In 2009 I created a more ambitious work using chicken wishbones for the Castlemaine State Festival, A Constellation of Lucky Stars. Made using multiple small sculptural geometric arrangements of chicken wishbones and also using gold leaf, I sought to invoke notions of high and low material value, expressed together with the ubiquitous cross-cultural fascination with good fortune, or luck.
Firstly, I needed luck to find enough hapless poultry sternums. With industrialised, indeed fully mechanised abattoir methods, sourcing the wishbones was initially quite a challenge. Eventually, the local independent supermarket butchers agreed to extract wishbones from each chicken frame for me and freeze them each day. On Fridays at 3 pm I would push the butchery buzzer and someone would shrill ‘The chicken lady is here’. Friday nights at home were then overtaken by the ritual putrid boiling of hundreds of wishbones, and the residual by-product of ‘Lucky Soup’. Cooling, then manual de-fleshing of wishbones one by one, was followed by the wishbones’ immersion in half-strength nappy-wash overnight, final individual scrubbing the next day using a toothbrush and finishing with a couple of hours deep drying in a low heat oven before being packed in rodent-proof boxes. The dog was fed the cooked flesh and I gave away countless containers of Lucky Soup. Over a period of 4 months or so I collected and prepared more than 3,000 chicken wishbones in this way, enabling the fabrication of A Constellation of Lucky Stars (2009) and 500 Lives (2016).