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.

Waste Not...

Remember that rat I mounted a few months back?  I also preserved her skull, here are some photos, please enjoy!






Bijoux the Sweetie



Meet Bijoux.  She's the much beloved pet Dumbo Rat of a client and she passed away one night after living with a large cancerous tumor in her belly for some time.


 It was my client's wish to have her preserved elegantly and regally, so we opted for a plush pillow to sit her on and some head embellishment.  I would up using a vintage Betsey Jonson charm as a crown of sorts, and couldn't resist a little diamond ring.

Because she had been ill her coat apparently wasn't as lustrous as it had been in healthier days but I think she's still beautiful.



I used silicone rubber to make a mold of her body (sans skin) and made a carcass cast.  This is a pricey technique but completely manageable with smaller specimen, and yields a highly detailed mannequin to then taxi the dermis onto.  In this case that was extremely helpful as Bijoux had a very specific growth on her body that may not have been obvious under her coat, but was significant in how her body was shaped.






 She went home last night to be with her human, and thus closes another little chapter in my taxidermy career.










Jill, the lil Scamp with a Cleft Lip


Jack and Jill lived in a tree, until the tree was cut down and both baby squirrels were rendered homeless.  A kind woman took them in and raised them, and while Jack thrived, Jill had a difficult time as she was born with a cleft palette and eating was tremendously difficult.  As I write this I wonder-if their home hadn't been destroyed, Jill may have perished much sooner than she did.  Perhaps in a parallel universe that's the case.  And in yet another one, she lives on, animated with her brother and adoptive human mother.


In this universe, however, Jill expired.  Her human's wish was to have her as a soft mount, so I had her teeny tiny hide soft tanned and mounted her with cotton and armature wire so she could be plush and pose-able.  The malformed skull had to be reinforced with clay and glue; I found this aspect to be the most difficult part as I've never worked with a harelip before.  I basically had to recreate the fleshy gum and lips of her palette.  Unfortunately I lost some files as I transitioned from my old computer to this new laptop so I don't have any closeup photos of her face but you can get the idea here:

I'm still getting the hang of this soft mount option and while I love love LOVE it I'm working on figuring out a way to strike a balance between touchable/squeezable and anatomic accuracy.  I'm not crazy about how floppy her little squirrel fingers and toes are.
But she sure is fun to pose!  Sat Nam, Jill.  May your path always be illuminated and free of obstacles.



Koko the Guacamayo




Hola Koko!


Koko is the very much beloved 15+ year old pet Gaucamayo of one of the most delightful families I've had the pleasure of meeting through my work as a taxidermist.  It's profoundly touching to meet folks who care for their critters so deeply.  Koko's humans were in tears when they brought him to me; yet were still able to chuckle as they told me of how he would cuss in Spanish to get everyone's attention.  They had even saved every feather he'd ever shed over his entire lifetime!





 This pet preservation project was an absolute honor to work on.  What a lovely specimen, to boot.
 My client was brought to tears when they were reunited; the entire process was extremely rewarding. She even baked me a cake and sent me photos of Koko after he was back home in his little bird abode.

So long, Koko, I will savor the experience of working with you and your family for years to come.











Bilal

 This is the skull of Bilal the cat, a beloved member of my dear friends' family.  When he passed, they gave him to me to make something with.  I brain tanned his hide and transformed him into a luxurious fur stole, of which I sadly have no photos.
 W & R were instrumental in my early development as a taxidermy artist; I couldn't have made it without their guidance and generosity.  I was reflecting on this last week when I decided to unearth Bilal's head from my freezer, clean it off and gift them with the skull.
 I've been getting into bone cleaning lately, all these heads are in my freezer that I figured I'd do something with someday.  Now I'm really getting into it.  I don't use beetles, as bone cleaning isn't even a significant part of the services I offer (yet) but I'm thoroughly enjoying the catharsis of scraping brains out, yanking cartilage with my bare hands, pulling, plucking and prying all the messy gunk off the bones.  Perhaps it's a metaphor for some deep self exploration I've been engaging in...
 Bilal had some pretty impressive teeth, although he was missing a bottom fang.
 I articulated the mandible to the skull and drilled a hole for his name tag to dangle from.
Another day in Paradise.

Thumper


 Meet Thumper.  He was the beloved hamster of my friend A, and when he passed she envisioned him curled up in eternal dream state with a pair of blue butterfly wings.  I was truly honored that she would entrust me with the task of preserving her pet, and thankfully when I presented the finished product to her today, she was pleased.
 Anyone who knows me knows that small mammals are not my area of expertise; far from it.  I find it extremely challenging to manipulate the teeny skin without manhandling it too much.  They're so delicate!
 Speaking of delicate, the butterfly wings caused me to hyperventilate a few times as I tried to sink them into the grooves I cut into the mount for them.  It blows my mind that those stunning creatures can flutter about the world so freely when one careless touch can destroy them.






It goes without saying that Thumper will live under the protection of a glass dome.  Sweet dreams, little one!



Just the Skull, Please

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


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


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



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

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





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




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



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!



Mrs. Friendly

Oh, hello there:


 Meet Mrs. Friendly, the much loved pet chicken of a client who wished to have her immortalized.


 Apparently, Mrs. Friendly was an ornery, no nonsense hen with an intense glare.  She suffered no fools.


 She also had asymmetrical hips, with a pronounced hump above her right hip bone/back area.  I'm guessing this may have caused a limp which must have only added to her cranky old lady aura.

 I altered a manufactured bird form by adding foam to the back section and carving it to match the size and shape of the hump as seen on the carcass, and posed the body to recreate her gimpy stance as exactly as possible, using photographs from life as reference.


 Hump:



 Don't mess with this chick lady hen.







So long, Mrs. Friendly.  Enjoy the afterlife.



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!

Windsor

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

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


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



 He drapes like a dream!

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

 
Bye!

Tyrone

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



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


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





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

That rump!



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

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


Nieve


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


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

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




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

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


 Thankfully that's just what I provide.


 Sweet dreams, Nieve.







VINTAGE POST: MY FIRST DOG

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

 

 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Man's best friend

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



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



Her collar was still on.



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







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







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



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