This Artist Transforms Bones Into Gorgeous Wearable Art

Artist Herminio Tan Jr. on animal bones as art medium

( What is one thing that you are passionate about? And what is so special about it that you constantly decide to pursue it? Be it little or grand, it is said that one’s passion fuels creativity and can help you achieve your full potential. For sculptor and wearable art designer Herminio “Hermit” Tan Jr., it’s his passion for collecting bones and transforming them into dazzling wearable art that keeps him inspired. He shares samples of these somewhat grotesque yet oddly pleasing pieces from his solo eight-piece sculpture exhibition, Templo?, at GIG Gallery in Makati City until March 30.

Herminio Tan's Templo? at GIG Gallery
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

"Azrael?" by Herminio Tan
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

“I see bones and skulls as just another [medium],” he says, when asked why he got into collecting bones. He recalls watching a news clip about cemeteries where underprivileged families don't have enough to pay the fees for niches or crypts. “I started realizing it would be wasteful to just disregard bones like that.” He started to collect animal bones: nowadays, he uses bones of deceased farm animals. The bones are exhumed and thoroughly cleaned, then merged with fiber glass and resin, creating a distinct style. 

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His collection has resulted in sleek and unique-looking pieces, from fancy necklaces and headdresses to large-scale pieces and ornaments. He compares his passion to a flame that just keeps gets him going. “I fuel it with hard work and inspiration. It can be overwhelming, and it can cause burnout,” he muses. 

Herminio Tan at his studio in Rizal Courtesy of Herminio Tan

But unlike most people who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, Tan never planned to go into the arts. “I was lazy, and I never dreamt of becoming an artist,” he shares with a laugh. Tan majored in Mass Communication at Far Eastern University. Interestingly, his passion for the visual arts was jumpstarted by his classes in film. His first work of wearable art was a personal bracelet made from cat bones, which he traded for a jacket from a friend majoring in biology. 


PHOTO BY Jerick Sanchez 
Courtesy of Herminio Tan

PHOTO BY Raen Badua 
Courtesy of Herminio Tan

Tan’s works have appeared in brand campaigns and films such as Whammy Alcazaren’s Islands (2014), Lou Mendoza’s Kanlungan (2014), and Jose Javier Reyes’ Mighty Yaya (2017).

“As self-taught sculptor, I consider this as a thesis of my five-year trial-and-error,” he says when asked about his current exhibit, an out-of-the-box example of how one can see beauty in the mundane. But Tan doesn’t intend to stop there. For his next piece, he wants to transform a bag of human teeth into a sculpture with real live cockroaches. Now, that’s something you don't see every day.

Templo? runs until March 30 at GIG Gallery, Eurovilla I, 142 Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City. For more information, follow GIG Gallery’s Facebook page.

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