Now, it isn't legal for an individual to possess any part of a whale, and the vertebra pictured below was way too heavy, oily, and stinky to drag back up the cliff with me anyway, so I was satisfied to take a few pictures of my find and call it a day.
Back home, while editing the photos, I couldn't shake the desire to add that whale vertebra to my nautical collections, and I determined that I would try my best to duplicate my own (legal and less smelly!) version in papier-mâché! I guess I had papier-mâché on the brain, having recently watched a video about how one of my favorite artists, Mark Dion, and his team of sculptors recreated in papier-mâché all of the gear used in a little-known 1908 expedition to the Far East.
Working from my photographs and using the buoys pictured above for scale (I did take those and that wicked-looking gaff hook home with me!) I drew out a full-scale template for all of the elements that I would need to build a sturdy interior structure upon which to layer the mâché. Fortunately, at the time I was working at the Oakland Museum, and was permitted to use the woodshop and some discarded wood to create parts that I would be able to take home and assemble when I was ready to start the project!
I am now happily relocated (once again!) to Los Angeles, working for a super-creative, awe-inspiring company, and settling into my new life here; it seems the time is right for getting to work on that whale vertebra! I'm so glad I took the time to figure out all of the mechanics of the interior structure while I had access to a woodshop; all of the elements screwed together just as I had envisioned, and before long I had a rock-solid "skeleton" for my new papier-mâché project!
The next step will be to cover most of the structure with wire mesh to further fill out and refine the shape of the vertebra and provide a good, textured surface onto which the mâché may be applied.
I will post an update as soon as I start the process of applying the papier-mâché!