When Ashley Marie Manzo was a child, her father took her to Necromance, the Melrose Avenue store filled with specimen jars, bones and macabre trinkets. She loved it, but many years had passed before she visited the store again. Then, three years ago, she returned to the shop.
"I fell in love with it all over again," says the up-and-coming artist from Boyle Heights.
Manzo bought a frog in a specimen jar and it launched an obsession. She began scouring swap meets and web stores for more animal remains. Now, the 21-year-old says she's acquired about 17 specimen jars, 30 skulls and 100 bones.
"Other people collect comic books," says Manzo. "I collect skulls and bones."
But Manzo does more than collect. Influenced by Victorian mourning jewelry, particularly hair art, she turns these relics into wearable art. Manzo's jewelry line, Taxidermy Her Bones, features teeth and bones inside cameo-style charms and skulls dangling from necklaces or perched atop hair pieces. Her work is more elegant than it is creepy. The jewelry is reflective of both Manzo's personal style and her other art, which includes collage, and which she documents on her blog, Marie's Cadaver.
While still a teenager, Manzo gravitated toward Gothic and Gothic Lolita fashion. Now, she describes her personal style as "antique," inspired by the Victorian era, 1920s and porcelain dolls.