Diamond Tooth Taxidermy

Exquisite Taxidermy Art and Design

© 2013 Diamond Tooth Taxidermy
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About Beth Beverly


I am a State and Federally licensed taxidermist who graduated from the Pocono Institute of Taxidermy in 2010 with high marks. I have a deep respect for this craft and those who strive to preserve it.

It is my pleasure to work on any trophy mount, be it a shoulder, life-size, rug, or fish.

I accept custom orders for fantasy mounts, wearables, and bridal hair pieces.

Sculptural mounts and hats are available for rental provided they are in stock at time of inquiry.

Contact me describing your wish and I will be delighted to make it so.


Diamond Tooth Taxidermy Blog:



Here is a 12 point deer trophy mount that took me over a year to mount:
 The hunter picked him up today and I believe he was satisfied.
Even though I've been doing this job for years, I still worry that the client may not be completely thrilled with the final product.  It's challenging to be an artist and pour your heart and soul into a piece, even if it's technically a commercial venture, and then separate your self worth with the final product.


I wonder if folks in other lines of work lie awake at night fretting over whether or not they've sung a song perfectly, diagnosed a patient correctly or served an ice cream cone to the best of their ability.






Deer hooves through the Looking Glass



Here we have a pair of deer hoof candle holders that were commissioned by a client who basically told me to do whatever I wanted.  She knew I was going in a kind of psychedelic direction with them when she contacted me after seeing a work in progress shot on my Instagram feed and put a down payment on them.  She received them today and is beyond pleased, which pleases me tremendously.


 I used a pair of antique silver bases and cups, and hand beaded the fringe myself.  It took hours.



 Some jewel accents around the bottom:




 Ta Da!

The Better to See You WIth, My Deer...

Here are some photos of a pair of deer hoof candle holders I finished and shot today.  The deer was harvested by a hunter who is using all the venison and passed the hide onto be soft tanned to make a rug.  The legs are a nice by product I was happy to collect. I will be listing these on my etsy page shortly so if they strike your fancy, claim them!

 The bases and candle cups are from an antique silver set; this design is a diversion from previous candle holders in which the hooves themselves served as the base and allows the foot to point in a more elongated ans elegant fashion.

 Spooky angle shot:
 The hoof keratin has been polished and poled to bring out its natural luster:

  Do I sound like an infomercial?  I apologise, I swear my passion for this piece is genuine.  They're also taller than any of my other candle holders sets which makes them ideal for a more formal table setting.




Charming

Here's some Friday morning eye candy for you: I just listed all these little beauties on my Etsy page, along with the same descriptions you see below.  For prices or to order, just head over to Etsy or email me directly at diamondtoothtaxidermist@gmail.com.
And thanks!



Taxidermy chicken foot with feathers cascading down to the toes, clutching high end chandelier crystal beads. Great for gazing into and losing yourself in the refracted sparkling light the crystal casts from its many faceted surface. Hang it in your sun room and have the sweetest daydreams. 










 A pair of taxidermy chicken feet in an eternal embrace, clutching onto a salvaged hunk of antique chandelier crystal. Just imagine the dinner parties and life moments this crystal absorbed in its time as a magnificent light fixture. A great gift for newlyweds, eager to infuse a precious object with their own energy. Full of provenance, perfect for hanging in a window and casting spark0les about the room.








Taxidermy Fawn Hoof embellished with an iridescent Swarovski crystal dangles from a delicate chain. So tiny and precious; a great gift for tiny hands with taste beyond their years to channel their own magic into. A sweet and wonderful charm that can hang from a window, a book bag, a belt, dream-catcher, or necklace.
Or just place it under your pillow for sweet dreams. 











 There is no prying this metal backed mother of pearl fan charm out of these talons. A small taxidermy chicken hand holds on eternally, a reminder to keep your dreams and ideals within your grasp. Fan charm reflects a variety of colors as it moves; a great piece for hanging from a purse, rear-view mirror or necklace. Petite and easy to manage, but capable of starting mammoth conversation and ideas.








A taxidermy chicken foot hold onto a piece of beaded chain necklace as it it had just snatched it from the sidewalk and is bringing it to their nest. Perhaps as decor, or a gift for a loved one.
A small, understated and simple charm, this piece is easy to wear on the body as it's very lightweight. The beads are great for antsy fingers to play with, and the talon itself makes for a delightfully unconventional ice breaker.





 North meets South in this piece where a chicken from upstate NY clutches a dos peso coin from Cozumel Mexico. A small piece, great for hanging from a purse or rear view mirror to gaze at and remember we are all connected no matter where we are.
 





 Taxidermy chicken foot clutches a translucent piece of plastic in its talons, salvaged from a jeweler's studio. Still wearing its identity cuff, imagine the stories you can conjure of this bird's life as this charm hangs from your window and the sun shines through the charm.





 Taxidermy chicken foot with feathers cascading down to the toes, clutching high end red chandelier crystal beads. Great for gazing into and losing yourself in the warm heated glow of the deep red crystal. Almost like blood dripping from the talons, its a reminder of the magic that is flowing through us all.





 A taxidermy chicken foot clutching a genuine Sesame Place coin in its talons, sourced from a childhood trip to the park in the artist's own childhood. A wonderful regional souvenir or gift for someone who grew up in the area but may have moved away, this charm bridges the gaps of time and space.


Have a charmed day!

Vintage Post: My First Tan (the good the bad and the hairless).

