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:



Double Rattlesnake Dreams





Last July two brothers brought me a pair of rattlesnakes that they'd caught together hunting near Philadelphia.  Don't tell them but this was only my second snake job, after a tragically botched one 3 years ago.  I accepted the commission in a very casual way and it didn't occur to me until the snakes were in my possession that I needed to exercise extreme caution in handling them since I could easily puncture my finger on a fang and be on the receiving end of a posthumous, deadly, venomous snake bite.  



Both rattlers looked very similar but I think I've managed to separate the two in these photos; the first few shots are a smaller, slightly darker one, and the larger, lighter one is pictured after the carcass/meat images.






The tails are really fun, I wish I'd been able to keep one for myself to wear somehow.  They sound great.


So, about that venom.  Did you think I would let such potent stuff go to waste?



After doing some research I became completely fascinated by snake venom and its applications; I found a story about a man who has been injecting himself with venom for years and swears on its health benefits.  I also found some sketchy information about a high end luxury anti-aging cream that had (synthetic) snake venom in its base.  Apparently it acts as a topical Botox.  I have the venom in a little vial in my freezer; who knows what I'll actually do with it.
I also learned that a snake can still bite and kill a human even after its head has been severed, and that its heart will beat after being pulled out of it's body.  What tenacious, ferocious creatures.  It inspires pride in being born in the Snake Year.



Of course I wouldn't let that meat go to waste either.  After the plethora of critters I have eviscerated for food prep, I find snakes to be the quickest and easiest.  It's literally as simple as just puling the intestines like a loose yarn on a sweater.



I marinated the meat in whiskey, honey and ginger chunks for about a day.
Lucky me, I was invited to a BBQ that evening and I got to throw that snake on the grill and share it with a bunch of folks.  A pleaser, even if it was a lot of work to chew around those millions of ribs.



Next began the arduous process of altering the foam mannequins to accommodate the skin and positioning desired by the clients.  Hours of cutting, gluing, filing, sanding, measuring, test fitting, measuring again, etc.


And then presto!  A couple of mounted rattlesnakes.
I ran into a couple of issues with the seams, but aside of that I'm quite pleased with the work.

The positioning was very challenging to me since it required a good deal of twisting the skin.  Here's a secret- It's easy to hide a wrinkle in furry mounts, because it's covered in fur.  Not so with reptile skin.  Fortunately snake skin is tough and just requires a little patience and finesse.






~And that'ssssssssss a wrap~









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!

Elvis was reincarnated as a bear and his skin is on my table.

 



I finally got around to working on a bear-skin rug for a client; she is another really fun individual to work with who basically said, "make it as glitzy and shiny as possible."



Words to live by.



So I set out to source materials and make the sparkliest, most pizazzified bear-skin rug the world has seen.



I bought the skin frmo a hunter who shot the bear with a bow and arrow, harvesting the animal for food.  The cape arrived tanned and fairly soft but I had to rehydrate some parts to soften them up more in order to work with the facial areas.



Opal the cat approves of this fur.







Here is the head form.  I altered it slightly to express a nice Elvis-like lip curl, and proceeded to plaster the top left fang with crystals.







 



Diamond Tooth, indeed!  And this is just the beginning.  Stay tuned for an update on this hunka hunka burning work in progress.



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