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Adam Savage's Obsessions December 1, 2008

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Adam Savage talks about some of his obsessions, including the unfinished Maltese Falcon.

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About four years ago, the New Yorker published an article about a cache of dodo bones that was found in a pit on the island of Mauritius. Now, the island of Mauritius is a small island off the east coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, and it is the place where the dodo bird was discovered and extinguished, all within about 150 years. Everyone was very excited about this archeological find, because it meant that they might finally be able to assemble a single dodo skeleton.

See, while museums all over the world have dodo skeletons in their collection, nobody - not even the actual Natural History Museum on the island of Mauritius - has a skeleton that's made from the bones of a single dodo. Well, this isn't exactly true. The fact is, is that the British Museum had a complete specimen of a dodo in their collection up until the 18th century - it was actually mummified, skin and all - but in a fit of space-saving zeal, they actually cut off the head and they cut off the feet, and they burned the rest in a bonfire. If you go look at their website today, they'll actually list these specimens, saying, the rest was lost in a fire.

Not quite the whole truth. Anyway. The front piece of this article was this photo, and I'm one of the people that thinks that Tina Brown was great for bringing photos to the New Yorker, because this photo completely rocked my world. I became obsessed with the object - not just the beautiful photograph itself, and the color, the shallow depth of field, the detail that's visible, the wire you can see on the beak there that the conservator used to put this skeleton together, there's an entire story here. And I thought to myself, wouldn't it be great if I had my own dodo skeleton? (Laughter)

And so - I want to point out here at this point that I've spent my life obsessed by objects and the stories that they tell, and this was the very latest one. So I began looking around for - to see if anyone sold a kit, some kind of model that I could get, and I found lots of reference material, lots of lovely pictures - no dice: no dodo skeleton for me. But the damage had been done. I had saved a few hundred photos of dodo skeletons into my "Creative Projects" folder - it's a repository for my brain, everything that I could possibly be interested in. Any time I have an internet connection, there's a sluice of stuff moving into there, everything from beautiful rings to cockpit photos. The key that the Marquis du Lafayette sent to George Washington to celebrate the storming of the Bastille. Russian nuclear launch key. The one on the top is the picture of the one I found on eBay; the one on the bottom is the one I made for myself, because I couldn't afford the one on eBay. Storm trooper costumes. Maps of Middle Earth - that's one I hand-drew myself. There's the dodo skeleton folder. This folder has 17,000 photos - over 20 gigabytes of information - and it's growing constantly. And one day, a couple of weeks later, it might have been maybe a year later, I was in the art store with my kids, and I was buying some clay tools - we were going to have a craft day. I bought some Super Sculpeys, some armature wire, some various materials. And I looked down at this Sculpey, and I thought, maybe, yeah, maybe I could make my own dodo skull.

I should point out at this time - I'm not a sculptor; I'm a hard-edged model maker. You give me a drawing, you give me a prop to replicate, you give me a crane, scaffolding, parts from "Star Wars" - especially parts from "Star Wars" - I can do this stuff all day long. It's exactly how I made my living for 15 years. But you give me something like this - my friend Mike Murnane sculpted this; it's a maquette for Star Wars, Episode Two - this is not my thing, I - this is something other people do - dragons, soft things.

However, I felt like I had looked at enough photos of dodo skulls to actually be able to understand the topology and perhaps replicate it - I mean, it couldn't be that difficult. So, I started looking at the best photos I could find. I grabbed all the reference, and I found this lovely piece of reference. This is someone selling this on eBay; it was a woman's - clearly a woman

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