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:



Vampyra the Winged Domestic Feline


Meet Vampyra.  She is the beloved feline of a local Philadelphian and has been posthumously winged as per his request.  I think it was a brilliant idea.  She has a very gothy feel.


In life, she seemed to wear a mildly surprised or curious facial expression so I did my best to recreate that.  I wish I had spent more time on her pillow seat, though.  It could use some tassels, for sure, and also tends to want to lean a little bit.


I used wings from a chicken; at first I wanted to use a black rooster but after noticing all the subtle browns and reds in her coat, a pitch black pair of wings would have looked very flat so I opted for a bit more texture, color wise.



Many measurements and carcass casting to make a custom form.






A progress shot of her ears drying.  Despite the carding the ears still gave me some grief.


 Here she is, eternally poised for preflight.




It was an honor, Vampyra.  Charmed, indeed.

Kika



Hi!
 

 Kika was the 18 year old beloved parrot who brightened the days of my client, Berta.  She was in tears the day she brought her in to me.


 When she came in today to pick her up, there were more tears- thankfully the sweet happy kind.


 Berta brought her son (who is just one year older than Kika, btw) and he told me that my studio smelled "like sadness and dreams" which I thought was very poetic.



Berta;s wish was to have Kika perched how she was in life, so I opted for a cocked, close wing mount and made a wall perch from a wooden dowel and disc.




And that's all!



Chichi

Meet chichi, a pet preservation project I recently completed after about 7 painstaking months.  I believe she is a Pyrrhura Conure breed, but will gladly accept corrections.  Her human was quite distraught when she brought her to me, and spoke very little English to boot.  What I could tell is that this bird wasn't in great shape.  I know very little about the world of keeping birds as pets other than it's a high maintenance labor of love.  These little bundles of love can develop all sorts of ailments, and it seemed this one had plucked out just about every feather within beak's reach.  She was also in her early thirties so perhaps feathers fall out with age as well, I can't say.  I am not even a novice, let alone an expert.

bald tail area

What I am is a passionate people and animal lover with an unparalleled work ethic.  A shrewd business person would have turned this project away because the profit margin is basically nil after all the hours spent bringing the animal back to a presentable state, but once my heart takes over, my emptypockets are left to flap in the wind. 
I mounted the bird and put her aside for a few months while I worked on other pieces.  All the while, she playfully glared at me, bald and pathetic.  I scoured etsy, ebay and online taxidermy forums for feathers to no avail.  The large colorful primary wing feathers seem easy to come by but what I really needed were the tiny green neck and belly feathers, among others.
Then the universe does what it always does when I am patient with it, and while a client was dropping off her coyote recently she glanced over at Chichi and said, "oh, my parents have that same bird.  It's always shedding.  I'll see if they can hook you up".  A week later a ziplock baggie full of all the feathers I need arrives in the mail.  Perfection.

Here is her filled in belly and armpit, which were previously bald.



(before)
 



another bald tail shot:


Her one wing was very crudely clipped so I positioned her with that one tucked and the other outstretched, head cocked to the side in a playful way.

I realise that she isn't perfect, there is still some thinness of feathers on her head, but I poured all I had into this little girl who is so close in age to me, and this is what I got.  I know how if feels to be a little rough around the edges but loved regardless.


Now she just needs to go home! Take flight, sweet Chichi!

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. 


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've got a stiff black cock in the freezer for you"

That's the text message I received from my dear chicken-master pal a couple of months back when his prized black Dutch Serama rooster died.



It's good to have a sense of humor about these things, and after offering my condolences we set about discussing how he would like his cock mounted. (an interesting sidenote-I am often privately fascinated by different words the same key strokes will produce when texting, such as "good" and "home".  Throughout the process of working on this mount for my friend, we'd often text each0ther back and forth, checking on progress and such.  Every time I try to text the word cock, I get "anal" instead.  The 4th grader in me fins this extremely humourous.)



Here he is, in all his glory:



*



My friend wanted him mounted in a pose which was entirely new territory to me; back arched, tail up and wings relaxed at the side. Oh, and that chest.  I had no idea their chests actually puffed out so far until meeting some roosters at this guy's coop and seeing it for myself.  I was instructed to emulate this image, and take creative liberty when I where I felt inspired to do so.







While working on the positioning I found other reference images and videos to study online, and became completely enamoured with this little bird.  Such a proud looking creature, completely indifferent to its petite stature. I imagined the muscle strength it must take to arch one's back just so to bring the tail feathers all the way up like that, all the while standing with the chest pushed out as far as possible.  I even tried imitating this pose myself, (as I often do in an attempt to understand muscle structure and anatomy with my specimen) and would up contorted into a shape that I'm sure would make any back specialist cringe.



*



When the time came to select an environment for this mount, I went through many options but there was one that  couldn't be ignored, as it had been sitting on a shelf above my desk for months.  The horse hoof!  I've been working on my horse hoof platform shoes for almost a year now, and this first hoof I have sitting around was my crash course, so to speak, on fleshing out the actual foot part.  When I paired it with the little cock, the color, angles and gently implied S&M facor all gelled together so perfectly I couldn't help but squeal a little bit.



I live for moments like this, in my studio when it's just myself and my little creatures, when some treasure or trinket I've been holding onto for years meets its mate.



