Box elder, prickly pear cactus skeleton
9" x 5" high
Turned in 2010.
Piece is only 1/8" thick, recess for cactus is 1/16", meaning that the wood under the cactus skeleton is only 1/16"!
The prickly pear skeleton comes from very old prickly pear after it has died and the pulp has rotted away. Each year, the pear adds a very thin layer to the skeleton, almost like a tree adds a layer. After gathering the old prickly pear, the skeleton is separated very carefully to avoid tearing it. After cleaning and bleaching, each leaf is wetted then put between sheets of pasteboard and weighted down. They come out mostly flat, but must be wetted again before forming to the contour of the piece. They also shrink while drying, so the piece must be formed to the contour before being trimmed to the final size and being glued into place. Needless to say, they are also extremely brittle and fragile.