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:



Fur Lovers, this one is furrrrr EWE.


Meet Kifli the cat, she is the mascot to my Transylvania life.  Here she is pulling her best calendar kitty pose amongst a bed of sheep and rabbit furs.


In the last 15 months my life has taken me into a direction leading to all things Hungarian.  This can be traced to the Hungarian man I met and fell head over heels in love with who lives in a small city near Brasov in Transylvania.  It's technically in Romania but for all intents and purposes the people, animals, and culture I am discussing here are strictly Hungarian.  
When driving around over there it's impossible not to see herds of sheep from the road.  Shepherds and the flocks they maintain are a major part of the culture and traditions in Transylvania.  Sheep are raised for meat, cheese and fiber products; many villagers, during the Spring and Summer months, will send their sheep off with professional herders who tend to them and take them over vast green spaces to graze.  The villagers know that their animals are well cared for and when the shepherds bring them back they also get some cheese!  
I'm oversimplifying this two way relationship and how beneficial it is to all parties involved, including the land.  To read more, check out this very elegantly worded piece written by Paul White on his website Wild Transylvania: Walking with Shepherds.


The man who brought me to this enchanting part of the world has familial ties to sheep keepers, butchers, and even the tanners.  Through my visits with him I've gotten to see (as well as smell, touch and taste!) parts of this full circle first hand.  Here are some hides I brought back from my last trip:



Now let me back up to my trip.  Here is the view from the courtyard at the tannery.  It's run by a family near Brasov and they live on the premises which are deceptively sprawling.



One of the hide rooms. This guy is busy.  Cows, wild boars, sheep, goats, rabbits, all byproducts of food sourcing.  


More hides.  You may notice some non traditional game furs here and there, like fox and mink, beaver, etc.  I'm honestly not sure if those specimen are used for food or not (in the U.S. it's frowned upon to eat some of these critters but I know in parts of the world fox meat is completely acceptable) so I am choosing to focus on the sheep, as this is what I have become somewhat intimate and familiar with.


Part of the tannery serves as a sewing and crafting studio for manufacturing hats and garments.  As you will see, sheepskins are ubiquitous in this part of the world, and for good reason:it gets really, really cold in Transylvania.  Therefore sheepskins are on car seats, work seats, beds, floors next to beds, couches, basically anything you put your butt on.  And they work!  I am amazed at the heat one hide can generate when sat upon.   This is also why they make such good hats and coats.



Another sewing machine in his studio, also with a seat covered in sheepskin.  You may notice there is no shortage of appreciation for the female form here.  



Hat blocks for days.  A multidisciplinary Renaissance man, this one.



Some examples of his millinery craftsmanship:


Shop cats:



A leather sewing machine, the type which I have been coveting since my first trip over there last year.  These heavy little wizards make joining fur and leather into tidy little seams a snap.  



Needless to say, I have been completely overwhelmed with inspiration and the timing couldn't be more ideal as I've been wanting to take my craft, and Diamond Tooth, into a more luxury fur goods direction.  While I've stepped back somewhat from all the taxidermy I was once so immersed in I've had time to recalibrate my thoughts on what part of creating brings me pleasure, and I'm exploring the joys of tactile art.  I love working with materials that are nice to touch and have always been intoxicated by the feeling of fur on my skin.  Perhaps this is the time to explore more luxury home goods pieces, along with the couture hats, bags and wearables I have made my mark with.    All this is to say I brought home an entire suitcase full of fur and have listed a few for sale on my Etsy page.  I am also going to create a queen sized bed set (bed spread and two pillows) out of sheepskin and see what kind of interest it generates.  Stay tuned!













 For now, if you're keen on having a piece of an age old Hungarian tradition in your own home, please don't hesitate to check out these items I've listed for sale now, like this lush black hide:
Black Tsigai Sheep on Etsy






Or this soft as a cloud Butter Pecan Hide:


 Maybe Chocolate Spots suit your home better:


 Perhaps a small Oreo Crumble hide for your child's bed:






 Try not to take your clothes off and roll around on this cream and coffee spotted hide:



These last two hides aren't for sale; they were gifted to me by my new in-laws and may be subject to future colorant experimentation!



 If solid creamy white is your preference, I got you covered there too:




Happy grazing!



A Baculum for her and a Talon Charm for her!

 Here's just a couple pictures of a custom Baculum I made for a friend; she wanted something to incorporate with her 3-D printed diamond charm so voila:
 She also commissioned me to make a piece of "junior couture taxidermy" for a friend of hers who was just ready to dip her toe into the wearable taxidermy world.  I thought a shortened starling foot would be ideal, as it's not too explicit.  It's clutching some vintage beads and embellished with a poof of repurposed mink fur.
 I couldn't resist housing it in a ring box that I'd lined with the same fur:
 Have a nice day!



Ciao Ciao

Arriving in my studio from Italy by way of Philadelphia import, this Borsalino hat is a classic.  I received it from a painter in my building and held onto it until inspiration struck.  I love men's hats, I love men IN hats, but I also find designing for them to be challenging.  Us gals can get away with anything, in my opinion.  Men still seem to be held up to certain gender expressive fashion standards and are subject to judgment in a sense that women just aren't.  Perhaps one of the only ways we aren't.
This is all simply to say that I proceed with caution with men's accessories.  Usually.  Who am I kidding, I've only made like three men's pieces in my life.  Who cares?
I grabbed this hat and wove my couture taxidermy wand over it to create something for the type of man (or woman) who would want exactly what I made. And voila:





 I felt inspired last week to dig a raccoon tail off a hide I'd skinned, fleshed and tanned months ago and sew it on.  I accented it with a burst of chicken feathers and a small vintage gem.



