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:



Who Needs Cake for their Birthday?

How about the gift of taxidermy lessons? 
Recently a lovely and talented photographer in my building approached me about a private taxidermy lesson for her beau as a birthday gift, and I jumped at the chance. 
I am still finding my footing, so to speak, in the teaching arena-I feel that my skill set needs to be undeniably solid in order for me to present them correctly, and pass on to an apt pupil.  What I'm learning in the process is that I very much enjoy private lessons in which I can tailor the session to meet the student's unique needs.

Take a business card!

During the lesson, Inna Spivakova from Peach Plum Pear Photo took photos.  I have her permission to use them here-these are all her shots.  When she sent me the files I was shocked- she is an absolute photo ninja; I didn't notice her in the room buzzing around taking all these shots the entire time!  How did she get behind me and under my desk without me even seeing her!?  That is talent, and just general good character.  No wonder she is such a fantastic wedding photographer.

Before I commence skinning any specimen, I burn sage and say a small prayer of thanks to its spirit.  This rule holds fast for any animal worked on in my studio so Dan, below, was not exempt.  He burned sage and said something in his head, which  works just as well.  Hopefully it wasn't anything like "this bitch is crazy".




And the skinning begins!

 Dan is really good with his hands- he'd actually had some experience skinning critters before.  A bit rough for the delicate rabbit hide, however, but by the end he had a pretty good handle on it.



 He even showed me a new way to split the ears!  That's his finger in there, in the foreground.  In the background you can see me using my ancient looking spring loaded steel Ear Splitters.  I prefer metal tools to my hands every now and again.  This is something I love about this craft though- there are always other ways to do things.  There's no one right method. 



 Harriet the rug lamp is giving Inna face and if you look carefully behind her you can see the beginnings of a special piece that will be auctioned off for an event in October...


 Since these rabbits were from the butcher, it was our intention to eat them.  This is why instead of Borax we used Baking Powder.  It helps with gripping the skin (not as much as Borax, obviously) but won't poison you (although Borax in tiny quantities is safe to ingest according to some).


 The natural lighting in my studio is second to none.



 Here I'm showing Dan how to turn the paws completely inside out in order to remove all finger bones and tissue.  This is where it's to one's benefit to have a gentle touch. 




 It's interesting to me to see how I look when I'm concentrating on someone else's work and refraining from grabbing the piece out of their hands to just do it myself.  This is something I find most challenging in teaching; I have a hard time relinquishing any control over anything ever.



Harriett's light illuminates Elke2.0 who reigns supreme:

 The lesson went long, but a great and educational time was had by all.  It was also a treat to get to know these two.  They're solid folks.  Here are the ingredients Inna used for their rabbit marinade:


 And here's the rabbit:


 Finit!  Brava!


If you think you'd ever like to take a private or small group lesson from me, please don't hesitate to contact me at diamondtoothtaxidermist@gmail.com.  We can customize a lesson just for you!

Thanks Inna and Dan!

"OK, who wants to snap the neck?" "ME!"

Last Saturday I hosted my first of two Philly Side Tour workshops and my rag team team of guests/students had a blast with me.  The group comprised of a decent range of backgrounds, from scultptrs to art students and cartoonists and a chef.

 I start each demo as I would skinning a specimen alone in my studio- with a blessing and ceremonial thank you to the animal, and a promise to do my best to honor its spirit.  Here I am burning sage and doing just that:



Onto the skinning.  My crew was eager to be hands-on, so I would show a little step here and there, then pass the bird around for them to take turns with various parts.  Some excelled in the peeling parts, others demonstrated fleshing quite masterfully, while one gal in particular had a flare for snapping the neck.  Turns out she was a mortuary student, go figure.




After skinning has been demonstrated and practiced, we move onto mounting.  Here is the specimen I had set aside for this workshop, a nice tanned white chicken. 
 

We took turns tumbling and blowing him dry before I showed them how to properly wire a form and the chicken to it. 





 After that we all washed our paws and headed in to the main room where I do all my real work.  I showed them what I was working on, projects on deck etc.  Like cow and goat skins in a pickle!