*



 



 



*photo credit: James Coughlin

That sure went fast.

It seems like just the other day I was paying a solemn visit to a friends' house to retrieve a recently deceased gosling pet.  While I had initial success mounting Bobby, acquiring the perfect wings took some time.  Patience paid off however, and I was rewarded with a delicious squab which provided the perfect shade and size wings as well as a nutritious and wonderful meal.    After the entire piece was finished drying, I gave him a healthy coat of fairy dust to ensure maximum sparkle while poised atop the tree:



 







 



Merry Christmas!



Bunny Cheese

I recently received a fresh baby bunny from a friend.  Apparently her pet rabbit's litter was naturally thinning itself out,  or her cat snuck into the nursery.  Either one.  Regardless, look how cute!







Needless  to say, my friend was crest fallen.  She just wanted me to take the specimen off her hands.  I couldn't stop marveling at how adorable this little guy was.  I've only seen creatures this sweet in Disney movies.







I hope I can do him justice in the final mounting stage.  Such petite faces are still a challenge for me, especially when I'm trying to capture just how precious it is.  I'm still not entirely sure what type of mount this will become but it has to be very very special.



Skinning him was delicate, as expected, and I accidentally punctured the dermis several time due to man handling. It's nothing I can't sew up but what really threw a wrench in the gears was this little guy's stomach and its contents.  I always try not to cut through the skin and into the guts because it's never a non-mesy affair, but sometimes the skin is so thin I can't help it.  Plus, the bunny's belly was bloated and kind of in the way.  As I worked the skin off the side, the pressure forced some of the contents of the stomach out and I almost dry heaved.



It looked like ricotta cheese:



* not actual contents because I was too grossed out to think of getting a shot.  But it looked JUST LIKE THIS.



The stomach puncture was like an exploding zit and there seemed to be no way of avoiding all the white puss splooging out onto my work table.  The amount of it was shocking to me and I squealed as I wiped it up with towel after towel.  Shortly though, I noticed that there was no odor.  If this were some sort of massive infection; the equivalent of a zit or cyst (full of dead white blood cells), then it would've stunk like halitosis.  Or like death, at the very least.  However, there was no such scent.  I calmed down a bit and allowed my nose to take in some of it.



Ricotta.  It actually smelled like ricotta cheese. How bizarre  But then I thought about it- it was a baby, the stomach likely full of mother's milk (quite full, I might add, that this little piggy was a piggy) and had maybe somehow curdled during digestion.  Out of curiousity I looked up ricotta cheese and how to make it online.  Sure enough, many cheeses are made with a complex of enzymes known as Rennet which is found in the stomachs of calves.  According to Wikipedia:



Rennet (pronounced /ˈrɛnɪt/) is usually a natural complex of enzymes produced in any mammalian stomach to digest the mother's milk, and is often used in the production of cheese. Rennet contains many enzymes, including a proteolytic enzyme (protease) that coagulates the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). The active enzyme in rennet is called chymosin or rennin (EC 3.4.23.4) but there are also other important enzymes in it, e.g., pepsin or lipase. There are non-animal sources for rennet that are suitable for vegetarian consumption.



Fear not, vegetarians!  Mass produced cheese is made from alternate methods these days  and the only folks still using sheep and cow stomach are for the most part artisan cheese makers in Europe.  Also, I don't think cheese was ever made inside of the animal's stomach as the method described in the Wiki article states that stomaches were cut up and soaked in a brine of sorts, with the raw milk.



Hmmm.  If I'd had my wits about me I would've saved it and tasted the first ever sample of in-stomach-curdled-rabbit-ricotta!



Or at least fed some to my cats.

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.



Only four months until Christmas!

Operation gosling-tree-topper is in full swing and on I'm just about on the home stretch with this project.



Dried and fluffed: that skin had to be one of the softest things I've ever felt.  Part of me wished it was mine to use as I wished; I would've fashioned a pair of earmuffs out of it.







While drying the skin I was presented with a new fronteir: molting.  I had been completely unaware that birds went through this process until my friend Bailey the Hen-Master enlightened me to this phenomenon.  While skinning the goose I'd noticed some skin peeling off his legs, not unlike a snake, but thought nothing of it.  But when the downy feathers around his neck began falling out en masse while drying, I started to panic. I looked up "goose molting" online and found out that young geese molt for the first time at 8-10 weeks, at which point their flight feathers come in. ( I also learned that geese are one fo the few monogamous species occurring in nature and mate for life.)  Molting occurs annually and is a family experience.  They try and stay close to the water at this time as an escape plan from predators, since they can't fly.  Reading this, I was reminded of a night, weeks ago, when two friends and I were cutting through a field out in the suburbs to walk to another friend's house.  There were geese everywhere and it looked like  we'd just missed a giant pillow fight.  Now I understand why.  It's molting season, and Bobby the goose must have been just entering his first molt when he passed.



I managed to handle the skin very carefully and keep the loss to a minimum.



This was not an easy mount by any means; the skin was extremely delicate and I had to handle it with surgical precision to keep  from losing any more feathers. The underformed wings presented a challenge as well, being completely new territory to me.  Needless to say, once I had him sewn up and carded, my sigh of relief could be heard from blocks away, I'm sure.











I've still got more to do, but I'm over the hump and quite pleased about it.
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