 While it is technically a men's hat, it's on the small side (size 7&1/8) so it fits a more petite noggin.  Of course ladies look good in these hats (see what I mean?  We can wear anything) as demonstrated by my lovely model here:




 And here's many more photos of this hat in case you didn't get a clear idea yet:







 Listing on etsy now!

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!

Lamb Fetus Hat, proper.

 I finally got around to shooting my lamb fetus hat, now that it's back from Maryland. Unfortunately I had some issues with the flash and I'm not a very skilled photographer so the pictures are somewhat lackluster.  I'm still sewing the lining into it, which I'll post photos of later, with these, when I list the piece on etsy. For now, though, I wanted to share this very special little gem with you.




























ORKA


 http://thefarmershusband.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/img_0815.jpg


This is Orka, the beloved sheep of my dear friends Bailey and Thomas who write on the blog The Farmer's Husband. 
She passed away during a complicated pregnancy; you can read all about it here.
If you are at all familiar with me or my work, you know I source almost all my specimen from this farm.  They take their work very seriously, just as I do, and do their best to be sure all their animals travel through life and death with the dignity and respect they deserve.

This past weekend my two favorite farmers in the whole world got married, and as a gift I mounted Orka for them.  Here's her horns on the sheep form I got from Mckenzie's:

Since she had to be put down via shotgun shot to the head, there were some realignment issues when it came to anchoring the horns to the form.  I did my best.  There were also some alterations I had to make since this is the form of a different breed of sheep.

 

That's what skin looks like when it's initially put over the form, in case you are not a taxidermist and were wondering.


And this is what it looks like after the skin is lined up, stapled, sewn, pinned, poked and coaxed into place.  Taxied, if you will, hence the term "taxidermy".


And now I'm feeling the rush of cold blood coursing through my head and down to my fingertips as I realise I have been spelling this creature's name wrong THE ENTIRE TIME. So that there above is her name, misspelled.    My husband Jim sanded and stained two pieces of reclaimed wood with a walnut ink he made himself from black walnuts.  He also did the hand painted lettering of her name.  I told him to spell it that way.
I am so mortified.


I included a plaid woven scarf since her head was cut off a bit close to the face and I wanted to have a long neck coming out from the plaque.  Also, it just looks really nice.
My apologies for the not so well lit and scant photos; we took them at an ungodly hour in the morning before hitting the road to get up to the farm for wedding prep.  This is why I should never rush.  It just doesn't suit me, my work or the choices I make.


But Orka's a good looking girl.  I'm happy with her, as were the grooms.  I'll get more photos the next time I visit, and maybe Jim can turn that C into a K.




Like a Soft, Furry Fairy Whispering in Your Ear:

I'm working on a line of ear cuffs, so far I have rabbit tails in stock but will have some fox tail tips soon.  All up on my etsy page or available for pick up at my shop.

 These photos aren't the greatest but I think the pieces speak for themselves.  I've been wearing one throughout the day lately and I find them delightfully cute, lightweight and fun to wear.
  Not only are they a superb ice breaker but if you're prone to the occasional fidgeting they serve as a perfect place for your fingers to play.


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.

It Takes Two to Make an Accident-


And what happy, delicious accidents you will make with these feathered partners in crime atop your head!



I've been working on this small collection of Gatsby-themed hair pieces since February, and have been having a challenging time trying to schedule a shoot with models and my photographer to properly catch them in their best light.  I'm leaving town again on another job though, and am feeling the pinch to broadcast these pieces out to the world since the weather's warming up, pretty hat season is upon us and the movie which inspired this line has now finally been released!  So I beg your pardon in regard to the glaringly unprofessional photography here, but I did manage to find two mute models who would work for free.  I will take better shots upon returning to the US but for now I think this gets the point across.  They're all lightweight and anchored with a metal headband or clip; this makes them easy to wear without needing any ninja bobby pin skills.  The security of a headband or spring clip allows the wearer to dance, drink, kiss, ride a bike, or even recline with ease and no worries about slippage or displacement.





The Angel:  Named simply for the shape and color of the chicken wings I used to create it.  I can picture it on a soft faced woman dancing with herself on the edge of the party, contrasted against the starry night in her cream dress.  





 The Carraway: This is a simple, no nonsense clip I named  after our story teller.  Understated and classy, this piece can easily slip into any party without raising the wrong eyebrows.


 



The Edie: Just because I imagine a deleted scene where the Grey Gardens gals crash a Gatsby party- in their early days, of course.  A somewhat conservative yet jaunty poof that rests on the side of the head with an antique Indian charm dangling from it:




Little Edie:






 The Myrtle: A netted fascinator for a fierce, strong woman who is adored by many but keeps all at bay.  There is a great deal going on under that cage veil...



 The Suzanne: A burst of feathers from the top of the head for a playful and engaging woman with a healthy sense of fun.  Named for Suzanne Roberts who helped me make this piece (filmed for an upcoming segment on her show "Seeking Solutions with Suzanne").






 The Daisy: Bold, striking and pursued by many.  Dripping with class.






 The Jordon: Also classy, but with a masculine flair. 




