40 Beetles

The urge to make small, precious things and then scatter them about has long been in me. Maybe it first started in graduate school when Niko, Kasey, and I went to a festival to sell our pots. We did not do very well, monetarily speaking, and ended up with a lot of pots still on our hands. We were camping in a beautiful park, and decided to spread our pieces throughout the rocky terrain. We hung coffee cups from trees and sank bowls into a spring stream. As we got back to our tents we saw that some other campers had found some of our pieces and were already using them. It was a lot of fun, and quite liberating.

My cousin Casey Moser took this breathtaking shot of a seedpod he planted in Ireland on his 30th birthday.

Since then, I have done a few organized variations on the idea, including sprinkling seeds around at NCECA, planting blue flowers on a road trip to North Carolina, and various other experiments.

This time, the idea was to make a bunch of beetles. Each beetle is unique in design and surface, and is also a rattle. I took meticulous notes about the appearance, rattle bits, glazing and firing for each one, because that’s how I roll. The beetles were not signed because, honestly, I couldn’t find a place to sign them that wouldn’t take away from the organic quality of each beetle.

Then I invited friends and family members to put a beetle out in the world on my 40th birthday. I requested that the beetle be placed on Thursday, August 27th, in a public place, and that pictures of the beetle in place be posted to facebook, Instagram, or sent to my email. Including Gps coordinates was optional, not required (I need to further think on this aspect).

The results were far beyond my hopes. It was a real joy to see the beetle images come pouring in throughout the day of my birthday. I smiled so much my face hurt. I have some really creative and fun and fantastic friends who did GREAT things with their beetles. I was very impressed by the photographic skills of all the players; there are many well composed shots. Also, lots of interesting placements, including three libraries. One beetle even went to China! I cannot pick a favorite child, I love them ALL. Thank you a million to all who played.

My most favorite thing about the whole project was the collaborative effect that happened. Once those beetles shipped off, they were out of my hands, and each pairing could only be completed by the receiver. Things happened that I did not imagine or expect. This was both surprising and joyful.

Some things I learned for the next time. SHIP EARLY! Some players did not even get their beetle until after my birthday. Ooops. Also, I need to do a better job preparing the players to be ok with letting a piece go. My brother told me he tried not to look at his beetle closely, so that he would not get attached and want to keep it. Maybe I should include something that can be kept? I’m not sure yet. I am definitely already thinking about the next version, so if you have any thoughts or ideas, please feel free to share.


This video shows both sides of each rattle, and the sound that the beetles make. I will compare the sounds with my notes on what is inside each beetle to figure out what makes for the most interesting sounds. The video is amatuerishly shot, but maybe you'll get some ASMR tingles.

To see an album with all 40 beetles in their place, visit https://www.facebook.com/skennedyart. You do not have to have a facebook account to view all the great photos.