 After that everyone tried on hats and hung out for a bit, discussing this and that.  I have to say, an unexpected and much loved byproduct of my craft is the wide array of characters I get to meet.  I honestly have no idea where else I could connect with so many different and wonderful type of people at once.

The next workshops is on Saturday, July 13.  Some spots remain, reserve yours now for an unusually delightful afternoon!
Discover the Bygone Art of Taxidermy at an Artist's Workshop

DIRTY BIRDS









I searched for a song about "dirty birds" prior to writing this and I discovered that there is not only a song by that name, but a dance to go with it!  OH, Atlanta, you slay me.  I got a kick out of the video; there are some hilarious background folk featured throughout.



Anyway, the video and that brief preamble are to serve as a slight buffer between you and the visual content of this post, as it's a little dirty.  I figured I've got enough street cred as a taxidermist to have earned your trust, so I feel OK writing about the less glamorous aspects of this craft that make so many people queasy.  If you cannot stand the site of flesh or bone, then please abort now.  But if you're feeling brave, take my hand baby birds, I'll feed your head for a minute.



I had two hunters drop off birds last week.  One was what I  initially identified as a female Bufflehead but upon closer inspection actually turned out to be a female Blue Wing Teal.  The other bird was a white pheasant.



Two gorgeous specimen, although you wouldn't know that from the insides of them.



Let's start with the duck.  Ducks are notoriously fatty.  There is an odor to them that tends to hang on for a few weeks even after they're tanned, dried and mounted.  I have no qualms with the odor, but the fattyness can get quite tiresome.  You see, I don't yet possess a fleshing wheel, so I have to cut all the fat off by hand.  Being someone who actually finds solace in mundane repetitive tasks, I usually don't mind this but I've been pushing my poor paws to the limit lately and there is a soreness creeping in that only people who work with their hands could begin to understand.



Whining aside, I do like trimming fat.  I marvel at it.  I mean, this is what flavor comes from.  But my first instinct is to recoil in disgust if it gets all over my hands or my face.  Why is it gross to touch this substance that is so completely universal-I have it, you have it, all your dogs and cats have it, trust me they do- and it's the common denominator of all things delicious?  This fat is the real deal.  It's not oleo or some bogus hydro corn science project, its bona fide, warmth providing, lifesaving fat. I am getting better at embracing the stuff however; it doesn't hurt that after handling it I've got smooth Palmolive hands for hours, even after scrubbing with soap!



[caption id="attachment_1467" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Official degreasing diagram"][/caption]



As you can see from my very official chart above, duck skin is tricky. It's simple to see where trimming needs to be done, but the actual skin is like a thin film of tissue paper underneath all that fat.  It's extremely easy to cut too far and make "duck doilies".  Needless to say, I'll have quite a bit of sewing to do on this skin before I mount it.



The spoils of duck lipo:



[caption id="attachment_1468" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Foster THIS"][/caption]



After that, its into the tanning solution and a quick rinse.  Whenever I pull birds out of the water, I'm just a tad dubious that I'll be able to turn such a sad looking rag into something as beautiful as its original form, but it always works out.







Onto the pheasant.  As is often the case with game foul, this guy was just riddled with bird shot. Both legs were all but shattered.



.



Lots of holes:



[caption id="attachment_1473" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="B, B, B, B, BULLET HOLES!"][/caption]



It's not just a matter of holes but picking the shot out of the flesh, since I feed these birds to my animals and I don't want my little babies choking on lead.  The feathers kind of clump together around the shot, some still with quills in the skin, some buried in the meat.  It's not unlike pulling weeds:



[caption id="attachment_1474" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="one..."][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1475" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="two..."][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1476" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="three..."][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1477" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="four..."][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1479" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="and PULL!"][/caption]



Here's one leg.  The bone was totally broken, which can be hazardous for little taxidermist fingers working flesh off of them.  I have the scrapes to prove it.  The other leg was completely obliterated.  This means more work down the line when it comes time to mount, but this all comes with the territory.







Post bath, also looking like a wet rag, albeit one covered in beautiful feathers.







Like I said, I use this meat to feed my cats.  If a hunter just wants a trophy mount and doesn't care to eat what he catches, I will gladly play vulture and use whatever meat I can for my four-legged brood at home.  Obviously this applies to game and not roadkill.  In this case, I cut off what I could and placed it all in the crock pot with some chicken stock.  A few hours in there and presto!  Warm cozy Sunday dinner was served to my little ones:







And that's the word, Bird.

