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~









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.

Here is a 12 point deer trophy mount that took me over a year to mount:
 The hunter picked him up today and I believe he was satisfied.
Even though I've been doing this job for years, I still worry that the client may not be completely thrilled with the final product.  It's challenging to be an artist and pour your heart and soul into a piece, even if it's technically a commercial venture, and then separate your self worth with the final product.


I wonder if folks in other lines of work lie awake at night fretting over whether or not they've sung a song perfectly, diagnosed a patient correctly or served an ice cream cone to the best of their ability.






Say hello to my furry friend.
 Well, he's not mine anymore, he's now in the hands of his rightful owner, a great guy who commissioned me to create a soft-mount taxidermy piece out of the dead skunk he brought me back in November.  I not only created the mount, but I saved the essence and ate the meat.  But I'm sure you already guessed that.
 His face was chewed up a bit by a possum by the time he reached my table, and it's not up to competition level by any means but for my first full soft mount it's just fine.  My client says that soft mounts are the future of taxidermy and I think I'm coming around.  I'm already working on my second one and developing a great technique to produce even better results. 
 Taxidermy you can play with!  Who doesn't love that?  (You don't have to answer that, I know there are oodles of folks who don't love it.  I get the hate mail to remind me)
Au Revoir, Skunky!

From the For No Particular Reason File:Chicken Head Glass Votive Holder


 Here we have a chicken head mounted trophy style onto a plaque, a glass votive holder dangling from his beak.  While burning a candle in this vessel would obviously be a terrible thing to do, it would make a great spare key holder or place to keep your favorite trinkets.  Maybe he can hold some salt for you to pinch off a little bit each time you need to throw some over your shoulder.


 If a luminary element is what you're hell bent on, batter operated LED candles are a wonderful option.

 He is ready to serve you.  Just don't fill this thing to the top with spare change or gold bullion; you may beak his neck.



Ashley's Wedding



Ashley approached me almost a year before her wedding date to talk about bridal & bridal party head pieces.  I believe her words were, "OK, I'm engaged, now I have to go talk to my taxidermist!"-she may or may not have used the word "my" but I like to fancy myself as providing such an intimate service to people that they would refer to me in a possessive fashion, as though part of me belongs to them.  Honestly, after the literal blood sweat and tears that go into each piece I make, part of me literally does belong to them.


Ashley wanted to wear a white lamb head on her wedding day. I told her that I couldn't guarantee it, as I basically work on a "whatever falls into my lap" modus operandi.  We agreed that come March, if I hadn't been able to source a dead or stillborn white baby lamb (perhaps a morbid task to some, to others just another day in the office), then we would start to concoct a backup plan.
March came and went, and just as I was about to chew my nails down to the bed, I sourced a 24 hours-lived lamb from a farm in Colorado.  Things really do always work out if you just let them. For me things always seem to work out literally at the last possible second, every time.

I got to work immediately as soon as Lambette arrived and skinned her, then made a mold of the head:
The mold was then cast and I test fit it on a head form.
And of course then the skin is taxied onto the form:


I use steel headbands for these types of head pieces; even still, bobby pins or clips are needed to keep them in place.  It's not your conventional tiara & veil, ladies.


She wanted very minor embellishment so I harnessed myself and limited the gems to just a few around the eyes. 




I sewed a silver plated comb into the lining for extra security, and used a very special out-of-production brocade that I reserve only for brides.


I wanted to see how it would look with hair so I attempted to give this mannequin a wig up-do, but it falls short. I suppose it's time I got some live models back into circulation.



Oh!  And there were bridesmaids!  Two of them, to be exact.  Both of them totally cool with wearing chickens on their heads.  My kind of gals.  Here is the first one:

There was a color palette that played off the country/farm type of setting where the wedding was held and I incorporated that by selecting birds with all those hues.


And the second one:

I'm having fun incorporating deveined and shaped feathers into my work these days, expect to see much more of it in the future.



Congratulations, Ashley and friends! And thank you for the honor of being part of such a tremendous moment of your life.











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!



Deer hooves through the Looking Glass



Here we have a pair of deer hoof candle holders that were commissioned by a client who basically told me to do whatever I wanted.  She knew I was going in a kind of psychedelic direction with them when she contacted me after seeing a work in progress shot on my Instagram feed and put a down payment on them.  She received them today and is beyond pleased, which pleases me tremendously.


 I used a pair of antique silver bases and cups, and hand beaded the fringe myself.  It took hours.



 Some jewel accents around the bottom:




 Ta Da!