 The Jazz Hippie:  She's at every party, the one you have the most surprising conversation with while sharing the last dregs of a bottle at four in the morning.








 The jay:  Named after Gatsby himself, this piece is for a woman who demands to be seen.  Style level: Moderate to advanced- it takes an experienced woman to pull off this look.



 All of these will be listed on my etsy site upon my return next week.  For inquiries, purchase or rental please email diamondtoothtaxidermist@gmail.com

Happy Gatsbying!

VINTAGE POST: LADIES TEA & HAT COMPETITION AT DEVON


Devon Horse Show LaYDEEEES day: 2012 edition

Early Wednesday morning my friend Mearah swung by to primp and prep for our first Ladies Tea at Devon. Neither of us had attended such an event but thankfully it was the first one of its kind  so all of us were excited about having no expectations.  Upon arrival we’d be meeting my other friends Beth, Claudia and Sharilyn who all were kind enough to be my hat models for the day.  We arrived in time for the contest and “parade” and while Caron Kressley was not in attendance (he did so adore my duck hat from 2010, poo) I managed to hit it off with Bill Henley who made for a great consolation prize.  We paraded ourselves in front of the judges and Diamond Tooth emerged victorious, placing fourth among excellent company.
Image from the magnificent Susan Scovill
I of course chose to wear an entire Guinea Hen on my head which, being the most in-season option my butcher could provide, made for a sensational dinner as well as a fun hat.
photo by Brenda Carpenter, http://brendacarpenter.com/
You will see this same hen make a guest appearance in a few weeks as part of a short video profile about taste makers in Philadelphia: she was a dream to work with.  Absolutely no drama.   But I digress.  I fasbricated some new, and sourced some classics for the rest of my gal pals ranging from tastefully conservative to somewhat more exotic.  When I’m not crafting my own hat bases for my pieces, I pair up antique hats gifted to me or sourced from flea markets that I collect.  Along with all the trinkets I collect from the street, it’s profoundly rewarding to marry up materials after having held onto them so long.  Of course, what I’m doing is certainly nothing new or that shocking- I just hope that I can do the legacy of high society ladies from the late 1800s justice with my interpretation of their taxidermy hat fashion. I do understand that taxidermy is not for everyone, as I’ve said many times.  How boring would the world be if we all had the same tastes?  Lucky for me I was in the presence of some classy, kind and open-minded ladies.
Thank you Susan Scovill!
As you can see, my ladies and I had a great time.  Beth, on the left, is wearing the Prairie Chicken Hat from my website while Claudia sports a gorgeous Bantam rooster saddle mounted on a vintage brown velvet beret.  Next is Mearah with a rehabbed vintage blue cap with a rooster wing and glass charms affixed to it. I couldn’t find any shots of all of us together but here is Sharylinn (below, center) wearing a fascinator I made from (tada!) more Guinea hen feathers and some antique cage veiling.  It’s hard to see but some rooster tail feathers are peeking out here and there as well, plus assorted gems:

After we did a little winners’ photo trot, the whole gaggle of us headed across the grounds to the Ladies’ tea, of which my friend Jen McGowen did a sensation job planning.  I was actually on the planning committee with a dozen or so other women, but spreading the word and promotion was about the extent of my planning.  Jen seemed to shoulder the bulk of managing this event with the grace and panache of the Fresian horses I was drooling over later that same day.   Once under the tent we ran into some old friends and made new ones.  I was making every attempt to visually memorize all the beautiful dresses and shoes I saw:
Again, thank you Susan Scovill
I could sit and watch pretty ladies, dressed up and socializing for hours.  Sometimes I still feel slightly intimidated as my financial status does not allow me to dress in much aside from second-hand or hand-made, but seeing as one cannot buy style, it levels the playing field for me a bit.  Not like I needed it: these ladies are all so kind and friendly and sociable it just makes for a truly enjoyable and uplifting experience.  It warms the cockles of my heart to see a great group of women from assorted backgrounds coming together to not only sip champagne and nibble cucumber sammies (my FAVE) but also to simply enjoy each other, our health, and how amazing life is that it allowed us to spend such a luxurious morning together.  Just look at these happy faces!  I kind of fell in love with the three ladies in cream in the left of this photo.  I didn’t actually learn their names but they were a dream team.
Photo from Constant Contact
After the tea wrapped up, a few of us stayed back to soak up some pony action.  Ladies side-saddle is a perennial favorite of mine to watch, and this year I caught some of the Fresian dressage (I could be wrong and probably am- it looked kind of like dressage but not quite.  The riders wore top hats and brightly colored coats, and in one event the horses pulled them in little chariots!).  Of course I need to bone up of my pony facts but I do absorb a thing or two from other spectators who are generous enough to share their knowledge with me.  Example: there is an entire industry which manufactures hair extensions for horses!

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).

My, what large...3D printed antlers you have!

Another fun Christmas commission I can now write about (recipient is pleased, no spoilers, etc) involved a collaboration between myself and another very accomplished jeweler named Doug Bucci.  Mr. Bucci's first role in my life was that of teacher: he taught my stone-setting class in college.  Being as Philadelphia is a small city and the artistic community a tightly woven one, Doug and I have loosely kept tabs on one another throughout the years, along with most of my other jewelry school survivors.   It felt like a war, sometimes, and we have the PTSD to prove it.