In an attempt to empty out my freezer stock to make room for what I'm anticipating to be a mother load of fresh specimen next week, I've been skinning, fleshing and processing hides like a maniac.  I do all my own tanning in studio, and while I have occasionally err on the side of awful,(fortunately never with a client's hide, always my own where I attempt to bend the  rules.  I should know by now that science is unyielding when it comes to these kinds of rules),  99% of the time I've gotten quality tanned hides that stand the test of time.  Even my brain tans hold up, but wearer beware- you will smell like a campfire for the first five months of enjoying your furry garment.
As I salted a raccoon hide today I fondly remembered the first raccoon I ever did, fresh out of taxidermy school back in 2010.  I wrote about it and you can see the blog post below.  The coon was (and still is) a grand success, the deer was doomed from the start.  I made too many mistakes from the very beginning.  Thankfully I make most of my mistakes on practice pieces.  It's nice to look back and see how far I've come.  I can't believe I was able to make my little podunk operation work out of a 100 sq foot room in my house back then.
Note for home tanners: I used a product for these two hides that McKenzie no longer offers, much to my dismay.  I have settled on their house brand of tanner as it's basically just as good.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adventures in Home Tanning

Most taxidermist send their hides to a tannery; it makes sense when the skins start piling up and the work looks daunting.  Plus, home tanning takes time and effort.  I figured I only have a couple of green hides though so I'd try it myself.



The process takes about three days, and I diligently checked and stretched my raccoon and deer cape each day at the same time.  The coon skin, being thinner, took less time and I was exceptionally pleased with the final result:







Here he is, drying out in our bathtub.  This situation right here has me convinced that I will have to employ a professional tanner in the future, as my house is tiny and the bathtub meant for people.







Here's the deer cape drying out the next day.  Unfortunately, I must've skinned it after some bacteria had taken up residence, because the fur was coming out in clumps.  I was somewhat beside myself seeing as this was the first deer I'd skinned all by myself and I was really gunning for a A+ hide, so I shoved it in the freezer for me to take out and deal with another time.







At least the raccoon was a success.  I taxied the skin onto the form; it's in a climbing position with some tight corners.  Sewing was definitely a challenge.  Here's his face, all pinned and carded up for drying.  This is a piece commissioned to me by my husband and he requested a mischievous sort of creature in the midst of a getaway after a bank heist.  I turned the lip up just a liiiiitle bit to indicate a grin, and the $ bag is almost done and ready to be attached to one of his little paws.







I spent about an hour blow-drying the fur; it seemed to take forever. But he dried very well and is hanging in my studio.  Today I will touch up his face and finish him.  Updates to come.

See how High she Flies:



 Meet this witchy woman.  A commissioned piece for a lovely client, I was basically given carte blanche for a head mount.  These are my favorite projects because the mount really takes shape organically.  It might sound corny but I'm being completely sincere when I say that I let the creature guide me in terms of its embellishment/projected personality traits.
I was getting some serious Priestess vibes from this raccoon and rolled with it.

I incorporated some dyed deer tail hair in the whiskers and "Mohawk":


 

 Her paws hold an antique silver jewelry bowl which was part of a set I purchased at a flea market a while back.  I wanted this piece to be functional in some capacity and this bowl conveys a cauldron element while serving as an intimate space to store/stash love notes, wishes, contraband, jewelry, etc.



Her face is also embellished with assorted Pheasant feathers:




I just got the word that she arrived safely and is already right at home on my client's wall.  This brings me tremendous joy.

A Break from the Roguelar.



I have a hunting client who helps me keep a hand in the Traditional Taxidermy pot by commissioning commercial mounts every now and again, which is a good way to keep my anatomical skill set on point and build upon my technical repertoire.  Back in the Fall he brought me this buck with the sweet 7 point rack.  Actually, he called me first and told me it was sitting in his fridge because he didn't have room in his freezer.  By the time he was able to get it to me, several days had passed.  This is very much a less than ideal situation for a taxidermist, as decomposition can set in quickly and cause irreversible damage.
When Mr. Buck finally made it to my studio, he smelled a little ripe and there was definitely hair slippage.  For non taxidermy enthusiasts out there, slippage is just a word for the hair falling out.  This is a bad sign.  Most of it was concentrated in an area on the neck though, and I wanted to still give it a go. 
My client left and I got to work skinning the head and cutting the rack off the skull.  This was the part where I experienced a lifetime's worth of tick encounters.  I think I stopped counting at 20 but there was most definitely double that- at the very least.  Big fat gluttonous ticks who'd been feasting off this beast's flesh for the last three or four days.  I cut one after another in half with my blade but it seemed like the more I decimated, the more there were.  I would be slicing one and glance at my hand just in time to see another slowly waddling up my finger.  I worked as quickly as possible, tied the whole mess up in a garbage bag and threw it in the freezer to kill the rest of them.  Then I set to work picking strays off my arms. I felt an itch on my armpit, scratched, and knocked a tick off.  
It's coming from inside the house. Some of those little jerks had actually made it up my arm and under my shirt!   A cold wave of panic gushed through my veins and I stripped off all my clothes in the middle of my studio, jumping around slapping my skin like a spastic bird. 
Thankfully I managed to remove them all before a single one had a chance to latch on and possibly give me Lyme disease.   Still, the amount I found (dead, thankfully) post pickling and tanning still clinging to this deer hide was remarkable.






I tried my new big girl needles on this hide for sewing up the incision, and I'm in love.  I don't know if this type is made for deer or any specific type of hide but I bought them on a whim because I love trying new products.  They have with a glistening sharp tripoint tip- which is how most hide needles are made, actually- and an S shape that gives hard working hands a boost of leverage.  There's even a little"no skid" textured area near the threading hold.  My hands took to them like ducks to water. I  cannot recommend these big girl needles strongly enough.







