When it was time for dissection in high school science class, local artist Lindsey Bessanson was fearless. "I was the one who pretty much did everyone else's homework," she says.
Bessanson eventually found a practical use for her willingness to get up close and personal with dead bugs, first casting them into sterling silver jewelry and then branching out into framed clockwork insects.
The switch from cast metal to pure bug was the result of Bessanson's dissatisfaction with the limitations of the material. Basically, she says, the natural bug was prettier.
"I had a purple dung beetle with a beautiful color," she recalls. "When I cast it in silver, I lost the beauty of the bug."
See one of the freaks, and find out how the bugs meet their maker, after the jump.
Bessanson finds the critters, either through online sources or in her daily travels (like this 6-inch scorpion she discovered in her backyard), and attaches gears, screws and other gadgets to make them appear mechanized. They fetch anywhere from about $65 to upwards of $150 or more, and giclee prints are available of most of her bugs. Her latest work is a series of circus freak bugs including a pair of "Siamese Twins" crafted from two bug halves.
So, how exactly does one kill and preserve a bug? The killing part is easy, but keeping the bugs intact and free from decay requires some skill. Bessanson's technique involves capturing live insects and putting them in the freezer, which preserves the carcass and protects it from other pests who might want to take a nibble (shh, don't tell PETA or they might start calling roaches, "trash kittens.")
And unlike food or plant materials, you don't have to dump a ton of preservatives on a bug to stop the natural decaying process. "The bugs actually stay preserved on their own," Bessanson explains. "They have an exoskeleton. So all you need to do is rehumidify them and let them dry." When the critters are in the drying process, a dryer sheet is placed with them to repel other insects.
Bessanson crafts about twice as many insect pieces as she sells, mainly because so many of her bugs break during the process.
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The pieces that Bessanson doesn't toss or sell often end up in her own home, proving that she really does appreciate the natural beauty of insects. "Plus, it's kinds fun when you get people to come over who are afraid of spiders and they see these on the wall."