BUT.  I digress. Doug and several others in my jewelry clique have moved onto the art of 3D printing. An example of Doug's outstanding work in the CAD arena:







 



Despite the fact that my studio-mate owns and operates one of these crazy newfangled things in the space we share together (I have seen it work with my own eyes), I cannot wrap my mind around this phenomenon.  I don't quite care to.  I'll let my hands do the talking and leave the techno stuff to the experts.  However, I am quite happy to endorse, receive and benefit from the articles produced by these machines.  (Have you seen me sporting my Loop Hoop earrings by the amazing Maria Eife?)



 



Loop Hoop Earrings  by Maria Eife



 



Imagine my excitement then, when Doug approached me about making a jackalope using antlers designed & printed from this technology.  This piece was to be a gift for his daughter and I was instantly smitten with the idea of not only a dad commissioning such a cool piece but also contributing his own talents.    He designed, printed and cleaned up the antlers, brought them to me and I got smurfin'.



front work in progress



These days I always seem to have at least one rabbit head (and feet, skin, etc for that matter) in my freezer, compliments of my boys at the Farmer's Husband.  I thawed one out, cleaned his skull and built a form around it with clay.  The antlers were deliberately large; we thought an exaggerated look would be fun.  After all, this creature doesn't exist naturally so why not make it as fantastical as possible?  This thought process is Rogue Taxidermy at its best, in my opinion.



underneath work in progress



I was nervous about supporting the weight of these bad boys on my rabbit's head but I drilled holes through the skull and wired it up.  Success.



 



profile in progress



I got swept up in a Victorian theme, leather & lacing the shit out of this thing.  Much to my delight, I might add.



full slight left



I used grey fox eyes instead of the anatomically correct hollow black glass ones to give him more personality.



I'm a terrible photographer and this piece, due to its dimensions, was difficult to capture.  These photos are disappointing to me but I suppose they get the point across.



profile left



He's snarling.  Those are the rabbit's actual teeth.



right turn



And that's Jackelope.

Tryin' to get a nut to move your butt.

Here's some photos of a fun piece I was commissioned to do for a friend this Christmas.  Apparently his lady friend has a disdain for squirrels (I'm hearing of this more and more; are squirrels taking over the city?  Do you all have any idea how tasty they are?  No kidding...) and seeing a stuffed one under her tree channeling some devil vibes seemed to be the ultimate gift.



 



 



face



So here's the little scamp mounted on a piece of garland, stealing a glass ornament.  Devil horns and all.



above



I took some liberty with the eyes; obviously in nature squirrels do not look like this.  But when touched with the evil stick, some artistic interpretation is welcome, I'm sure.  Also, these peepers are antique hand-crafted glass eyes that I've been looking to use for ages.



full left



 



Man, he looks pissed.



 



left



Merry Christmas!

Every critter has enough brains to tan its own hide.

Or so my friend of American Indian descent used to say.  It sounds cool but once the image of a giraffe pushes ts way to the front of your mind you start to wonder.



But I'm not tanning giraffes, so for all intents and purposes this adage sticks.  Here is the story of my dip into the practice of tanning hides with a paste made from the brain of whatever specimen I HAVE skinned.  I used rabbit, raccoon and possum, to varying degrees of success.  There are plenty of references available online; I used this one from Lifesong Adventures.



The first step is extracting the brain from the skull, which isn't for the well-manicured or easy-to-queasy set.  If you've ever blown your nose, and tried to coax out that mammoth yet elusive mucus orb hiding in your nasal passages, then you have a decent idea of what it's like to charm the brains out of a dead rabbit.







The brain matter is then mixed with water (preferably rain water according to experts which was funny because back when I was embarking on this journey I had rain water tricking into my studio on a daily basis through the roof and walls.  I just used spring water though), heated to a near boil and then cooled.  The resulting paste is what will be brushed on the raw hides of whatever it so be tanned.







It is recommended to brush any excess onto a towel, which is then laid onto the hide and rolled up within it for maximum soakage.  The little bundles are then stashed somewhere cool and safe overnight while the tan penetrates.







Here's mine the next day.  The smell was surprisingly light. Perhaps this is because it was October and there was a cold snap in Philadelphia- but actually, as I look closely at this photo above  I can see my two of my five little piggies that weren't cropped out of this shot meaning I was wearing sandals on this day.  So....I'm full of shit.  Brain tanning just isn't as odorous as one might think.



But I digress.  Once the skin is unrolled, the staking begins.  This means gripping the hide and rubbing it over a hard, blunt surface until it is completely dry.  This stretches and breaks down the fibers in the epidermis.







 



Behold a staked rabbit skin. It starts to have that store-bought garment-leather look, and feels just as luxurious.



Home brain tanners, however, be warned: staking is no joke.  I consider myself a rather fit human being and this activity left my arms and abs sore for two days.  It took me almost five hours to do three small pelt (as a beginner I maybe ought to have started with just one, but if should'ves and buts were candy and nuts...).  The thing about staking is, you can't stop once you start or else the hide dries hard and the entire process must be started all over again.







There are machines that do this nowadays for tanning at an industrial level, (I believe Mike Rowe attempted to use one in one of his Dirty Jobs episodes) and other brain tanners use frames and various tools to make the process easier but being as I was just working with such small specimen I didn't think it necessary.



My work chair is a lovely old trash picked work of art with a back just riddled with nooks and crannies.  I found this to be an ideal surface for staking. As you can see I rubbed the stain right off the darned thing. But just look at those yummy pelts!







