Diamond Tooth Taxidermy

Exquisite Taxidermy Art and Design

© 2013 Diamond Tooth Taxidermy
Stacks Image 109

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:



Just the Skull, Please

Meet Z the Pitbull.  His humans had planned ahead as he was sick for some time, and brought him straight to me from the vet after euthanizing.  They just wanted the skull cleaned and articulated, the rest was up to me. 
Aside from burying skulls to let nature do the job, my experience in this department is limited to smaller creatures like rabbits and pheasants.  This was a more labor intensive job than I'd anticipated but nothing too difficult.  It really doesn't take any specific skill set to clean a skull, just a willingness to scoop brains out and get your fingernails really dirty underneath.


 After cleaning off as much muscle tissue and flesh as I could with a scalpel and my bare hands, I scooped the brain out with a fondue fork (also doubles as a rabbit ear splitter and cocktail stirrer when I'm in a pinch) and then boiled it for an hour to get the rest of the little bits to loosen up out of their crevices.


Round 2: Getting the rest of the little bits of (now boiled) brain out of the skull cavity,  You can see the bits and bobs in the photos above.  Everything must come out or, come Summertime, the client will have a very unpleasant surprise when flies start dropping their larva off at Camp Doggie Skull.



 There was still some stubborn matter hiding deep in the brain cavity so I reboiled, carefully (too much boiling can crack the bones, and if there is still oil and flesh on the bones it will soak into it, making it greasy.
 After the second boil I cleaned him off with a wire brush and used a needle to pick any little bits of anything hiding between those very serious looking teeth.

 After the last picking and poking, I soaked it in a bleach bath.  Bleach is not recommended for skulls, typically, unless its hair bleach.  I find that a very light mixture (1pt bleach to 10 or 12 pts water) works just fine for a finish and sanitation purposes.  Just keep your eye on it, take the skull out every 15 minutes or so to check progress. 





 Lastly, I drilled holes where the lower jaw met with the skull and articulated it with steel wire.  I left it long enough so that some movement would be possible.
 




Z's human came to get his skull last night and she was quite pleased.  I think this is a thoughtful and palatable option for pet preservation when having your whole buddy mounted just isn't a good fit.



Windsor

Meet Windsor, a 120 pound Akita who was the apple of a couple (probably more but I only met the two) humans' eyes.  When his time came to pass into the next dimension, they wanted to do something with the absolutely stunning coat he left behind, and that's where I come in.

Thia is actually my second pet preservation dog-hide-turned-rug commission, but my first employing the services of an industrial tannery.  My workload has reached the point that I can no longer tan everything in-house, and hand staking a hide to reach the level of suppleness you see in these photos is beyond cost-ineffective and insanely time consuming. 
So I ceded a portion of the workload (a significant step for anyone who knows me and my history of control issues) to a professional tanner and I couldn't be happier with the results.  I also got some rabbit hides done that I'll post about later.  For now though, just look at this magnificent beauty:


 That's a size 12 Men's cowboy boot to scale:
 



 He drapes like a dream!

 I think this is a fantastic alternative to getting a full life size mount in terms of pet preservation, and am happy to offer it on the regular starting now.  I know my client is happy; she looked perfectly natural with him draped around her as we spoke outside on this freezing, bitter night.  Her darling Windsor keeping her warm even in his afterlife.

 
Bye!

Tyrone

Meet Tyrone.
He is the very beloved member of a family in Ohio; his human contacted me over a year ago when she thought an other one of her dogs was on the verge of passing, however that pup recovered but then months later she reached out to me with the sad news that Tyrone had passed.



We made arrangements to have him shipped from his home to my studio, packed in a cooler with dry ice.  The little guy arrived safe and sound, and actually took several days to thaw out enough for me to begin any sort of work on him.


