Roadkill Jewelry: The Art of April Hale
By Linda Permann
When April Hale accidentally hit a squirrel with her car a few years ago, her reaction wasn’t typical. Instead of driving away, she wanted to take responsibility for the death, so Hale, a 12-year vegetarian at the time, called a friend to help her cook and eat the animal.
Hale had been interested in using found animal fur in her work before the accident, but previously she was afraid to touch roadkill. Having overcome her fear, she now collects dead animals, which she cleans, skins, and presents in her finely crafted jewelry. She aims to take the animals out of the context of “roadkill” and bring them back to their surprisingly beautiful state.
Before using the animals, Hale sketches and skins each one. “The science dork in me comes out,” says Hale. “I learn about how they died, and see details that you can’t get close enough to see in live wild animals.” She feels a deep reverence for each of her subjects, and wants to turn their deaths into a positive interaction.
In Bozeman Mont., where Hale is pursuing her MFA degree, she’s known as the one to call when you come across an interesting dead animal. There are times when she is looking for something specific to use in her work, but she has mixed feelings when she finds it. “I don’t want to find dead things, but I do get excited to find them,” says Hale.
She has rules about what she’ll pick up, though: nothing too messy, nothing illegal, and nothing personal (no domesticated animals or pets).
Through her beautiful packaging of carcasses once relegated to the side of the road, Hale challenges the nature of our relationships with the animals we consume. She intends for her pieces to be purchased and worn, but many potential buyers are too disgusted to even try them on. Although most people wear and eat animal products, few can stomach the idea of adorning themselves with intimate jewelry handmade from roadkill.
The gross-out factor that hits many people when they see Hale’s jewelry is unintentional, and she hopes to break down the mental wall that comes with the word roadkill. Says Hale, “It makes me happy when someone tells me that they never really noticed it before, but now they see it and think about it. That’s all I can hope for.”
About the Author:
Linda Permann is a freelance writer and craft designer who loves to crochet, sew, and cook. See what she’s up to at lindamade.com.