After the hide is completely dry, it is smoked.  Again, there are various ways to do this but I opted for the super low maintenance method of laying them out over a screen strategically placed outside a wood burning stove.  The important thing is to use punky, wet wood- this will produce maximum smoke and that's what's needed to bond the oils of the tan into the skin and seal it up.  This makes the tan permanent in that should the hide get wet in the future, it will stay soft and not revert back to its original hard, rawhide state.



I left these on for an hour, rotating every ten minutes.







Now for the sewing!  I was commissioned by a contractor friend to create a fur jacket liner that would keep him warm and toasty during his cold weather work.  Side note: we wound up trading and I was treated to some MUCH NEEDED plumbing work in my bathroom.  I am now a convert of the barter system; it feels like I'm really sticking it to the man when I've momentarily suspended the need for stupid dollars while providing goods and receiving services.



I made a pattern from his denim jacket and used it to machine  sew a shell out of high-end padded wool.



side flip



inside denim full



with denim flip out



The fur, since it was in scrappy unusual shapes and I didn't want to waste any, was all completely hand sewn onto the shell.  Thankfiully my friend enjoys the little imperfections that make life interesting and doesn't mind the spots where my stitching is evident or the three little patches where I rubbed the hair off the pelts.  I took the liberty, ha, of covering one such spot with a patch.



fur side out



 



patch detail



The process took much longer than anticipated and left my fingers raw, but I actually love the meditative nature of hand-stitching.  I think spending quality time with my hands on a piece really transfers good vibrations into it and ensures that I'm passing along a product saturated in positive energy.



Case in point: look how toasty and pleased this guy is with his new vest!  (he opted to wear it inside out for this shot I took with my very state of the art heat-sensory camera; I suppose it is reversible).



whoa vest



So that was my first experience braining.  I am excited to employ this method more in the coming months; I have mittens, scarves and hats to produce!

This Little Light of Mine-

 



 



both front



Well, this little light of Harriett's, actually.  She's the 80 pound goat I took from my lovies up at The Farmer's Husband after she expired during childbirth.  I fashioned her hide & head into a rug which has turned into a rather complex project involving fiber optic lights and whatnot, and her feet have been spun into candle holders:



 



 



gem detail



 



Please pardon the waxy bits I forgot to dust off before photographing, I was too excited by how festive the red candles look with these hooves.



left then rear



These are just two of Harriett's four peds, I am in the midst of fashioning the other two into candle holders as well. I'm quite smitten with the idea of honoring this beloved goat with light.



 



 



sans sticks

Freshest Head and Neck Fruits from my Hand Labor

Last week the gorgeous and talented Pearl ( you've seen her beauty here, see her creations here: Pearl Bell ) braved the sweltering climes in my third floor studio along with photographer and all around hottie Jim Coughlin (blog here: Snap Bam Splat and follow him on Instagram too @jimsinspace ) to shoot my latest headgear.  I provided the champagne.



Behold!



The Pearl:







I blocked this green felt hat myself, and named it after Ms. Bell for the simple reason that wide brim hats remind me of her.  There's a taxidermy wing tucked into the brim and some of the feathers trail off on the side, complimenting the downward swoop of the hat.







I also incorporated a sparkly tennis bracelet from my mother's collection.







The Pomp:







Comprised of the very same chicken from the Pearl hat, this piece is a taxidermied mount dried to mimic the shape of a swooping pompadour.







The mount itself is affixed to a handmade millinery base that I lined with pink satin and blue lace trim, which serves as a point upon which the hat can be secured on the wearer's head with bobby pins or elastic.  I like to see it paired with a cage veil but it can also be worn alone.







The Frenchie:







A taxidermied wing is enmeshed into the ruffles of a vintage millinery base, a fun jaunty little number.







Secured to the wearer's head with an elastic band, it can provide hours of worry free dancing, drinking, laughing, etc.  Worn alone here it's a flirty little number but can be paired with a white cage veil for a stunning wedding piece.







The Carnival:







Named after a wild night in which this hat remained on my head for 8 straight hours of drinking, dancing, being chased by Mexican gangsters, etc,  this hat takes a licking and keeps....on your head.







Secured to the wearer's head with an elastic band, the focal point of this piece is a pair of deer antlers embellished with genuine Swarosvki set amethyst crystals that point dangerously close to the eye.  The base is an antique millinery piece upon which I have added a raccoon fur poof and some hand twisted crinoline.







The Bobby:







My obsession with visors is still going strong, this example being in a hand blocked blue felt cap with a taxidermy chicken swirled around to create a bird butt poof at the top.  The chicken is, of course, embellished with crystals.







Along with the practical purpose of visors reflecting glare, the not so secondary mystique element of a slightly veiled face cannot be denied.







Le Roth:







As it took shape, this hat started to channel a sort of David Lee Roth ala "California Girls" energy, but en peu more French.  A taxidermied rooster wing sits atop a vintage millinery base with a yellow visor.  The bird head is hollow, while the exterior is just dripping with crystals.  Take from that whatever symbolism you wish,







The Andrea:







My classic visor hat.  Raccoon fur lined with felt and embellished with a sweet little green velvet ribbon.  Perfect for eye sex across the slopes and a toasty tete.







The Duchess:







This hat is a mashup of several species: the base is an antique rabbit fur pillbox, and I added a yellow poof of gosling down along with assorted chicken, guinea hen and pheasant feathers.