Tyrone was famous for his robust rear end.  It had a zip code of its own, I was informed.
And goodness, did it.  It's almost like someone fused two loaves of bread to this guy's backside.  Needless to say she wanted him in a pose that emphasized this physical attribute.
This was by far the most specialised form I've ever had to make; I made a mold of the actual head from his carcass, and made a cast of it, then went about adding copious amounts of bulk and adjustments to a prefab grey fox form I purchased online.





Tyrone had gotten some sort of surgery before he passed; the stitches were still so fresh when I got him that they didn't stay in the skin.  I did my best to recreate them on his chest as they were in life.  I think he may have died due to complications from this operation but I'm not sure.  I tend to let the humans give me this kind of information; most times the cause of death is simple old age.

That rump!



I don't do this for all my clients but I felt like Tyrone's human would appreciate a baculum charm made from his penis bone.  I threw it in as a thank you for her patience. 
 Thankfully she understood and appreciated the gesture.  And also didn't mind all the assorted animal hair in the jewelry box I sent it in!

So that's Tyrone.  He was a significant project for me and had a large presence in my studio.  It will feel a little empty without him for a while.


Tell Frankie I Said Hi: Secret 1st episode!

My amazing friend Carmen was gracious enough to let me interview her about being preggers for my first ever podcast, and she bore with me thorugh the bumps and whatnot.  After I get a little better at this podcasting process I'll get this operation up on itunes but for now I'm using soundcloud and this first one is on Podbean.  It's neat to hear Carm's pregant past self from a few weeks ago now that she's a new mom.   Give a listen, won't you?
CLICK HERE FOR EPISODE 1 OF TELL FRANKIE I SAID HI



Nieve


Say hello to Nieve.  Her name means snowflake in Spanish, and her human brought her to me not so much in the state of distress I've become accustomed to as I usually receive these pets freshly dead, but in a more eased disposition as she's had some time to deal with her little one's passing.
Nieve had been stored in the freezer for months and months while this woman searched for the right taxidermist to preserve her.  She brought her to me, still frozen looking just like this:


Nieve was an old gal, and quite thin by the time she expired.  The request was to have her in the exact pose as the one she held when brought to me, but I took some artistic liberty and put a more lifelike, relaxed element to her recline:

 I used a ready-made form that I had to aggressively alter, and made a carcass cast of the head since it's such a unique shape.  Here's a peek inside the mold:




 The end result is whopping success.  All this dog experience I have is starting to show, if you don't mind my saying so.

 I'm extremely proud of this mount, and the icing on the cake is that the client was thrilled.  I don't know if it will ever NOT be a nail biter (I'm in double digits with pet preservation mounts now and the nerves have not gone away) when I show the finished product to the pet owner.  They've projected so much emotion onto this little creature, just like I have  my own, and want to see the very best.


 Thankfully that's just what I provide.


 Sweet dreams, Nieve.







VINTAGE POST: MY FIRST DOG

My orders for pet preservation always seem to come in flurries, and I'm in the midst of one right now. Since I've reached double digits in terms of the number of dogs & cats (and a couple exotic pets!) that I've worked with, I thought I would reflect back on my very first one, Elke, who not only was a delight to work with but won me several accolades over the years,
Just so you know, it never gets easier, emotionally.

 

 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Man's best friend

I've never owned a dog, yet I feel a connection with them which compels me to stop at dog parks and slobber at the sight of the happy creatures leaping and bounding, exploding with happiness.  When a friend contacted me recently to inform  me about a friend of his whose dog had just passed, and would I be interesting in collecting the body, I jumped at the chance.  The dog, 14-year-old black and white rat terrier, died in her sleep on Saturday and I picked her up on Sunday.  It was a most unusual way to meet someone but the owner, a lovely woman with two children and a chef husband, was graceful and composed so I followed her lead.  The dog was on her deck, on ice and in a blanket.  I kept her in the bags and then loaded her into a large IKEA carrier sac for transport.  I had imagined that the specimen would be much smaller but when the weight and size of this one hit me, it became apparent I had to take a cab home.  Slouched in the back seat of a taxi, I leaned against my cargo and caught a whiff of some early decomposition odor.  Still hung over from the night before, the smell made me gag a bit and I wondered just how infuriated the driver would be if he knew what I'd brought into his car.  At moments like this it hits me, how bizarre and twisted my little world might appear from the outside.  So much of my time is spent retrieving dead things and carting them around in my messenger bag, then stashing them in my freezer.  Sometimes I wonder if there are hundreds of little ghosts drifting around the house that make my cats go bananas.  To some, I'm sure this seems sick.  However, this is my normal, and I simply forget that people might see me as a very disturbed individual until quiet times like this in which I occupy a tight space with a dead dog I've never met and a man driving  a cab who I'll most likely never meet again.



