In early February, we found and posted a story about Victor Seiche, an artist who carves intricate designs in animal skulls large and small. Based out of the Transylvania region in central Romania, Seiche’s work is both alluring and haunting, evoking a sense of beauty from death. His pieces floored me when I first stumbled across them and I simply had to know more about Seiche, which leads us to today.
Below we’ve got an interview with Seiche, who takes us through his creative process and explains that he has had no prior training. His talent came about through a random set of circumstances where the stars aligned in just the right way. Now he’s carving skulls regularly and has a relationship with local farmers who have no need for the skulls of recently dead or slaughtered livestock.
Dread Central: Let’s start at the beginning, before your work with skulls. What is your relationship with art? When did you begin to really explore your creative abilities?
Victor Seiche: My relationship with visual art was pretty much nonexistent before I started carving. I did not go to art school or art university, I finished university in tourism so really had nothing to do with art in my life. I am completely self taught, and by that I mean I really did teach myself everything since there were no books or tutorials on skull carving. Learning it is still one of my favorite parts of the process. On every skull I do, I teach myself something new.
DC: As you were honing your own style, who were other artists that inspired you?
VS: As I was carving, I did not really take much inspiration from other artists. The only ones that I feel influenced me were H.R Giger and Zdzislaw Beksinski. I sometimes do skulls similar to their style as an homage but the rest are inspiration from my own subconscious. For me, creating from only my own mind is the most meaningful and satisfying way to do it.
DC: When was the first time that you decided to carve skulls and what drew you to that idea?
VS: I started carving skulls a few years ago completely by chance really. A friend of mine gave me a dirty boar skull I wanted to clean, because I was bored, and wanted to do anything really. So I finished cleaning it – not very well I must mention since it was the first skull I’ve cleaned I didn’t really know what I was doing – then I went grocery shopping and saw a $30 carving machine, thought I could carve some stuff in that skull and started doing it, and fell in love with this art form from that point.
DC: Every medium comes with its own limitations and restrictions. How does working on skulls make you push your imagination and skills while simultaneously keeping you within a specific set of boundaries?
VS: Working on skulls pushes my imagination beyond what a canvas can do. Skulls have variable shapes, textures, a certain amount of bone and thickness to work with, spots of natural darker color of the bone, etc… Because of this I try to adapt the carving to the skull, and this way, as every skull is unique, every carving on it is unique as well.
DC: What are the challenges of working with skulls as your medium of choice? I’m sure that the physical makeup of a skull comes with its own problems.
VS: The challenges of carving skulls are the limitations I’ve named above. If the bone is too thin, you can’t do any relief details. If it’s porous, getting any details is difficult. If the bone is too greasy, it’s the same problem. If the skull hasn’t been prepared properly or has been boiled too much, it might fall apart and so on. It is very difficult to find a skull that’s perfect for carving, but you can carve something on any skull if you plan the carving around the skull’s defects.
DC: For you, does the act of creating art with skulls have a deeper meaning?
VS: Of course, I am working on a something that once lived, which I am now trying to give new life to. I always have that in mind. It is the main reason I am doing this.
DC: How, if at all, does you being located in Transylvania play into your work? Has local art and culture influenced your designs or do you actively strive to do something different?
VS: The part that is most influenced by my location is the fact that a lot of people around this area are still raising animals, cattle, sheep, etc…, so whenever an animal dies, as the skull has almost no use, I buy it off the farmers and then clean it myself. It’s a nice way to get a steady supply of skulls without having any animals being killed. As the art goes, I always try to do something different.
DC: What else have you got in the works these days?
VS: Nowadays my main project is to move my workshop from my apartment to a bigger place, so I will have to build a workshop to accommodate everything and also so I can start doing bigger sculptures, like fully carved animal skeletons. This is what I’m saving up for now. Hopefully I can manage to get it done this year.