Foxy Feets

I just listed these new fox paw charms on etsy; here are some photos and links:



Taxidermy Fox Paw Charm with Black Rinestone Bracelet




Taxidermy Fox Paw Charm with Silver & Green Stone Claddagh Pendant





Taxidermy Fox Paw Charm with Antique Rinestone set in Deer Head Pendant



Midievil Inspired Taxidermy Fox Paw Charm (and Wine Cork) with Hand Made Metal Cap & Genuine Swarovski Set Amethyst Ring







Some New SHeep Hoof Candle Holders



I just shot this fresh batch of sheep hoof candle holders yesterday; I'll be listing on etsy later this morning. 


I call this pair the dancers.  I experimented with posing and got as close to an on pointe stance as I could.  The bases and candle cups are pieces harvested from antique silver candle holders.

Evoking a ballet costume, I needed sequins or some sort of flash.  I used these hand beaded patches on the back to conceal what isn't the prettiest part of a sheep's hoof.  Kind of like a dancer's worn and beaten feet, I suppose.




This single piece is slated to be a gift for someone as part of my ongoing twenty4twenty project; I'll write more about it and its recipient after sending


I wanted something to suggest a beautiful woman, and for some reason this glass beaded fringe loosely wrapped and dripping me down the side reminded me of a goddess draped effortlessly in a flowing robe.


I wanted some of the beads to trail behind like a gown, which isn't necessarily safe for something with a flame on top of it but thankfully there will only be civilized adults where this piece is going-no children.




Here are my Moroccan Dancers.  I've never been to Morocco but it's on my list of dream visits, as I am endlessly inspired by the colors, dress, style, food, houses, everything I see from there. 


I used antique brass hand cups and bibeches with a pair of inverted antique glass bibeches with what appears to be hand made glass beading.  SO much provenance in these pieces.





I can practically see them shimmying.  Can you?











Here's my little Cossack hat candle holder.  He's a simple one, standing alone with his slim figure and poofy top.  He'll stand guard over your most intimate evenings, the ones where you spill all your guts onto the table.








Wendy the Woodcock


Hi!

 

 This lil sweetie was possibly my most humbling mount to date (well, aside from that Sharpie Hawk) because of its petite size and tissue paper thin skin.  Above, you can see all the holes I made while skinning it.  A colleague used the term "wet toilet paper" to describe their dermis, which is pretty spot on.
  But she turned out pretty swell, in my opinion, and my client's-which is what really matters.

They use their very long beaks to root around in the dirt for bugs, which they locate with their ears that are at the base of those long beaks, by literally putting an ear to the ground!
Their enormous eyes are located high in the head, and their visual field is probably the largest of any bird, 360° in the horizontal plane and 180° in the vertical! Definitely unlike any other bird species I've worked with.

 My fingers will look like this someday, but more veiny.

 She wanted him perched on a brick to convey an urban environment.  I was dubious at first but it turns out woodcocks look great on bricks!



 OK, that's all for now.  See ya sweetie!


Ciao Ciao

Arriving in my studio from Italy by way of Philadelphia import, this Borsalino hat is a classic.  I received it from a painter in my building and held onto it until inspiration struck.  I love men's hats, I love men IN hats, but I also find designing for them to be challenging.  Us gals can get away with anything, in my opinion.  Men still seem to be held up to certain gender expressive fashion standards and are subject to judgment in a sense that women just aren't.  Perhaps one of the only ways we aren't.
This is all simply to say that I proceed with caution with men's accessories.  Usually.  Who am I kidding, I've only made like three men's pieces in my life.  Who cares?
I grabbed this hat and wove my couture taxidermy wand over it to create something for the type of man (or woman) who would want exactly what I made. And voila:





 I felt inspired last week to dig a raccoon tail off a hide I'd skinned, fleshed and tanned months ago and sew it on.  I accented it with a burst of chicken feathers and a small vintage gem.



 While it is technically a men's hat, it's on the small side (size 7&1/8) so it fits a more petite noggin.  Of course ladies look good in these hats (see what I mean?  We can wear anything) as demonstrated by my lovely model here:




 And here's many more photos of this hat in case you didn't get a clear idea yet:







 Listing on etsy now!

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!



The Better to See You WIth, My Deer...

Here are some photos of a pair of deer hoof candle holders I finished and shot today.  The deer was harvested by a hunter who is using all the venison and passed the hide onto be soft tanned to make a rug.  The legs are a nice by product I was happy to collect. I will be listing these on my etsy page shortly so if they strike your fancy, claim them!

 The bases and candle cups are from an antique silver set; this design is a diversion from previous candle holders in which the hooves themselves served as the base and allows the foot to point in a more elongated ans elegant fashion.

 Spooky angle shot:
 The hoof keratin has been polished and poled to bring out its natural luster:

  Do I sound like an infomercial?  I apologise, I swear my passion for this piece is genuine.  They're also taller than any of my other candle holders sets which makes them ideal for a more formal table setting.




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.



Speechless





 I mounted my dream creature recently, a peacock.  Here he is, just photos, because who needs words when your eyes are being massaged by this regal creature?


