It turns out there was no room in the freezer for Pooch so I skinned her upon getting home.  The enormity of what I was about to do didn't hit me until I pulled her out of the bag.



Her collar was still on.



I started weeping and just stared at her, wondering if I could do it.  I get teary and cry a bit with almost every animal I skin, but this was different.  It was if I could feel all the love which had been poured into this creature for the last 14 years, and the profound role this four-legged little girl had had with her humans became clear.  I fondled  the paw pads a bit, imagining them padding around the wooden floor just a few days before.  I was a little bit afraid she wasn't completely dead (I always am, it's my worst fear that I'll make an initial cut and suddenly my specimen will come back to life, panicked and crazed) but the bloat in her stomach made it quite clear.  I burned some incense, said my little prayer and got to skinning.







It was an intense, emotionally wrought experience.  One interesting part was when I came across what I'm guessing is a tracking device that was implanted between the shoulder blades.  Aside from that, nothing too different from skinning a coon or a fox.  After I had the carcass completely separated, I marveled at how we're all just skins.  No one would ever recognise this naked corpse as a beloved pet.







For reference, this is a picture of the breed which I worked with.  Out of respect for the dog and her owners I chose not to take any pictures of the corpse.  I got my measurements and that's all I needed.  I hope to do her justice.



Pumpkin

Back in January I received an email from a grieving woman about her dog whom had just passed away. I always get a pang in my heart upon opening these messages, along with a sense of urgency.  In these cases, it's most likely an unexpected death and the person is unlikely to have the room or desire to accommodate a corpse in their freezer.

Meet Pumpkin:



 Pumpkin was/is the dearly loved Chow/German Shepard mix rescue dog of a young woman who was absolutely heartbroken the day I met her.  It's emotionally taxing to meet new people under these circumstances but rewarding just the same, in that I feel a sense of honor in being entrusted as a steward of sorts of the creature in which this human has poured so much emotion into.  Also as someone who has struggled with vulnerability and allowing others to see me in that state, I feel a genuine sense of respect and compassion for the people coming to me in a state of grief.  I've always been a highly sensitive and compassionate person and these moments are what remind me that we are all made one way or another for a reason.
 
As I'm sure you may have guessed, there are no off the shelf mannequin heads available for purchase in likeness of this specific dog breed.  One feature in particular that would be important to recreate was the fleshy jowls and his goofy smile.  My best bet was a carcass cast.

Here is the silicone mold I made using Pumpkin's head:

I cut it into two parts, took the head out, joined the halves back together into a container and poured the expanding foam inside.  After peeling the silicone away I was left with a perfect cast of Pumpkin's head:

 This would be the manikin for the mount.  From there it was a matter of setting the eyes, making ear liners, adding clay to the right parts and getting the expression just right.


Thankfully I was provided with dozens of pictures as reference material and was able to recreate his happy, sort of silly and completely lovable expression fairly well.  I'm especially happy with the eyes.



 She wanted the hide tanned as a rug as well; this coat was too beautiful to let go:

 


Most of the clay went into modeling the jowls:



And just for fun here's an underneath shot:




See you later, Pumpkin.  It was a true honor to work with you. 


BONE ZONE

Please enjoy these shadowy and spooky pictures I took with my untrained eye and hand of this dog baculum necklace.  It was a rainy day and I was too depressed to turn on any lights, really.  I do think the occulty vibe really translates though. 