I got Mr. Buck all sewed up; the seam was slightly unconventional and the brisket part of the chest lays a bit weird- this was all a result of my needing to shift and manipulate the hide a bit to compensate for the area with all the slippage I mentioned earlier.  I think despite all that he turned out quite nicely.  He also looks great with rabbit tail earrings.





Give us a wink, Bucky!




Dances with Chickens (and goats, sheep, rabbits, sweeties, etc)

               
Recently. when the kind folks at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction approached me about curating a show of my work, I responded with an enthusiastic yes (despite my having sworn off any type of gallery-style exhibition after a spell of lackluster experiences - AITA and their products/people are a sound and superior bunch and will always be near and dear to me). I took the opportunity to do something I've been itching to do for a while now- write a public love letter, of sorts, to my guys at The Farmer's Husband where about 99% of my specimen come from.




Meet Bailey and Thomas.  For those of you who don't already know these two dolls, they are a delightful pair who lived in Philadelphia until just a couple years ago.  While still in a row home in South Philly, they had already begun their slow and steady ascent into full blown farming with a chicken run, two beehives and many plants packed in their teeny back yard like a tetris champ's wet dream.
I met Bailey first when he contacted me through a mutual friend about borrowing some taxidermy to incorporate into a window display for his floral shop, MODA botanical.  It was kismet.  I had been admiring that shop for a few years and wondering who was behind the mind-altering arrangements on the other side of the windows.  I met Bailey at his house one day and he showed me the elegant urban farm system he'd set up outside.  I believe he sent me home with a couple fresh eggs.  I was smitten.  Thus began a long and careful courtship into Dear Friend Land, in which Bailey would call me when one of his chickens passed and I would come spend some time while collecting nature's spoils. 
Bailey is a thoughtful and deliberate person, like me.  Perhaps even more so.  I immediately admired him for his approach to this farm life he was taking on.  He knew from the start that he would eventually graduate to  "real" farm out in the country, but he also was smart enough to build a solid foundation upon which his future lifestyle could be layered upon.  No cutting corners when it comes to educating oneself on raising livestock and self sustainability.  Most of all, it was his calling and something he pursued on his own, not something to brag about (I think I brag about him and Thomas enough to pick up their boasting slack) or impress friends with- which I think is a dangerous trap many of us fall into at this time of intensely curated lifestyles crafted to be shared on social media.
Thomas came into Bailey's life shortly afterward and it was like I met my long lost brother.  I'm fairly certain that he and I shared a womb in another life.  I actually can't imagine Bailey without Thomas, now that I think about it.  It's like he was always there.
They fell in love, got more chickens, peeved the neighbors (deal crack and scream obscenities at 4 in the morning, YES.  Raise chickens in your yard that cluck and shit, NO) and decided to move on.  Two years and two farms later, they've grown and evolved beyond our wildest dreams. I wonder if they ever gaze out upon their 100+ acres housing chickens, turkeys, geese, peafowl, goats, sheep, and pigs, and scratch their heads in astonishment at how far they've come and how gracefully they did it. 
Anyway, I love these two.  I love their farm, their lifestyle, their philosophy, their aesthetic.  I love the way I feel when I'm there and the happiness hangover that lasts for days after I leave.  These are two delightful and compassionate people who make the most of every last bit life has to offer. I urge you to read their blog- it might change your life.  In fact, I'll spoon feed you and start repostig their posts on my own blog.

Hence the inspiration for this show.  Almost all the pieces on display are made from specimen sourced on the farm.

I often will use chickens in parts, separating the pelt from the wings and legs to make several different items.  Talon charms are my calling card, so to speak:

 I created several new mounts using chickens, showing them interacting with man-made elements.  I wanted to convey how smart and creative these little birdies can be, and personify them a bit just for fun.  This guy is guarding an antique glass light fixture filled with pretty trinkets.  Perhaps this will add a bit of edge to his game with the ladies.  Or maybe he actually is a lady.  I still have a hard time discerning the two!
 A yawning chicken in her repurposed bird cage, and another who can't handle the sight of skulls.



Many thanks to Daniel at AITA for providing all the farming accouterments.  His curating skills and sourcing ability really brought the show together.
 

A small vignette of life inside the farm.  

  
Goat hoof candle holders.  These are from Harriet, the 80 pound goat I skinned in my bathtub before I had a proper studio.  Her hide and head were incorporated in to a rug/floor lamp which is on display in the shop window for the show. Please come see her in person.

 Finally, what Diamond Tooth show would be complete without hats, my signature specialty?  All from chickens on the farm:

Thanks again to the folks at Art in the Age, and to Bailey & Thomas.  Seriously, read The Farmer's Husband to keep up with developments on the farm, and info on ordering some of their future edible delicacies like hand raised porrrrrrrrk! (I just had some a few weeks ago and it pretty much blew my mind).

Dem Bones









What a fun bony song.  It should provide a pleasant aural wallpaper for this story of deer bones.



It's a short story, really, not too exciting but I like the pictures I took of the process so here we are.  The photos are connected to my fascination with connections.



This skull was brought to me by a new client who was referred by a friend who I suppose heard of me through someone else and that's how that chain of connection went.  He had a deer skull in a plastic bag, in multiple parts, for years.  My job was to articulate it  which I did and you can see below:







What I'd received was the  skull, top vertebrae and jaw bone which was split in two pieces.  After boiling and giving the parts a rough cleaning, I adhered the jaw bone together with glue and lined it up with the skull.







