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:



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. 


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!




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!
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