This is a dog penis bone that I embellished with a swarovski crystal and matched with assorted vintage necklace parts to make a new piece.  A client purchased it; I have yet to hear any reviews.  I hope its bringing her beaucoup bon juju.
There's really not much else to say about dog dick charms.  I love them, maybe you do to.

Adios and hola Hector

Meet Hector:







About two months ago I got a frantic call from a woman who spoke very little english but found my info on Yelp after her chihuahua's sudden death and her subsequent decision to have him preserved.  Pair her muy poqueno English with my very limited Spanish and you get one very stilted conversation.  I was able to text my address to her so she could have it in writing and when she dropped off her little guy she was so upset.  Because of the language barrier, my usual line of questioning in which I feel out the client to suss out if this is really something she wants done (or are they making a grief induced, regrettably rash decision) and tenderly discuss options in regard to poses, all the while trying to provide some comfort- all that went out the window.  Payment options and pricing were sorted out immediately and I acted out several posing options on the floor since I was caught off-guard without any photo examples.







She expressed to me that she wanted Hector in the pose you see above, since that's how he would sit on the window sill and wait for her to come home from work each day.











Unfortunately she had not one photo of Hector to give me a better idea of his facial expression and sadly, didn't tell me that he was always smiling with his giant row of teeth exposed.  When she came to pick him up yesterday, although she was pleased with the work and wanted to take a stack of business cards so that she may pass them onto her employers ("white people crazy for their pets" -guilty as charged!) I could tell she was disappointed that Hector wasn't wearing his trademark grin.  I'm saddened over this but there is nothing I can do at this point.  I never thought to ask, she never thought to tell.  I have to chalk it up to the learning process and in the future keep this feature in mind.







Another feature which is new to me is genitals.  Sure I deal with them every time I skin something but this was the first time I tackled the job of mounting them.  Okay, deep breath, lets shake off our fourth grader giggles right now before I proceed.



.............................



Alright.  So, due to this pose with legs spread and belly exposed, there was no avoiding the genitals. A blank spot would just seem bizarre. So, I mounted my first dog penis and testicles. It was surprisingly easy once I shook off the pervy feelings in my head over handling something I would most likely never touch in any other circumstance.







But that's something I love about my craft.  It's a never-ending string of unusual circumstances that keep me out of that mundane trance life can lure you into, which can make some people forget they're alive.  I have never felt more alive than when I'm dealing with death.







Adios, Hector.  It was great working with you.

Bill Bill

 



A few months back I received an email from a grief-stricken woman whose dog Bill Bill had just passed away.  She wasn't sure what she wanted to do with him, but she just knew part of him, at the very least, should be preserved.  Looking at the photo she sent me, above*, it's no wonder.  That is hands down the kind of coat a taxidermist (or anyone who appreciates beautiful animals) will just drool over.



Sorry if that sounds crass but I mean it with the utmost respect.  That's the tricky thing about working with pets; I'm currently in the middle of my sixth custom pet project and in each of these cases I'd never met the deceased beforehand.  I do my best to handle the "drop off" with all the sensitivity I can, but ultimately my taxidermist brain is looking at a specimen.  I've never seen this animal animated, living.  When the time comes to decide how to handle the death of my own beloved pet children, I suppose I will truly be able to see both sides.



Until then, however, I instead strive to truly connect with the bereaved human.  It's a humbling honor when a total stranger comes to me in such a vulnerable and saddened state; as someone who has often wondered exactly where my "nurturing chip" is (I have yet to hear one tick of my phantom biological clock and have never connected with infants- I even found the neediness of my puppy irksome before she grew into a more defined young ladypup) it's profoundly validating to connect with these other humans in a nurturing fashion, where I really feel like I can use whatever it is within me to help this person heal.



Even as I type these words I think of what people might say- "it's just pet taxidermy, Beth.  You're not curing cancer."  Duh.  I totally know that.  But the feelings my clients have are real and cannot be discounted.  The connections I make with these people can never be taken away, just like the ones they've made with their pets.  When it's all said and done, our connections to each other, places, things, etc, will always exist, and however we choose to hold onto them is our right to pursue.