It's kind of beautiful how the jaw slips under the skull like that, just behind the eye orb.  Looking at this made me think of sinuses and how if one part of the face is compromised the entire visage suffers.



Because it's all connected.







After lining it up, I made marks where I'd need to drill holes and proceeded.  Carefully.  Once the holes were made I ran steel wire through and "knotted" the ends.











The same went for connecting the vertebrae to the skull:



















And that's it for the bone zone.  Hope you liked this.  I hope you can appreciate how cool our insides are.

Getting out of the Rut.

A week or so ago, a local hunter contacted me via my Yelp page (speaking of which, why don't you stop over there and leave some feedback about my services, guys and gals?  I'd really appreciate it) in search of some professional help with a European deer skull mount he was just about finished working on when the antlers plumb dropped off.    Apparently , the buck was just coming out of rut when he harvested it, and somewhere in the skull cleaning process the antlers decided to fly the coop.



Full disclosure:  I am not certain that I am using the term "rut" correctly; conversations with hunters and the internet tell me it refers to the period of time when a buck is on the prowl; he beefs up (this much I know from seeing the thick mountains of line-backer neck muscle on trophy mounts caught mid-rut) and makes a lot of noise and fights and all the carnal things that go along with finding a mate.  I think the word rut can also refer to when their antlers fall out, which happens every year around late Autumn to early Winter, depending on climate and location.  If I am speaking out of term, please let me know in the comments section.  Perhaps, I could incorporate some posts from guest bloggers, as I've always been interested in hunting but remain outrageously uninformed.  Rest assured, potential clients, my ignorance should inspire confidence in my work!  It serves you well to hire a taxidermist who doesn't spend all her time in a tree stand when she should be working on your trophy mount.



All that said, here is the almost European mount, in three pieces.  The orange you see at the root of one antler is glue residue from a prior attempt to re-attach them, which proved unsuccessful.







Skulls are so beautiful.  Treat yourself and take a moment to marvel at how amazing this feature of our anatomy is.







The bottom of the antler.  The english-muffin-like texture of the break points makes sense; it facilitates the release of the horns instead of them just falling out with roots like some bloody teeth.







 



I drilled holes at all four connection point and inserted a steel bracing rod into each of the two on the skull.  After securing with epoxy, I shimmied the antlers onto the bracing rods, forming a perfect union.







It took some measuring and finesse to ensure that the antlers would "land" in the correct placement in relation to the skull, on top of that, I made pencil notches along the outside which would line up when everything was in place.







Now that the mount was back in one pice, I had to address the rough transition point between horn and skull.







I used some top secret taxidermist sculpting clay to create a transition surface and blended it all together.  While it dried I applied texture to match the natural surface of that particular part of the skull.







After it was set and dried, I painted the clay to further blend it all together.  Here is the finished product.  Unfortunately  the fuller picture I took came out blurry but this gives you an idea.  And the customer was satisfied which is all that matters in my book.







 



Happy hunting (what's left of it)!



 

Twenty for Twenty #7: Cherie Lily

Behold the goddess known as Cherie Lily.  I have been an admirer of hers since I first met her, briefly, in the ladies room of some bar in Austin during South by Southwest, 2010.  (Which, technically should make her ineligible for this project since it's about folks I've never met but nobody cares so there).  She was wearing a spandex get-up not unlike the one you see pictured below, and washing her hands. I walked in with my friend and exclaimed, "Great outfit!  You look awesome!", to which she replied, "Hey thanks, I'm performing upstairs if you're interested!", and I was too embarrassed to tell her I had no money to see any ticketed shows; I was only there to catch the free performances on the outskirts of the SXSW event...so I just peed and left it at that.







Cut to two days later when my friends and I went to see the free GWAR show, and among the day long line-up of performers, there she was!  Cherie Lily, onstage with Andrew WK, aerobic dancing and looking like a neon spandex glamour queen.  In between songs, the audience was treated to multiple aural doses of positivity, feeling good, loving yourself, and being beautiful no matter what anyone says.



Does that sound hokey?



Well then go fuck yourself.



Sorry, harsh.  What I mean is, if that sounds hokey it's probably because self-acception/celebration is an unfamilliar concept to you.  And that is sad.  Forget what your family/acquaintances tell you and embrace your body, your dreams, all of it.



YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.



This attitude in mind, I started with a felt hat from a vintage collection I received as a gift from a friend (more about that in the future), a bright kelly green one because of the strength represented in that hue.  It had some wear and tear; I re-pressed it ad gave it a new shape, but some of the small pock marks couldn't be erased.  That's ok, I thought, they're the small imperfections which document a full life lived.



I placed the taxidermy accent pieces under a studded flap on the side of the hat; chicken feathers, red squirrel tail, dyed deer tail, and some blue dyed feathers which I acquired with another vintage hat. When worn, this would be the straight-on view:







It's on the small side, meaning that it's more like a fascinator since it won't fit snugly on the head; it will need to be set in place with combs or a hair pin.  I sewed two combs on the inside, envisioning her pulling it back over her thick hair and it resting in place.  But, this is an unsolicited gift for a woman I can't even say I know, so all I can do is touch wood and hope it works out on her head.  I did get a thank you email from her this morning, all full of kind and gracious words, but I can't help but wonder if maybe it didn't fit well enough.  Alas, she said she can't wait to wear it so I'll eagerly await any possible sighting of her in this little ditty.







