Jon Pichaya Ferry’s chest peeked out from behind his loosely fitted shirt, which was carefully tucked into a pair of black, skinny jeans. He turned and gently bounded up the stairwell. I trailed behind his thick, static mane of pitch black hair.
He was taking me to his new Bushwick showroom inside one of the spaces at 203 Harrison Place. We walked down a meandering hallway, bordered by industrial-style studios. Eventually, Ferry stopped at an unmarked door, put a key into the doorknob, and led me into a small, rectangular room filled with human remains.
“Make yourself comfortable,” he said.
I took a seat underneath a dense collection of vertebrae.
When I was 13, my mom, a science teacher, brought home a seal carcass she found at the beach. She gave me a toothbrush, and together we went to work in our front yard scrubbing the residue off of the seal’s bones. Pedestrians stared at us—a family cleaning a skeleton in front of their house. I was embarrassed. And I was grossed out.
When Ferry was 13, his father brought home a skeletonized mouse. It was then, Ferry said, that he decided to dedicate his life to bones. Ferry, now 22, sells bones and recently moved his osteology practice from his apartment to the room we were now sitting in. He says that having an official headquarters lets him field his increasing business.
JonsBones was incorporated on November 26, 2018, when Ferry was 18. He had just moved to New York from South Bend, Indiana, to pursue a degree in product design at Parsons. Since then, Jon has amassed a TikTok following of over half a million people and says his customers include universities, hospitals, artists, and a wide assortment of medical professionals, like chiropractors, anatomists, dentists, and even search and rescue teams. He doesn’t specify further about his customers.
“The goal is to make osteology accessible to everyone,” Ferry said. “But we want these bones to be used for educational purposes.”
Ferry contends that his is one of the only companies in the world engaged in the human bone trade. Talking to Ferry, you get the notion that if uninterrupted, he could go on about his love of the industry forever.
“The medical bone trade came from an educational need,” he told me. “But as technology advanced, they moved away from real skeletons to plastic.”
But plastic, he believes, is no substitute for the real thing.
“Anatomical variation,” he said. “No two skulls are the same. The skulls of two identical twins will still be different sizes,” he opined.
“So when you’re talking about a high level of education,” Ferry continued, “you need the real thing.”
As he began to expound on the history of plastic, ivory, and billiards, a hundred human skulls stared at me through a display case.
“We only work with antique and vintage skeletons,” Ferry said firmly. His cutoff date for antiques, he says, is 1980. He claims to only work with “medical bones” – meaning the skeletons are those of people who already gifted their bodies to medical facilities.
“Here, the individual’s last wishes were to be donated to science,” he said, walking toward the display case. “An autopsy cut on the skull, for example, is a clear sign of medical bones.”
Still, he acknowledges that the history of osteology is complicated.
“It’s about destigmatizing a stigmatized industry,” he asserted. “We need to acknowledge the history and find solutions.”
Ferry spoke in measured sentences now, as if exhausted by the line of questioning, yet determined to make me see this correctly.
“I believe someone needs to do this work,” he told me. “It’s about raising public awareness.”
Ferry moved his tongue across his teeth, adjusting a set of Invisalign. “I don’t take half measures in life,” he said. He admitted he chose the former warehouse in Bushwick “for its security.”
“I’ve gotten death threats. Credible ones,” he says.
He says his goal is to one day have a museum. When his life is over, he’d like to be featured there himself.
“I would love myself to be skeletonized,” he said, bright-eyed.
Fifteen minutes later, the warm evening air outside felt like a relief.
I looked at Ferry, and suddenly his measured sentences made a little more sense. There were risks being taken. There was a cause and there were sides. I continued down Wyckoff Avenue. It was Friday night, and Bushwick was alive.
Photos taken by Samuel Rappaport for Bushwick Daily.
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