Hawk Eye


In what has been a long an arduous process (not for me, really, all I had to do was sit back and wait) the folks at Bartram's Gardens acquired a Federal Salvage Permit so that I could become their on call taxidermist for such fantastic specimen as the Sharp Shinned Hawk I'm writing about today, a sweet little Vireo and above all, a Great Blue Heron.  The Heron was the impetus for obtaining my services and the permit, but these birds came with the territory, so to speak.
Because I'd never mounted a hawk or a heron, and this is for educational purposes, and I just plain adore Bartram's Gardens I am providing taxidermy services for free and just ask that my supplies are covered.
Even so, I don't feel any less flat about my lackluster job on this hawk.  I did the best I could but what I didn't realise going in was that while structurally these birds are very similar to the hundreds of feathered specimen I've skinned and mounted over my years as a taxidermist, their feathers have a texture and lay pattern unlike anything I'd ever encountered.  I ought to have done more research.



You can see that instead of a tight, compact aerodynamic shape, his feathers look a little ragged, like he just took a roll in the hay or something.  I rehydrated him, used pins to painstakingly place every feather that wouldn't lay flat, wrapped him in hosiery and heat dried him (which has worked wonders for me on other misfit birds) to no avail.  After 6 months it's time for me to accept that I can't win them all.  And it's not terrible.  Just not perfect. 
 

 I am quite pleased with the feet though.  What gorgeous talons he has!  I guess I can't take credit for that, but I can for the positioning.
 The camera in untrained hands yields odd photos; I like how the flash kind of implies motion though.


 I've started noticing these hawks around Philly since I began working with this one.  They're such majestic creatures.  I was waiting for a bus out near the airport one morning, super early, as the dawn was just throwing open her closet and letting the blue spill out onto the sky, and saw one Sharpie sitting on a telephone wire.  Suddenly another flew out of nowhere and perched next to the first one, on the line.  I imagined them exchanging pleasantries and discussing what they might catch to eat that day, how yesterday's hunt had been, where some baby squirrels might be at, etc...
 And I took comfort in this fantasy conversation between the two hawks, thinking well, if they live hand to mouth and are never quite sure where their next meal is coming from, but confident nonetheless in their ability to acquire it, what's so wrong with an artist like me who is perpetually in the throes of of financial insecurity? 
Did I just pull the curtain back too much?  This is quite a revealing post. Back to the bird.
 So yeah, you can see the flaws, but I think he still looks quite regal.  It certainly has been an honor working with him.  The Blue Heron is on deck now, and believe me when I say I'm doing my research and planning every step with extreme focus and care.


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!



 


Here is a pair of goat hoof candle holders I made about a year ago; they're one of the first pairs I constructed, and I consider them prototypes in a way.  You can see they have a slightly awkward standing angle and require museum wax to safely hold a candle and remain in grounded to the table.  I have since then developed new techniques in how I mount the hooves to rectify this.
They have recently come back to me after being part of a several months long exhibit at the Ward Museum in Maryland, and have also shown at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.  I just now got around to photographing them.  I don't have much else to say other then they are for sale, and I am have about four other pairs in the works.
Enjoy!











Saints and Frizzles


 Meet Saint B Jo Frizzle, a sweet little frizzle Serama chicken I mounted with no idea whatsoever of what his fate would be.  Then I sat down one afternoon, fell into the zone and it all came together. 














  I mounted him in a one legged balance pose atop the base of an antique candle holder, and instinctively went right to the "religious stuff" container in my accoutrement cubby to grab this Catholic relic I've been holding onto for thirty five years or so.
Its a piece of bone from Saint B. Jo. Neumann, a Philadelphia Bishop who founded the first Diocesan Catholic school and was cherished for his ability to take confession in just about any language (His masked and decayed corpse can be viewed currently in the St Peter Apostle Parish on 5th & Girard).  I have always thought this charm was kind of cool and yet it has sat in one drawer or another over the years, unused and underappreciated.


It was a gift to me when I was baptized and while I appreciate the sentiment of passing on a precious relic from one generation to another, I find more significance in incorporating pieces like this into works of art, marrying them with another object to give them new life and new meaning. 
And Lil Frizzle here was silently telling me that he wanted to hold onto this charm for eternity.  So I gave it to him, all the while thinking of a friend/client whom I knew was coming in later that week to find just the right gift for her beau. 

I don't know him very well but I fell into one of those great mental zones where the brain just cedes to the hands and heart and hours later, voila!  She stopped by, approved, and off he went just like that, to go live in his new home.
I've also been working on getting my combs to be a bit more translucent and lifelike.  Ta-Da!

Lamb Fetus Hat, proper.