Ideal for a post hunt dinner on the estate, or a stroll down the avenue with you best beagle.







The Ladyship:







I think this piece speaks for itself. I just adore it.  It commands respect and gives the wearer an air of dignified authority. The base itself was so stunning to begin with, all I could do was add to it.  So add I did- a patch of assorted feathers, some gold metal charms from my personal collection and a tassel I made from silk fringe.  For women only, no girls please.







 



 



El Gatador:







A super cute felt number, this is a seriously easy to wear piece that stays on the wearer's head thanks to an elastic band, and it extremely lightweight.  One of my favorites, it's made especially special with a swirl of black rooster on top and a repurposed (read: my old earcuff from '84) alligator charm serving as an anchor for a bouquet of turkey beard hairs.







Perfect for any occasion, in my opinion.







 



The Marie:







Inspired by my Maid of Honor, this is a very proper velvet halo with a taxidermy rooster wing and saddle affixed to one side and a generous amount of Swiss dot veiling.  If only I'd had this on my wedding day; she would've worn it perfectly.  It conveys class, stoicism and a tremendous amount of fun just below the surface.  For the gal who can conduct herself properly at an exclusive event and then share a cigarette in the alley with the staff five minutes later.







 



The Shannah:







Not for the faint of heart!  The centerpiece of this headdress is a mummified bunny corpse coated in clear lacquer and covered in gems.  He's holding chain reins and resting comfortable among the spider-like fur "arms" of this vintage mink millinery piece.  Can be worn alone or paired with a cage veil.







 



The Mearrah:







I was going for a flapper feel with this hat; again the base is a vintage millinery piece and I added a taxidermied wing plus miscellaneous feathers and gems.  Works great with slicked back hair or a curly mane.



 



 



The Isabella:







I wore the unfinished version of this to my opening at La Luz and it was a hit.  Seeing it finished, and on a model, it feels more like a tribute to the late Isabella Blow, hence the title.  It's a simple piece consisting of a taxidermied rooster dried in a shape which hugs the crown and points out at such an angle so as to keep simpletons at bay.



 



Foxy Fascinator:







A simple little ditty comprised of chicken feathers fanning out from a taxidermied fox nutsack.  Sorry to be crass but I quite enjoy the juxtaposition of something people tend to shy away from serving such a pretty purpose.  An excellent conversation piece.







 



Guinea Hen Necklace:



Taxidermied leg with fox fur poof, gold chains and an old charm from a church in Philadelphia.







Guinea Hen necklace with pearls:







Freak Mutant Rooster Leg Necklace:



That spur says it all.  Ideal for someone who really wants to thin the herd of idiots who talk to them daily. No canvassers will even try to get your attention when you're wearing this.







 



Jawbone continuous earrings:



Fun to wear, lightweight nad a nonstop conversation piece.











Jaw bone continuous chain earrings:



Same as above; the chain is aluminium so it's also very lightweight.











 



So that was an eyeful, right?  And there is still more in the works!  Please think in advance about your Fall pieces and order now, folks.



XOXO Diamond Tooth.

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.

Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog...

And pics of talons on my blog!



Feast your eyes, lovies, all of these voodoo talons are up for grabs!



 



Here's a two tiered chicken talon, appx 8":







 







 



Up next is a very large (apprx 9") specimen clutching a functional Barbie locket.  Perfect vehicle for love letters, or BFF notes...







 



 







 



Here we have a chicken claw holding a rainbow crystal charm.







 



It was difficult to catch the sparkles in the gem but this blurry shot kind of captures it:







 



Here we have a sweet little campy claw with a vintage beaded earring.







Again, I lit the piece from underneath to catch the razzle dazzle of the gem- this foot has a large CZ in its grasp:







 



A more vintagey looking talon holding an antique earring with metal globe details:







 



Fancy some chicken of the sea?  How about a chicken holding some pearly shells, with fur and pheasant detail?







 



Chicken with rabbit fur poof:







 



Chicken with mink fur poof:







 



Here's a not so common specimen with low reaching feathers growing down to its toes:







 



Want to be more charming?  This talon comes with beads and a fully functional locket on the small side, but could certainly hold a tablet of something magical...







Chicken, chicken, DUCK!







 



Metal horns, anyone?







 



Last and never least: my treasured Skeksie talon.  I lied earlier when I said these were all up for grabs; this one has been sold and is shipping out to NY later today.







 



 



If you see something you like, please email me directly at diamondtoothtaxidermest@gmail.com.  Otherwise they will all be posted on my etsy shop and website tomorrow.

Paws down, the best charm in town.

I recently was contacted by a lovely gal in Alberta, Canada about a custom rabbit's foot charm.  While I have been thinking about making these for over a year now (it seems so obvious), it took this request to get the ball rolling.  Now I'm excited to get more into production as they can be carried for good luck or hung from key chain, necklace, anything to be touched or held in times of stress, with the pleasant knowledge that every part of this creature was used.







While working on this piece, I did some light research (read: plugged the term "rabbit foot charm" into a search engine) and found out that the rabbit's foot served as a talisman way back in 600 BC when the Celts carried them as good luck charms.  There are specifications as to just what can count as a good luck amulet (according to Wikipedia):



  • First, not any foot from a rabbit will do: it is the left hind foot of a rabbit that is useful as a charm.