Finally, as a detail, I incorporated an old wrestling pin I rescued from the trash heap in my brother's room.  The ten year old in me can't help but chuckle at the homoerotic-ness of these two spandex clad men in such an embrace, and I thought, as a gay icon, she would appreciate it.



As a gay man with lady parts, I know I can.







Let me know if you see her wearing it, New Yorkers!



And thanks Cherie Lily, for inspiring self-confidence in little freaks like me who never felt they could possibly fit into any of the factory modeled forms provided.

20 for 20 #2: Turd is the Word









I got a sweet note from my newly minted overseas pal The Fashion Turd, so it's safe to post about what I sent her:









The Turd received a custom created, larger than life, bird talon hair stick!  Based on photos from her blog, she's got a head full of colorful locks, which made the job fun to the power of awesome because 1) dread locks are thick and strong, and therefore can hold pieces with a bit of heft, and 2)someone who deliberately works their hair into this style is most likely open to wearing items that are less than conventional.



That said, I felt free to go bonkers.  I started with the talons of a very large chicken (sourced from one of my farmer friends) clutching a chunk of electro-formed copper with a crystal embedded in it.  Once this was mounted on the hair stick, I embellished the base with dyed deer tail, rabbit fur and pheasant feathers.  I felt free to get as far out as my heart could carry me, knowing this gifteewould appreciate the outlandishness of it all.







Due to the size and weight of the claw end of the stick, some balance was needed both for aesthetic and functional purposes.







This was achieved by running a large link chain from the top, to a cap which would attach to the bottom, so the stick could be worn securely like so:







I'm sure she'll make it look even better than I am in this photo.  Now that it's in her little paws, I am excited to see how she wears it.  I imagine it could even serve as a unique sweater/kilt/cape/shawl closure clasp, not to mention sharp pointy self-defense mechanism for those late night crawls home from the bar, er...pub.  Mind the gap, ye!



xoxo, BB



ps: I don't mention it in every post but it should pretty much be assumed that all product shots seen on this blog, as well as on my etsy and website, are done by my on site photographer and husband, Jim Coughlin.  He also is a musician and painter; check out his stuff here: SnapBlamSplat



 



Up next: a client update or two



Coming soon on the 20 for 20 project: girl hunters, drag queens and another fashion dragon from the UK!

Pretty feet, pretty face

I've had these three deer feet from the first deer I ever skinned all by myself, way back last year while I was up in school.  The cape, unfortunately, had some bacteria from exposure (by the time the doe got to me, she had been expired for some time) but I managed to salvage the legs for future use.  I found inspiration in the form of a gift for a couple of dear friends (har har) up in NY who have a deep appreciation for all things art....including the art of looking good.



What we've got here is a  deer hoof with a miniature mirror mounted on the front.  It is to be hung near the door so as to provide one last check yourself spot before heading out for th evening.  Spinach-free teeth?  Check.  No crusty eyes?  Check.







 



I capped it off with some copper tubing and a hen foot (going with the pedi theme)clutching a gemstone.  Garnished with some feathers and voila!  A Christmas present I'm hoping will please.







 



Happy holidays!

Adventures in Home Tanning

Most taxidermist send their hides to a tannery; it makes sense when the skins start piling up and the work looks daunting.  Plus, home tanning takes time and effort.  I figured I only have a couple of green hides though so I'd try it myself.



The process takes about three days, and I diligently checked and stretched my raccoon and deer cape each day at the same time.  The coon skin, being thinner, took less time and I was exceptionally pleased with the final result:







Here he is, drying out in our bathtub.  This situation right here has me convinced that I will have to employ a professional tanner in the future, as my house is tiny and the bathtub meant for people.







Here's the deer cape drying out the next day.  Unfortunately, I must've skinned it after some bacteria had taken up residence, because the fur was coming out in clumps.  I was somewhat beside myself seeing as this was the first deer I'd skinned all by myself and I was really gunning for a A+ hide, so I shoved it in the freezer for me to take out and deal with another time.







At least the raccoon was a success.  I taxied the skin onto the form; it's in a climbing position with some tight corners.  Sewing was definitely a challenge.  Here's his face, all pinned and carded up for drying.  This is a piece commissioned to me by my husband and he requested a mischievous sort of creature in the midst of a getaway after a bank heist.  I turned the lip up just a liiiiitle bit to indicate a grin, and the $ bag is almost done and ready to be attached to one of his little paws.







I spent about an hour blow-drying the fur; it seemed to take forever. But he dried very well and is hanging in my studio.  Today I will touch up his face and finish him.  Updates to come.

"Philadelphia will never be the same."

Today was my last day of class; I did all the finishing touches on my mounts like airbrushing and epoxying noses, eyes, tear ducts, etc.  Mr. B went over all the rules and regulations with me as far as getting the right licenses and permits to be a professional taxidermist.



Here is my coyote, mouth painted and fabulous.







I think he needs a diamond in his tongue.



This isn't a sex toy.  But it is one of those odd little tools with a very specific function for deer mounts.  What for, you might wonder?







Trade secret, baby.  Mum's the word.



Here I am stapling the deer hide to the form.  This actually happened a few days ago but I forgot to include this picture back then.  We used staple guns that ran on compressed air and now that I have experienced such power, such FORCE, I have nothing but utter disdain for the manual gun that sits waiting for me in my studio at home.







Since she finished a little early, my classmate brought in a mink to skin, that her neighbor had caught near his creek.  Apparently minks are quite common in the wild (if you can call the Poconos that), but have basically no value as far as trappers are concerned because they are farmed en masse.







