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Be on the lookout: ceramic skulls hidden around Pensacola

Sara Chaimowitz

If you happen to spot a ceramic skull in a bush or along a sidewalk, you are not the only one. Some are bright, some are dark. Some are hidden in plain sight, others are hard to find. But why are they there?

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Inspired by the Pensacola Rocks craze that swept through the area a few years ago, local ceramist Sara Chaimowitz came up with the idea for Skullz Around, a project that aims to get people out and exploring. Chaimowitz, a ceramicist student at UWF, spent the entirety of last semester creating fifty ceramic skulls, all of which vary in color and pattern.

“There was a woodfire I participated in a few semesters ago and I had already started making my skulls, but I just didn’t know what I was doing with them yet,” Chaimowitz said. “When we started getting all of our pieces out, I had a skull that was poking through the ash that kind of looked spooky and morbid, and I just liked the morbidness of it. That got me thinking about people finding them out and about.”

Originally, Chaimowitz thought about making the skulls into candle holders or cups. But the idea of people experiencing them in nature stood out to her.

“From there, I started brainstorming about how I wanted to get my skulls out there where people can experience them without having to go to a store to buy a skull,” Chaimowitz said. “I wanted to bring beauty to the morbidness of nature.”

Sara Chaimowitz

Each hidden skull has a QR code on the back that will take you to the Skullz Around website, where you can send a photo and log your find. Upon discovering it, the finder can decide to keep the skull or hide it in a new location.

“I wanted to make it interactive without having to be on social media,” Chaimowitz said. “You don’t have to be on any social media platform to participate in this, which was the main reason why I did it. There are many people who don’t use Facebook or Instagram, so I wanted to make sure I can hit any person of any age regardless of their social media presence.”

Chaimowitz began hiding her skulls around the area last December. Since then, people have spotted them in locations such as downtown Pensacola, UWF’s main campus, Milton, and Pace. All but five of her skulls were hidden in Florida. One is also being sent overseas.

All in all, Chaimowitz’s favorite part of this project has been the community response. She hopes that her skulls will not only excite but inspire the community.

“I’ve had a few responses where they’ve said ‘this just made my day’ or ‘this was so great’, and that’s what I wanted,” Chaimowitz said. “I wanted a positive response to something that people normally think of as creepy or morbid.”

Since the Skullz Around project launched, about 20 ceramic skulls have been found. Chaimowitz plans on hiding more skulls in the future.

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Sara Chaimowitz

“I hope that people will remember finding them, the joy it brought them, or the thought process that sparked in them about what is going on with the skulls,” Chaimowitz said. “I’m not expecting to be remembered as an artist for this project, I mostly wanted to bring something to somebody else. I wanted somebody else to find something and to enjoy it.”

In addition to the Skullz Around project, Chaimowitz is working on a second project that will incorporate her ceramic skulls. This art piece will center around the cycle of life and death.

“I just want to bring a smile to somebody’s face,” Chaimowitz said. “That’s the whole thing with me and my ceramics, I don’t want to just make something to make a dollar — that’s not what this is about. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, even though it took 30-something years to figure out. If I could have someone realize their dream sooner because they found a piece of my work in the woods or on the side of the road, that’s all that matters.”

To see more of Chaimowitz’s work, be sure to check out her Instagram.

Hunter joined WUWF in 2021 as a student reporter.