Bill Bill still had his collar on which always makes things extremely real for me, but it's not as hard as it was that first time with Elke.  My client decided on a sweet little dreamy dog sleeping pose and it came out exactly as I'd hoped.







The final product is a little bit more petite than the original specimen due to a small but manageable lack of fur.  Bill Bill had been sick before his passing and almost all the fur on his underside had been shaved off.  Also, the poor guy had lost his tail.  Lucky for him, he had a human who cared very much for him.







My client and her daughter came by my new studio today to pick him up, and both were quite pleased.  I'm still at the stage in my confidence level where I get the jitters before a piece gets picked up, hoping my work will be deemed acceptable.  So far no complaints!







Here's the view from the back.  I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed working with this gorgeous coat.







And gorgeous dog, gorgeous client and family, etc.  Great spirits and charm all around!







It was great working with you Mr. Bill Bill.  Sweet dreams.



 



 



*the photo of Bill Bill I attempted to include in this post is apparently in some format that won't translate so you'll have to take my word for it.

I have one thing to say:

You'd better work.



And voila:  Here's Elke 2.0, in all her glory.



*



Shiny.



*



Feather detail.



*



So coy:



*



Up next is Grazyana, also on a pillow.  I like exploring unique environments for my pieces; I think using fabric communicates a sense of luxury that I associate these particular works with.



*



To the left.



*



Those are real pearls.



*



Her veil is gathered into a bustle in the back, secured with the head of an antique hairpin.



*



sashay, chantay.



*Photo credits: Jim Coughlin

Triumphant!

I have returned from Brooklyn a winner...in so many ways.  The entire two day experience was a blast, the crowning moment obviously being when I was presented the title "Best in Show" at the Carnivorous Nights taxidermy contest.  The evening was a cavalcade of awesome, however, beginning with arriving at the venue and peeking at the other entries.  I felt very timid and nervous, not having any idea how this whole thing was to go down, and lying on the presentation table backstage were some pieces that I would embarrassingly refer to many times that night as "stiff competition".  (Could've been the one too many cocktails to steel my nerves or my complete lack of wit, take your pick).



Melissa Milgrom, author of Still life, adventures in taxidermy, opened up the evening with a brief chat and I was hanging on her every word.  Even though I'd read the book and all that she described was somewhate familliar to me, I always admire a decent public speaker.



Mike Zohn, host of Discovery Channel's new show "Oddities" was the key-note speaker and I loathe to admit that his speech was lost on me because at that point my nerves were starting to get the best of me.  My hands were shaking and I was trying to go over my presentation in my head while fighting off the near-crippling fear that I would say something stupid. Thankfully I was seated next to my dear friend Thea who brought her recording equipment and was producing a piece about the event.  I look forward to listening to her material so I can refresh myself on what I may have missed. Behind me was Daisy Tainton, who I traded quips with throughout the evening.  She specialises in insects and snark.  Seriously, her presentation has me spraying red wine out my nose.  In fact, I found most of the contestants to be quick with a joke and very humorous.  I, on the other hand, was possibly just the right combination of awkward, sad and sweet.



Here I am describing my first entry, Elke 2.0.  She was the beloved rat terrier to a local Philadelphia family for 14 years before she passed recently in her sleep.  I spoke of getting the call from a friend about the friend I was about to meet, and my trepidatious handling of the manner.  Basically what I tried to convey (and I believe reached everyone present) is my undying, unconditional love for animals and my goal to treat them with utmost respect after death. It was slightly emotional.







 



Next to Elke 2.0 is Grazyana, a Polish hen which belonged to another friend of mine.   I buy fresh eggs from him whenever they're available and this little gal didn't make it to laying age.  She was petite and so special; I imagined her as a Princess Bride.