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.



Tastes like Chicken!

It appears to be squirrel season over here; I just skinned three last week and was gifted one more today.  Two of the three from last week were harvested by a friend and presented to me with the understanding that I would skin them and bring the meat to a BBQ in the near future.  I'm quite enthused about the sudden influx of small mammal specimen, seeing as I've got several deadlines looming nearby and I adore working with little furry creatures.



Here are the two which my friend caught.   I was impressed by what a good shot he is:  The first one got it right in the neck...







While the second took a shot right in the head.







I kept the bullet.  Or pellet, or whatever it's called.







This may seem cruel but the point is these creatures died instantly and that, to me, is humane.  The last thing it knew was scampering around happily and then-nothing.  I'll take nourishment from this kind of meat source over a mutated chicken with breast meat so abnormally large and cumbersome that it can't even walk five steps in its dark shitty pen, any day.



I marinated the meat in a mixture of Yuengling Lager, soy sauce and honey for 48 hours.  We threw it on the grill and let it cook for about twenty minutes.







The squirrel, plated.







I snatched a bit of the back-strap (most delicious cut of meat from deer, rabbits and squirrel) while it was being plated and bit into it, uncertain of what I'd taste.  It certainly smelled delicious, but this was a city squirrel.  It lived off of local compost so I guess you could say he ate well but...I was still wary.



The first taste washed all doubt away however, as salty sweet sizzling juiciness exploded in my mouth.  The mouth feel was tender and crisp.  Cries of "tastes like chicken!" could be heard from the kitchen as everyone took turns trying the new dish. Success!  I felt validated, I felt like I'd done something right.



I realise that to many people, eating squirrel is nothing new and such ado over this dish could read as discrediting a humble, naturally natural way of life or trying to make it a novelty.  I just want to express that to myself and my friends this was a completely new experience and a rewarding one at that.  I admire and aspire live the aforementioned way of life, where its just a day's work to harvest an animal and live off the land.



Manicures for bears and busted skulls

I skinned two ducks the other day; the guy who shot them really did a number on one in particular.  I originally was going to post some pre-skinning pictures but it occurred to me that it might be a tad too graphic.  Let's just say that the head was crushed, legs were broken and wings were bent.  Definitely a fixer-upper.



Here's the skull itself; perhaps you can imagine how distorted it may have looked with the skin on.







I actually don't mind so much when the head's a bit smashed; it makes the skull easier to clean as I don't feel the pressure to be so gentle with all the little nooks and crannies.  Every time I clean a bird skull, I hear my instructor's voice in the back of my head: "Just attack it.  Attack that skull."  And that's what I do.  I get it as clean as possible and have even developed some of my own techniques post-school to achieve maximum spotlessness.  Ducks have a fair amount of brains, (of which extracting is my favorite part of the process) and I'd like to try brain tanning sometimes soon.



After spending two days skinning the chicken and the two ducks (most seasoned taxidermists would have had all three skinned, degreased and mounted in one day, by the way) I couldn't get my mind out of the dissection zone and everything around me was looking like a specimen.  This happens to me from time to time and it can be difficult to shake.  I look at everyone's knees and see the tendons I've so effortlessly been slicing on birds.  I feel around my throat with my hand and conjure a mental image of a my slit wind pipe, open and exposed right next to my draining jugular.  I pet my cats and think how easily the tail skin slips right off the bones of a mouse.



As grotesque and disturbing as it may sound, please rest assured that I am not about to go all Norman Bates on everyone.  I'm just seeing things very anatomically right now.  Once you become intimate with the sight, smell and touch of the insides of a creature ( a mouse's delicate and miniature intestines, for example) you don't look at them the same.   I'm sure Med students must go through this in spades.



Speaking of mice:







These guys/this guy isn't finished yet; I still need to fix up the faces and add in eyes.  Its kind of a Siamese twin mouse.  I bought these feeder mice (already dead and frozen) from a pet shop; and intend to throw the carcasses into the alley down the way for all the hungry stray cats so they won't go to waste.



