What spawned from a budding interest in taxidermy and preserving small animals quickly transformed into a small boutique that left Mobile resident Allyson Clements leaving her day job to pursue her passion—roadkill.
More specifically, roadkill she transforms into a unique style of jewelry.
“Yes, it is all roadkill,” Clements said. “Literally, all from the sides of the road, all from the sides of the road in Mobile, Alabama. So, this is Mobile, Alabama jewelry … I feel like that’s what gives its unique little touch.”
After spending countless hours reading books, watching YouTube videos and researching the preservation of animals and taxidermy, Clements eventually became completely self-taught in the art and started small by preserving paws and raccoon tails.
She completed her first project, a preserved squirrel paw that was eventually turned into a necklace, and progressed onto other projects when she began to notice the amount of animal bones discarded and soon figured out a way to use them as well.
Clements then took her craft to the internet, posting to Instagram and a small online store, when before long, friends and even strangers in the Mobile area started calling and texting her whenever they saw roadkill, she said.
“The town has been incredibly supportive,” she said. “Everyone is all for it and willing to let me know where everything is. All the heads up are great. I’m pretty sure I pick up at least one thing everyday, maybe I’ll skip one, two tops, if I’m really busy that day, but as soon as somebody calls me, I usually just head out there,” she said.
In addition to taxidermy and preserving animals, Clements became self-taught on skinning animals, which is the next step after picking up an animal from the road.
Clements, with a knife and gloves always on hand, said she is well aware that some of the animals may carry diseases like rabies but wouldn’t be concerned unless she were eating the animals, which she quickly affirmed was not the case and reinforced the importance of proper handwashing.
“I’m not too worried about it,” she said. “And if I can’t get to [work on] it right away, I throw it in the freezer, and the freezer usually kills any parasites or anything that would be on it.”
If the animal is in really good condition, generally the skin, paws and fur tail are kept, she said.
The next step is using Dermestid beetles, commonly used in deer mounting taxidermy, for skeletal cleaning, Clements said.
After buying her first colony of Dermestid beetles from the internet, Clements said the more she let animals decompose outside, the more she began finding the beetles in nature.
“I’ve got a couple thousand,” she said. “They’re constantly growing. The colony is constantly getting bigger, which is pretty awesome.”
Bones are then degreased by mixing warm water and Dawn dish washing liquid to pull the grease out of the bone. Once dry, the bones are then placed in peroxide, dried again and ready for jewelry making, she said.
Currently, Clements has six animals processing, three five-gallon buckets full of larger bones from deer and cows and about five smaller baskets of bones from squirrels, rats, possums and raccoons.
Though bones are sometimes cracked and broken, Clements said she still uses them as long as she feels like the bones will hold up and believes that is one thing that gives them their unique character.
“The most rewarding part for me is seeing it go from something so gross to turning it into something that everybody is going to be in awe of,” she said. “It’s awesome to see the transition because I personally get to watch that transition.”
Initially, the process seems gross to just about everyone, but once people see the outcome and learn more about the idea behind it, they typically get on board, Clements said.
”It’s just a fun, cool way to breathe life back into animals that unfortunately meet so many roadside casualties,” she said.
Clements sells her jewelry locally and has seen positive reactions at ArtWalk, the Sunday Funday Bizarre Bazaar at Lunatix and Co., the Mobile Museum of Art and basically anywhere that allows her to set up shop.
“It’s so awesome people are so supportive,” she said. “If it wasn’t for Mobile, I probably wouldn’t have been as motivated to continue it but because people have been so all about it and for it and everything, it’s kind of been motivational … makes me want to do it more.”
In addition to small pop-up shops, Clements started an online store, Barely Bones Boutique, where she has shipped her handmade jewelry as far away as London. She has also sold items to people in California and even Canada.
Furthermore, every item sold at Barely Bones Boutique is cruelty free.
“I absolutely do not kill a single thing,” Clements said. “It is all on the sides of the roads and anyone can vouch for that because they’re the ones telling me where it is. It’s all ethically sourced. I have never and will never buy any bones off the internet because I don’t know where it’s coming from, I don’t know how the animal died and so just to make sure that it stays 100 percent ethical, I make sure that I pick it all up myself.”
Clements added she also researches laws to ensure what animals are legal to pick up and which ones are not, such as big animals like bears, tagged animals and birds protected under specific laws.
Formerly a photography student at the University of South Alabama, Clements said she has always been into different styles of art and was even really into painting at one point, but none of those interests really stuck.
With almost two years invested into her handmade bone jewelry, Clements hopes Barely Bones Boutique is here to stay.
“I’m the roadkill ressurrector,” she said. “That’s my life. I commit 99.9 percent of my day to dead stuff. It’s awesome.”
Visit Barely Bones Boutique at www.etsy.com/shop/barelybonesboutique.
If interested in taxidermy art, local instructed paint studio Paint The Town Mobile is holding a taxidermy class Nov. 1 with artist Katie Innamorato, whose work has been featured on the television shows “Oddities” and “Odd Folks Home” and the New York Times website. Students will work with guinea pigs or rats to learn the basics of taxidermy. All materials will be provided. More information can be found at www.paintthetownmobile.com and Innamorato’s website at www.afterlifeanatomy.com.