  • Second, not any left hind foot of a rabbit will do; the rabbit must have been shot or otherwise captured in a cemetery.


  • Third, at least according to some sources, not any left hind foot of a rabbit shot in a cemetery will do: the phase of the moon is also important. Some authorities say that the rabbit must be taken in the full moon, while others hold instead that the rabbit must be taken in the new moon. Some sources say instead that the rabbit must be taken on a Friday, or a rainy Friday, or Friday the 13th. Some sources say that the rabbit should be shot with a silver bullet, while others say that the foot must be cut off while the rabbit is still alive.




There is also the belief that rabbits are shape-shifting creatures which are actually witches.  So a rabbit's foot sourced under the conditions described above is actually the foot of a witch.



SO COOL!



Here is an absolutely gorgeous example of an old timey Victorian Rabbit's foot charm:



http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Rabbitsfoot.jpg



(Brilliant!)



 



While the foot I used is actually the front left foot of a rabbit that I'm betting was not shot in a cemetery, I believe  in taking the old rituals/lore and infusing them with new energy.  All my work is saturated with thought and emotion; I like to think that I'm filling each piece with positive energy which will then benefit whomever receives it.  And I actually admire witches so I hope this rabbit wasn't a shape-shifting lady...or else I fed her to my cats!  Trippy thought, cats eating witches.







 



 



 



 

Here's a hint....or seven

I did a search for a video with the word "hint" and this came up. Listen while you read; it's invigorating ( I think she's saying, "I love wearing taxidermed birds on my head Beth Beverly should be rich and famous by now she is a god in my heart"):











So I've lapsed a bit in my writing and for that I feel bad.  This tends to happen when I work on multiple projects all at once; there is a period of holing up in my studio and then a burst of online activity once it's all finished and photographed.  Another thing pulling at me in administrative issues.  Paperwork, licensing, biz shizz, etc.  It's time-consuming and profoundly mind numbing to me, but necessary.



So while I have no new pieces to report on, I have several works in progress, such as:







Can you guess what this mystery item is?  Come and see it and others like it at the Art Star Holiday Craft Bazaar next month!  Friday the 18th is the preview party; part with a few shekels and be the first to browse all the wares whilst sipping cocktails made with my favorite spirit, Root.  I'll also be peddling many of these:







and these:







Oh! and several pairs of these:







Along with these smaller trinkets I'll have fascinators, hats and brooches on hand so you, your roommate, your crush/lover/one night stand AND your mom will have something to fit them.  Be gifted!



Plus, I'll be debuting a very unique pair of  shoes.  Hint, hint:







Along with prepping for the bazaar, the PA Hunt Cup is next Sunday.  This is one equine event I have yet to dip my hooves into so I'm not sure what to expect, but you can bet I've got new hats in the works.  Fall themed, of course:











Speaking of hats, I've got two sweet ones, plus a brooch in the works for my next three Twenty4Twenty recipients.  One is a drag queen, another is an fitness goddess and the third is an accomplished and published huntress.  They are inspirations to me and  I get a kick out of their pieces living in my studio together while they come into their own.  Here's a hint of two:











On top of this, I've been forever preparing a custom form for my favorite client's cat.  I want it to be absolutely perfect so it's to my benefit that she is very patient.







There also some other miscellaneous client projects in the works, as well as sourcing materials for my entry in this years Rogue Taxidermy Competition.   More on that soon.



That's a wrap, yall.    And now I'm off to Mexico....again.

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!

20 for 20, # 3: Put a Zoe on it.

I just finished making a hat box which is housing the halo fascinator I just finished custom making for Rachel Zoe.  I doubt she's aware of myself or this blog so I feel like the risk of ruining the surprise by posting this before she receives it is minimal. While this is technically the third piece I've created for my 20for20 project, #2's gift is still traveling through the postalverse and I know she reads this so I don't want to spoil it for her.  So there's that.



In a few hours, this piece will be en route to Madame Zoe, by means of which I don't care to bore you with.   The box is somewhat hastily made and it shows, but what's inside was made with plenty of love and thought.







 







I used a vintage halo-shaped fascinator base and built on it with feathers from a variety of foul, along with some salvaged antique mink tails.  My impression of Rachel Zoe is romantic hollywood gypsy, and while I know very little about her personally, I selected her for this project because I love her style, I admire her tenacious drive, and am inspired by the better-to-apologise-later-than-ask-first attitude I imagine her to have.







Unfortunately I don't have a blonde wig but I anticipate the brown velvet and feathers popping quite nicely against her light hair.  The charms make a nice tinkly noise and their translucency in the sunlight gives this piece a very gypsy feel.







I just hope it fits her!  That's the tricky part about designing unsolicited gifts for people-how to predict sizing.  I have very thick hair though, and that's underneath the wig (ha!  I wish this luxurious mane were my real hair!), so there should be a small amount of wiggle room.







Fancy chickens, pheasants, grouse, and vintage trinkets.  Let Madame Zoe look into your future.....







 

Birthday Surprise!

Here's a quick little ditty about a hair pin I made for a very special gal who celebrated her birthday yesterday.  I didn't have a ton of time, and I was given some very basic guidelines (she's kind of girly and likes shiny things!) so I ran with it.  The other caveat (for lack of a better word) is that the birthday girl sports a massive mane of dreadlocks.  Long, thick, beautiful dreadlocks, so a typical fine toothed silver plated hair comb wasn't going to work.  I opted for a pin and combined dyed deer tail (typically used for making fly-fishing lures), pheasant feathers and a vintage gem earring.