Fatty little buggers though.  I'll bet she had a blast with this sucker on the fleshing wheel!

"Want me to mount him with his eyes shut so it looks like how he did when you shot him?"

This is a playful jab I hear often in the studio between Mr. B and his clients, insinuating that they must have gone sneaking up on a buck while it slept.  This is poaching and it's obviously illegal, but the more people I talk to up here, the more I hear about it happening.  It comes to mind now because as I sit here in bed at 9pm, reading, I was just startled by a loud rifle shot just outside the cabin. I jumped out of bed and paced around a bit, feeling jarred.  There's a decent amount of undeveloped acreage surrounding me and I'd be lying if I said the thought of some psycho perv armed to the teeth and lurking around watching me never crossed my mind.  I'm fairly certain though that the shot I just heard was...well, I can't be sure but I'll hazard a guess that the neighbor saw a coyote creeping too close to his house.  Regardless, hearing a shot pierce through such a quiet evening-I mean, the sound conjured a mental image of a train hurtling through the forest-leaves me somewhat unsettled and mill undoubtedly keep me up past my usual 9:30 sleep time.



Today I finished my second buck; I experimented with positioning the ears in an alert, listening fashion as though he were hearing something slightly behind him.  Here he is, with carded ears and stuffy nose.







I'm getting pretty good at the eyes, as far as the lid creases and positioning.







I cleaned up my coyote's mouth a bit; not much interesting going on here but I was amused at how dentist-like this looks.  My mouth started watering just looking at him, imagining the saliva building up in my mouth during a cleaning and just dying to spit.







As the nose skin dries out it tends to shrivel so it gets a little coat of epoxy which will be painted later.







I got home to find Mr. M had invented his own cozy little kitty den.  I'd piled up the duvet on the guest bed while the cover was being laundered....and can you find the cat in this image?







Tada!







Poor little guy is getting as much rest as possible and barely eating.



I spent my evening watching more Honey West.  I discovered the "vintage commercial" feature on the discs and found some of the adverts amusing.



My favorite is the Mennan shaving lotion ad which starts at 2:53 in the video below.  I don't see anything refreshing about the way those paws are manhandling that guy's face.







"Have a donut."

Today is Fasnacht Day, a Dutch tradition in which everyone eats donuts.  I have never heard of this but my instructor brought a box in and insisted we eat.  The origins of this tradition have something to do with emptying the pantries of  all things dough-related before Lent begins (while in Philly and everywhere else it's Mardis Gras and we're busy boozing it up) but these days it's kind of a fund-raiser thing for the local schools.  Regardless, I was happy to contribute to my  expanding waist line with some delicious fried dough.



I got started on my second buck trophy mount; this one is in an aggressive pose whereas the first one was a semi-sneak.  I found the aggressive to be a little bit more tricky in terms of claying up the face but all in all I'd say I did a fair job.



Before getting the hide on the form, I had to sew up some holes.  In Pennsylvania, hunters are required to tag their deer on the ear and many of them cut through quite haphazardly which results in more work for the taxidermists.  I'm learning more about the love-hate and obviously symbiotic relationship between the killers and the stuffers.







Another thing common in deer is ticks.  I found several while fleshing out the initial "green" (raw) hide, but was quite surprised to still find more even after it had been tanned!  They were dead, of course, but are often still quite alive when on a green-hide.  Lyme disease is something taxidermists have to be on the lookout for, but Mr. B tells me that no one he knows has ever gotten it.  Oddly enough, I know at least three people with it and all of them live in the city.







Here's the hide on the form.  I think they all look like Eeyore the sad donkey at this point, before the face is set.







One of the details in setting the face is the tear ducts.  They must be opened up and then properly set into a groove which the taxidermist has carved into the form.







I went home that afternoon and took a nice walk around the hills behind the cabin.  One of the boys stuck around to watch over Mr. M, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner together.  We had a fantastic conversation about allowing oneself to deserve good things in life.  "Eliminate that which does not serve you," were his closing words.

"We're gonna jazz it around a bit."

Today I finished my first buck trophy mount; I'm ultimately pleased with my work.   The ears are carded and need a few days to dry, and then I'll detail the face with a little air brushing.







I got home from school to find Mr. M, the house cat, resting up after an emergency trip to the vet.  Apparently some feral cat (or coyote?)  had sunk its teeth into Mr. M's back and the bite had created an abscess which got infected.  I recalled feeling a small lump on his back but by the time Sunday had rolled around the boys told me it had opened and was leaking puss.



Ew.



So the vet had to stitch up the one bite mark and insert a drainage tube in the other.  When I walked in that afternoon, after sewing up deer hide all day, I looked at Mr. M for a moment, admiring the stitches and not mentally registering what had happened to the poor little guy.  "Frankenkitty", the boys called him.  Following over the next few days were the inevitable comments about what happens when one leaves their pet in the care of a taxidermist.







"You Betcha."

Today we began prepping our deer forms and capes for a trophy mount.  These are the capes we skinned out back in January, and they were sent to the tannery as a rush job so as to get them back in time.  Usually hides can take around three months to return from being shipped out for tanning, which has me tempted to try it myself.  It's not recommended, though, as it's easy to ruin the skin.  I went ahead though and bought my own solution and intend to tan some of my own stuff in a couple weeks.  Wish me luck!



