Remember that feeling you got as a child when you played hide and seek and you actually found who you were looking for?
Imagine that, but as an adult. Kevin O’Mara, better known to some as Brother O’Mara, uses his Instagram page to leave clues about where to find his unique polymer clay skulls.
O’Mara, whose main hobby was photography for years, decided he needed another creative pursuit to keep his attention. He tried other things, like stamp carving, working with metal and none of them ever really stuck.
“One day I said, ‘Maybe I’ll try sculpting with polymer clay,'” he explained. “You can buy it anywhere, it’s cheap and you don’t have to have a big oven like you do for earth clay or ceramics. You can just use the oven in your house. So I said, ‘Fine, I’ll buy some of that.'”
After several days, he’d finished his first project with the clay, which was a bust of a human face.
“It came out great, and I said I want to go back to working with clay, but I don’t want to start something else that’s going to take me another 10 days to do,” O’Mara said. “Let me see if I can knock out something in just one night.”
That’s when the idea of the small skulls was born, and now, for almost a year, O’Mara has been hiding them around town for people to find. The first one took someone 30 minutes to find, and O’Mara hasn’t stopped since.
O’Mara said the feeling of satisfaction when someone finds his skulls never gets old.
“It works very much in the same way that drugs do, and then the high is not as strong and so it makes me want to do it more,” he said. “But it’s never not good. I’m always genuinely, legitimately happy for whoever found it because their happiness is infectious, and a thought that I was able to make something, provided to someone for free, at random, I don’t know who it’s going to be. That I was able to bring some joy into their day, is very satisfying. It’s a shame I have a regular job because I would love to go out and have more time to sculpt and hide things but as it is, twice a week works out for me.”
Every so often, O’Mara auctions off his work for good causes.
“Several months ago I wanted to make a skull that was very deliberately like stripes of color, and the first thing that popped in my head was the colors of the trans pride flag,” he said.
In order to make sure the skull landed in the hands of someone who would appreciate its message, he decided to auction it off and give the proceeds to Breakout, a group that helps minority Trans youth.
“I was thinking $20 or $40, and it ended up being $230, and I just couldn’t believe that someone was willing to put up that kind of money for something I made,” he said. “If I can use my unexpected popularity to benefit other people, I think I have an obligation to do that.”
O’Mara said working on something as small as the skulls helps him focus.
“When I was doing photography, I would go out to different places and I would go out on my bike or my car,” he said. “How much of the environment am I going to miss if I’m going out in my car? When I’m on foot I see everything. I get back to the computer editing and I’m distracted, and with working with clay all that just goes away. I sit in one place and I go off until another world in my head and I forget all of the stress from work, and all of the stress of politics and the environment, and everything around me, and it’s very meditative. It just gives me an opportunity to get away from it all for a while.”