When my friend opened her gift; her joy was unmistakable.  I wish the happiness I glean from giving other people something they genuinely love could be bottled and used as currency.  It feels better than money.  Not really knowing her style or preferences, I went with my gut and wound up with a product that, accordingly to the recipient, was an uncannily perfect fit.  This brings me so much joy and seems to be a recurring theme in my custom pieces, which is more than I could have hoped for.  I will touch upon this more when I post pictures of the bridal pieces I presented recently to a client- but until the wedding those details must remain under wraps.



If we catch you stealing, we will stuff you.

I think that was kind of the inspiration behind this piece which my husband, who runs an art supply shop, commissioned me to make last March.  I was fortunate enough to be gifted this road-kill racoon and when I told him what I had on my hands, he practically begged for me to make something special for him out of the specimen.  How could I refuse, really?  This man supported me all through school and has never once complained about sharing his home and his wife with my little army of fantasy creatures.  Creating a custom piece for this bastion of open-mindedness and support is really the least I can do.



Then he told me he wanted the racoon to be making a getaway with a money bag and I inwardly groaned.



How corny!   For some reason, cartoon characters, specifically the silly ones from the Warner Brothers stables, have always made me squirm.  Even as a child I found them intolerable.  It's a disdain I can't quite put my finger on, seeing as I can be a very silly person.  I suppose if I were to dig deep and play armchair psychologist for myself I'd say there is a particular stupidity to it all that most people find humorous but I don't because I fear the stupidity in myself.



I put my own opinion aside, however, and as I worked on Mr. Racoon I began to warm up to the idea of him being a thief.   The theme of raccoons as bandits is popular lore in many cultures and I found this interesting account of some Japanese Racoon dogs in the movie Pom Poko, which portrays them as mischievous little scamps.







He's hanging by one paw to the wall, and I gave him a hint of a smile with slightly upturned lips.  I sewed a bag from off-white canvas and made a $ stencil to paint the iconic symbol on said sack.  It was then filled with bottle caps, sewn shut and attached to Racoon's other front paw.







 



 



Here's a more pensive looking shot:







 



This was my first independent mount after finishing school and I can see how I might have done things differently had I been approached with this project today.  Overall though, I'm pleased, and so was my husband when he received his Christmas Racoon!



Brooklyn Bound

I've been getting all my ducks in a row (that would be a great pun I guess, if I were using ducks this time around) for my trip to Brooklyn next week where I'll be participating in the annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy contest.  I'll be a first timer, but not a forgettable one.



 



I'm entering two pieces, the one below has been shown most recently at Vincent Michael Gallery but I've reconfigured some crucial elements to take her to the next level.  Obviously none of these photos will be of the entire creature; full shots to come next week after my hopefully triumphant return.







 



This second entry is my best work to date.  I'm quite pleased with how she turned out  and look forward to showing the final results.  Two hints:



Iridescence,







And sparkles!







 



 



Of course no event would be complete without a new headpiece so I've got one of those in the works as well:







 



 



See you next week!

Welcome to your future.

A couple Saturdays ago I spent the day out in the Great Northeast at the Holemesburg Fish & Game Protective Association giving lectures on taxidermy to the youth of America.  I tend to be very awkward around children; I don't understand them, I find them too unpredictable and difficult to communicate with so it's probably not hard to imagine me lying awake the night before wondering just what the hell I was supposed to say to these kids.  I had no idea what to expect.







What I got was a mixed bag of awesome and insane.  I set up my booth and braced myself for the impending waves of children.  They came in groups of ten, I would talk for about twenty minutes, and the next group would arrive.  Some were as young as four, and were quite enthusiastic about grabbing my deer legs right off the table and beating my coyote rug with them.







Some were as old as 19, and I found them much easier to speak with.  In fact, a good deal of the young people there were part of an organization called "Police Explorers", which is basically like young junior cadets.  The police academy was right next to the park, and these kids come out and train every weekend.  They were in full uniform, complete with polished boots and utility belts with mace and cuffs.  I found them incredibly fascinating; they were all engaging, articulate, and driven.







Very impressive.  Over at the Academy a SWAT team was performing detonation drills and one of the officials came over to warn me about the impending blasts.  I told him I'd already heard (felt, actually) the first one and he explained that no, that was an actual device being detonated and not a drill.  They'd picked it up in Germantown the day before.  I think the junior cadets were laughing at me as my jaw dropped.  "I didn't hear anything about that on the news," I said, to which one of the teens responded, "That's cause people would go nuts".



I was really starting to like these kids.



There were other stations set one, one was a fur trapper:







He was popular because he brought a trap and had kids stick their fingers in it for fun.



Then there was the local game commissioner.







Oh, and shooting.







Lots and lots of shooting.  Balloons as targets, cause it was a youth event I guess.  That's my buddy David below, he's a really nice kid and budding taxidermist!







Shooting black powder...or muzzle-loading, I'm still not entirely sure.







Cross bow shooting-I made friendly with that guy later in the day and he gave me some tips on tuning my bow.  Now I just need to get some arrows and find a place to practice.







Overall, it was a rewarding experience. I'm still editing the video footage from the day; it includes the motorcycle rally that came through out of nowhere.







Oh, and after seeing myself in my boyfriend jeans from the back, I will never be wearing them again.
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