Anyway, these hides were "wet-tanned" which means they have to go into the freezer immediately upon return, until they are to be mounted. At this point there is usually a little bit of excess flesh that may have escaped the initial round of skinning so we went in and split the ears a little more, opened up the nostrils, thinned out the skin, etc:







Here is the bullet hole, which needs to be sewn up in a specific, top-secret-taxidermist-fashion.  The hair around the point of entry is scorched so you can't just leave it. Plus it'll get stretched over the mount and look terrible.



Those little holes to the right are actually Xs punched in a formation to mark your cape for the tannery so when multiple skins are sent in they won't get mixed up.







Here is my deer form, with the rack screwed in and the eyes clayed up.  This is just practice clay though, we had to set and reset multiple times until we felt confident in our mastery of the shape, size, symmetry, alignment, etc.







All of this under the watchful eye of my fox, sitting behind me on his table.  I hope when I take his ear cards off and finish up his face he appears more serene.  A day-dream face is what I was going for but that isn't translating quite well at this point in the process.







I was feeling particularly cranky because when I stopped for gas on the way home the little snot behind the counter called me "ma'am", and not in a respectful way.  Seriously, what woman likes being called "ma'am"?



I cheered myself up with more of my new favorite show, "Honey West".  I love that womens' bodies looked authentic, and their faces made expressions.  Plus, one punch could knock someone out for minutes and then they'd be right back on the horse again.  Hardly any guns, but they found ways for a fight scene to use everything in a room:











And the dialogue!  Nonstop wit!

"We call 'em slut bugs."

Today we began working on our coyote rugs, using hides purchased from a distributer already fleshed and tanned.  My fellow student also brought in a huge skin from an Alberta Buck her friend had gifted her, and I helped her flesh it out a little.  I've got a knack for getting my little fingers on a hunk of flesh and ripping it from the skin which is more economical, time-wise, than knifing it out.  My nick-name for the day is "The Ripper."



Here is my head form for the coyote, with artificial jaws set in.  Original skulls are rarely used these days because over time the teeth crack and break.  I think when I'm doing this on my own, however, I will use original skulls, simply because I have a disdain for all things plastic.  Maybe I'll cast metal ones, who knows.







I wanted to challenge myself so I studied some reference pictures and carved a snarling shape into the form.  Creating this expression also involves various sculpting techniques with clay but I'll keep that info to myself.  I'm trying really hard to keep my inner-brat from emerging as my patience grows thin with all this conventional, commercial mounting.  I think when I'm getting paid to do it, I'll have no issue, but I long to be putting jewels on paws, false lashes on eyes, pheasants on stilts, etc.







Pinning the face.  Mine had a scar just inside his eye, and since a typical client wouldn't want to feature that in his prize rug, I learned how to obscure it.  Top secret!!!!







When Mr. B came back from lunch he had a present for me- one of his hens had died over the weekend and when he'd mentioned it to me in passing this morning, of course I asked him what they did with it.  "Well, we usually bury 'em..." ...but surprise!  He brought it in for me!  She's a real looker, too, and she's all mine to mount however I wish.  Stay tuned.



After we finished mounting the head portion of our rugs, the hides were soaked and stretched on a table.  I am not so adept with hammering; I whacked my thumb several times.  What's even more tantrum-inducing than smashing a digit repeatedly with a hammer and staying silent about it so as not to draw attention, is your instructor catching it every time and reminding you  "not hit your thumb with that hammer.  It really smarts."







I noticed several lady bugs on the table; the other student and Mr. B were eager to destroy them.  Apparently there is a huge LB infestation in the area and they are not viewed as the luck-spreading, charming little guys we here in the city know them as.   In fact, they are a different breed.  The LBs up in the Poconos are an Asian beetle which look exactly like Ladybugs, and were brought to the US to aid in pest control.  I guess they then became the pest themselves.  I'm told they reproduce like crazy and clog up vents, eat through stuff, and bite.



Not so cute:











I took the scenic way home, via back roads, and stopped for coffee at a little shop in White Haven.  I'd wanted to stay and enjoy it there while I soaked in the environment, maybe get some networking practice, but it was just myself and the "barista" I doubt he'd call himself that) there and I felt him eyeing my every move so I stepped out.  I hate feeling watched when I haven't made it clear I'm looking to be the center of attention.  I start to second guess my every move and can't think straight.



When I got home, I took a walk around the hilly fields behind the cabin and then took a nap with the dogs in front of the fire while the boys made dinner.  They ate and headed out, and I went to bed.

"Here's some fish eye for your coffee."

My instructor finds my never-ending stream of inquiries amusing.  Can you blame me?  I'm trying to squeeze out every ounce of knowledge I possibly can from this scholastic adventure.



Today I worked on my two Blue Gills, and began a large trout on which I will be using an artificial head.



Carving such small forms in the foam is delicate work.  Thankfully my little hands are extraordinarily nimble.







After the skin is cleaned of all flesh, it's good to soak it for a bit.







All sewn up and carded!







blub blub blub.







After school I went into the barn and played on my hoop:











then took a walk back into the woods to see if  the deer corpse I'd dragged out there had been enjoyed.  By the looks of it, yes.  SOrry for the low quality picture; the sun had set and light was fading.







I had a quiet evening consisting of a long bath, laundry, and the movie "Infamous", at which I wept during the end.  I think being immersed in death has made me even more sympathetic to the rest of the world.  As long as they keep their distance.

"never trust a man who wears a belt and suspenders at the same time"

Today we learned how to properly airbrush a fish to restore its natural coloring for posterity's sake.  It's really a shame that the colors fade in the scales, because no matter how talented the artist-nothing quite compares to nature.  I'm already scheming Trout skin wallets and rabbit mermaids in my not too distant future...