 



On my head is a piece composed of a Selama hen, also a donation from my chicken master pal.  I basically mounted her in a position which would hug her to my scalp, with a wing fashionablly covering one side.  Lately I've been inspired by the beauty of feathers and how the dermis can be manipulated into different positions which accentuate this natural beauty.  I'm enjoying the attempt to mount creatures in ways that would not be found in nature.







 



 



Winner!  I went out to celebrate with my gracious hosts that night and celebrated until 3am.  I woke up exhausted but still elated.  Thankfully that elation stayed with me, through my ten block walk down 7th ave (after getting dropped off at Penn Station instead of 42nd street) while clutching a giant trophy and 3 foot long box of taxidermy sculpture, as well as my navigation of the Broad Street line and subsequent walk home from the station.







There were several impressive write-ups covering the event including a piece in the NY Times, and the Wall Street JournalDrew Anthony Smith is a photographer I met who took some really terrific pictures of the event several blogs covered the night's festivities quite nicely.  I suggest reading these (Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire, Pink Slip, Stars and Garters, Big Bad Bald Bastard, to name a few) for more coverage on the other contestants since every entry was fantastic and I'm only telling my own story here.

Man's best friend

I've never owned a dog, yet I feel a connection with them which compels me to stop at dog parks and slobber at the sight of the happy creatures leaping and bounding, exploding with happiness.  When a friend contacted me recently to inform  me about a friend of his whose dog had just passed, and would I be interesting in collecting the body, I jumped at the chance.  The dog, 14-year-old black and white rat terrier, died in her sleep on Saturday and I picked her up on Sunday.  It was a most unusual way to meet someone but the owner, a lovely woman with two children and a chef husband, was graceful and composed so I followed her lead.  The dog was on her deck, on ice and in a blanket.  I kept her in the bags and then loaded her into a large IKEA carrier sac for transport.  I had imagined that the specimen would be much smaller but when the weight and size of this one hit me, it became apparent I had to take a cab home.  Slouched in the back seat of a taxi, I leaned against my cargo and caught a whiff of some early decomposition odor.  Still hung over from the night before, the smell made me gag a bit and I wondered just how infuriated the driver would be if he knew what I'd brought into his car.  At moments like this it hits me, how bizarre and twisted my little world might appear from the outside.  So much of my time is spent retrieving dead things and carting them around in my messenger bag, then stashing them in my freezer.  Sometimes I wonder if there are hundreds of little ghosts drifting around the house that make my cats go bananas.  To some, I'm sure this seems sick.  However, this is my normal, and I simply forget that people might see me as a very disturbed individual until quiet times like this in which I occupy a tight space with a dead dog I've never met and a man driving  a cab who I'll most likely never meet again.



It turns out there was no room in the freezer for Pooch so I skinned her upon getting home.  The enormity of what I was about to do didn't hit me until I pulled her out of the bag.



Her collar was still on.



I started weeping and just stared at her, wondering if I could do it.  I get teary and cry a bit with almost every animal I skin, but this was different.  It was if I could feel all the love which had been poured into this creature for the last 14 years, and the profound role this four-legged little girl had had with her humans became clear.  I fondled  the paw pads a bit, imagining them padding around the wooden floor just a few days before.  I was a little bit afraid she wasn't completely dead (I always am, it's my worst fear that I'll make an initial cut and suddenly my specimen will come back to life, panicked and crazed) but the bloat in her stomach made it quite clear.  I burned some incense, said my little prayer and got to skinning.







It was an intense, emotionally wrought experience.  One interesting part was when I came across what I'm guessing is a tracking device that was implanted between the shoulder blades.  Aside from that, nothing too different from skinning a coon or a fox.  After I had the carcass completely separated, I marveled at how we're all just skins.  No one would ever recognise this naked corpse as a beloved pet.







For reference, this is a picture of the breed which I worked with.  Out of respect for the dog and her owners I chose not to take any pictures of the corpse.  I got my measurements and that's all I needed.  I hope to do her justice.



See More Posts…

Back to the top of the page