And while all this was going on I was adding coat after coat of polish to my bear paw.  It took some brainstorming to devise a method in which I could paint the nails without the fur getting in the way, but I'm on the right path.







Finger condoms!

My fingers smell like horse shit.

But I skinned and mounted a bear paw today.  They smell because I just took a horse leg out of the freezer to thaw for tomorrow morning.  (horse-platform heels, world. BB style.  Look out.)  The leg was clean but even frozen that sweet smell of BARN just punched me in the face.



Anyway, back to the bear paw-it was really neat to touch a part of a bear when I've never even seen one in person.  Feeling the claws; I could easily imagine  it slicing my face to pieces.







As I skinned it, I marveled over how similar the actual anatomy seemed to my own hand.







Working with the bear was also a nice reprieve from the marathon of starlings over the weekend; the skin was thick and tough and very pleasant to work with.  While I enjoy the process of working with birds; I consider it significantly more difficult to mount than a less delicate specimen like mammoth fur paw.







Here it is, fleshed out:







I made a form and mounted the paw, sewed it shut and am now in the process of embellishing git to the desired effect.  I have 5 pieces in two shows coming up very soon; I just have to make the pieces.

Adventures in Home Tanning

Most taxidermist send their hides to a tannery; it makes sense when the skins start piling up and the work looks daunting.  Plus, home tanning takes time and effort.  I figured I only have a couple of green hides though so I'd try it myself.



The process takes about three days, and I diligently checked and stretched my raccoon and deer cape each day at the same time.  The coon skin, being thinner, took less time and I was exceptionally pleased with the final result:







Here he is, drying out in our bathtub.  This situation right here has me convinced that I will have to employ a professional tanner in the future, as my house is tiny and the bathtub meant for people.







Here's the deer cape drying out the next day.  Unfortunately, I must've skinned it after some bacteria had taken up residence, because the fur was coming out in clumps.  I was somewhat beside myself seeing as this was the first deer I'd skinned all by myself and I was really gunning for a A+ hide, so I shoved it in the freezer for me to take out and deal with another time.







At least the raccoon was a success.  I taxied the skin onto the form; it's in a climbing position with some tight corners.  Sewing was definitely a challenge.  Here's his face, all pinned and carded up for drying.  This is a piece commissioned to me by my husband and he requested a mischievous sort of creature in the midst of a getaway after a bank heist.  I turned the lip up just a liiiiitle bit to indicate a grin, and the $ bag is almost done and ready to be attached to one of his little paws.







I spent about an hour blow-drying the fur; it seemed to take forever. But he dried very well and is hanging in my studio.  Today I will touch up his face and finish him.  Updates to come.

"Counting the days 'til archery season."

Today I got to skin a roadkill Coon for extra credit.  I'm starting to think that the grimy skinning is my favorite part of taxidermy.  I've been looking forward to this all week, getting some guts on my fingers and cutting loose with a surgical steel blade after all that intense modeling clay precision training.



Here's Coony's  busted jaw.  The inside was pretty bad; he bit right through his tongue.







His feet were so soft and fleshy; just like baby feet.







Here are the same feet, inverted.  Raccoons are notoriously fatty; the de-greasing process on their hides is quite time consuming.   The foot on the left has been skinned out, the one on the right still has the paw pads and fat.







I hung him from a meat hook, just like I did with the fox, and here I am at the head part.  I'd just cut the first ear out; it takes a little practice to become intuitive as far as when it's time to cut for the ears and eyes on these small mammals, especially when there is so much fat on the skin; it can obscure the flesh line. Of course I can't help but imagine what my own body would look like skinned, especially after marinating myself in good mountain dairy products and meat for almost two months.







Here he is, skinned down to the nose.  Along with all the fat on the hide, the carcass is positively covered with it.







OK, after this I'm done talking about fat.  But here's what I scraped off  the skin.  I like to bring in the local weeklies from Philly to use at my work station; the massage parlor ads in the back never fail to leave Mr. B fully scandalized.







Today on the radio I heard an old classic by my girl Shania.  For the life of me I can't understand why country music videos are so awful but here's another mind-numbingly stupid one.  It's a shame too because the song is cute and Shania is so boss, y'all.







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