branch out from the family tree that is, the art world.
I also have dreams and visions that lay resting until they manifest into this realm. I hope to bring those visions to life!