Here is the Trout, with color foundation added.  To show you the rest would give too much away, so there.







The demo took a big chunk of the morning and in the afternoon we added finishing touches on our pheasants, which we were then allowed to take home with us.  I will take professional shots shortly and post them here, as well as on my website.  I am still trying to come up with a name for my business once I get home and set up shop.  Something that appeals to a mass audience but lets my whimsical and humorous side leak through just a tad...



We got out of class a little early so I decided to work on my extracurricular activity-skinning a deer all by myself.



Here she is, laid out in her entirety.  A donation to me from a professional,  although she exhibits no real external wounds (aside from some blood around the mouth and ears), I soon discovered the internal was a completely new can of worms.







There was significant bruising and bleeding around the ribs and guts, the one leg bone was completely shattered from the second joint to the shoulder, and the skull was crushed as well.  Poor thing.  I know this picture is unsettling and graphic, but I also admire the pretty colors leaking out around the skin and flesh.







I wanted to use the legs on their own for either a wall-mounted thermometer or even a hat, who knows.  I tried sawing them off but the blade wouldn't cut through the bone.  Thankfully there were some bolt cutters in the shed next door and they snapped right through like  buttah. I couldn't help but cringe with each crackling cut as I imagined my own limbs being cut off in such a fashion.  This empathy I feel towards my specimen seems to be a constant thread running through my mind these days.  I feel sorry and thankful at once for these creatures, who have died by gun, gas or vehicle and wound up in my hands.  I am incessantly imagining every cut, tear and twist as though it were my own body lying there on the table.  I think of how surgeons open us up and swap parts on the regular, as though we as humans are nothing more than living rag dolls.



Does this make me sick?  I prefer to call it thoughtful.







Skinning out the head took a while; the hide didn't seem to want to stretch over the neck base of the skull so I had to make an extra cut and finesse it a bit.  Here are a couple shots of the nose and lips, pre-splitting.







I went inside to clean out the legs and was promptly informed  by Sarah that I absolutely STUNK.  So I showered, and came down to a lovely chicken dinner and martinis.  Sarah also built her first fire, which is somewhat of a triumph considering the trauma she's been recovering form since a fire claimed her home almost ten years ago.







After dinner we each had another cocktail and watched "Bringing down the House" to which I couldn't decide to be offended (more for the plot/script/fight scenes than the racial content) or amused.  We followed with some dessert cocktails and some Dr. Fart:



.



"I love trees, man. I'm a tree hugger."

Wednesday, 1/13/10:



Today I finished skinning my Merganser, and afterwards came the joy known as degreasing.  It's actually pretty cool; running the fatty skin along the wheel and watching it dissolve and fly away.  It gets tricky negotiating around any holes in the skin-they easily get caught on the wheel and the next thing you know there are feathers flying everywhere.  On the plus side, my hands feel luxuriously moisturized afterwards.







Cleaning up the machine reminds me of what liposuction must look like.



After degreasing comes the bath, comprised of a top-secret solution that only taxidermists are privy to.







The bird comes out of his bath, gets wrung out and tumbled in sawdust for a bit.  This fluffs the feathers back up.  I had to play doctor with mine before I stretched the skin over the mount, because he's broken his leg during his dying fall.  It was a delicate operation.







Now be a good boy and eat your medicine!!!







I am constantly reminded of plastic surgery...







Later on I went home, and did my usual hoop work-out routine.  We noticed that there were coyote tracks about twenty feet from the house and grew nervous about letting the cats out.  You know, after what happened to Daisy.  We even heard them howling later that night!







For dinner Sarah prepared the Venison with a cherry/apple chutney.  It was divine.  We also snacked on some deer and moose keilbasi that my instructor gave me.  It's great with a little mustard and cheese.



Day Two

We started the day off skinning deer heads; the two which belonged to the other student in fact.  We put the capes in the back room, salted them, and left them in a pile with the other skins to be sent to the tannery.



We then began working on our own pheasants.  Mr. B gasses the pheasants so the skin and feathers remain flawless, but it renders the meat inedible.  I'm dealing with the guilt of knowing this animal died just so I could make art out of it, and nothing more.  My morals are somewhat compromised but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for this education.  As I scrape meat off the bird skull with my fingernails, the smell of Dead permeates my nose and I force myself to like it.  I've never been too intimate with my meat, and in the past I've only used scalpels to cut specimen-never my bare hands.  I try to drink coffee while I work in a bizarre attempt to condition my stomach.  We learned today that when a skin isn't fleshed out and salted quickly enough the rot takes over and it really starts to stink.  These capes are called "spooks" and will taint the other skins.







Mr. B calls me "girl" when he comes by to check on my progress, always with a smile.  I think he has a soft spot for young women, particularly those who are easy on the eyes, so I embrace it.  I'll even be so bold as to say I might remind him just a bit of his granddaughter, whom is the apple of his eye.  He's also generous with the positive feedback which, in a scholastic setting, I am not accustomed to.



I rigged up my hoop in the barn when I got home, so I can practice aerials during the week.  Plus, I'm nowhere near a gym and the terrain isn't ideal for running outdoors, so this will basically be my sole source ofexcercise.  Unfortunately by the time I figured out what beam to use as a rigging point, and how to get up there, then actually hung it, it was too dark to use.  I went inside and did some yoga in front of a fire insteadwhile I watched "Donkey Skin" on DVD.  It's the only movie I brought up with me, and it has inspired me to only speak seulement en francais while I'm alone in the cabin with the cats.
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