 I finally got around to shooting my lamb fetus hat, now that it's back from Maryland. Unfortunately I had some issues with the flash and I'm not a very skilled photographer so the pictures are somewhat lackluster.  I'm still sewing the lining into it, which I'll post photos of later, with these, when I list the piece on etsy. For now, though, I wanted to share this very special little gem with you.




























Pheasant: It's what's on your wall and my plate!


Here's a fun trophy mount I just finished for a new father & son hunting duo; the son harvested this gorgeous pheasant and wanted to preserve it.


 It goes without saying that I of course dined on pheasant for the next few days.  Then, fueled properly on bird juice, I set to mounting this creature.  Please forgive these photos; I waited until the client was literally in the parking lot of my shop to get around to shooting and the process was somewhat rushed.  The flash actually kind of makes the first photo look a bit like an action shot, right?
Right?


 I went with an open winged descent pose to display the full color and texture range of his feathers:




 The shot destroyed the tip of his beak and left several of his lil pheasant toes dangling from their foot source, so some restoration was required.


Ta-Da!



 Another oddly lit shot:


 Rearish view:
Not much else to say; client was pleased and so am I. 

I am aiming to really step up my technical game this year, and achieve complete realisation of the designs my head spins of dream taxidermy mounts.  I treasure commissioned jobs like this pheasant, the squirrels I just wrote about and pet preservation because it allows me the work to pursue my more artistic and far-out endeavors.
 I have grand visions for 2014; here's to ambition!

-Insert Giddyup noise here-

Here's a Christmas commission I just finished right under the wire:

 Two squirrels, anthropomorphically posed, giving each other  double finger guns.  Is there a term for it?  If so I don't know it.  Anyway, here are two bad ass squirrels (both dudes) who now live on the mantel on some folks in Media who are quite dear to me.

 The positioning for these two was more difficult than I'd anticipated; the forms I sourced from McKenzie had to be altered significantly.  Here's one in progress:


And in case you were wondering, of course I ate the squirrels.  Here's what a cleaned out squirrel carcass looks like for those who don't already know.  This is eviscerated and ready to cook:


I've been working on achieving the most convincingly life like qualities in my mounts lately, and to position these guys in such an unnatural fashion was extremely difficult for me.  I kept looking at their hands, shaking my head and thinking that it just didn't look right. 


 But seeing as squirrels don't have opposing thumbs, I suppose a slight suspension of disbelief is required when it comes to anthropomorphic taxidermy.




 They were unveiled on Christmas day and the recipient is quite happy from what I hear.



I'm just kicking myself now, looking at these photos, because I ought to have had them winking! Dangit.  Hindsight.  Maybe next time.  Until then, Giddyup!



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.


ORKA


 http://thefarmershusband.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/img_0815.jpg


This is Orka, the beloved sheep of my dear friends Bailey and Thomas who write on the blog The Farmer's Husband. 
She passed away during a complicated pregnancy; you can read all about it here.
If you are at all familiar with me or my work, you know I source almost all my specimen from this farm.  They take their work very seriously, just as I do, and do their best to be sure all their animals travel through life and death with the dignity and respect they deserve.

This past weekend my two favorite farmers in the whole world got married, and as a gift I mounted Orka for them.  Here's her horns on the sheep form I got from Mckenzie's:

Since she had to be put down via shotgun shot to the head, there were some realignment issues when it came to anchoring the horns to the form.  I did my best.  There were also some alterations I had to make since this is the form of a different breed of sheep.

 

That's what skin looks like when it's initially put over the form, in case you are not a taxidermist and were wondering.


And this is what it looks like after the skin is lined up, stapled, sewn, pinned, poked and coaxed into place.  Taxied, if you will, hence the term "taxidermy".


And now I'm feeling the rush of cold blood coursing through my head and down to my fingertips as I realise I have been spelling this creature's name wrong THE ENTIRE TIME. So that there above is her name, misspelled.    My husband Jim sanded and stained two pieces of reclaimed wood with a walnut ink he made himself from black walnuts.  He also did the hand painted lettering of her name.  I told him to spell it that way.
I am so mortified.


I included a plaid woven scarf since her head was cut off a bit close to the face and I wanted to have a long neck coming out from the plaque.  Also, it just looks really nice.
My apologies for the not so well lit and scant photos; we took them at an ungodly hour in the morning before hitting the road to get up to the farm for wedding prep.  This is why I should never rush.  It just doesn't suit me, my work or the choices I make.


But Orka's a good looking girl.  I'm happy with her, as were the grooms.  I'll get more photos the next time I visit, and maybe Jim can turn that C into a K.




Chair As Folk

SO I made my first taxidermy chair.  Behold:


 I, along with several other local designers, was asked to create a custom chair for an auction to kick off this year's Philadelphia Design Festival.  The Popup Place should be a fantastic soiree as its being held at Bahdeebahdu (a heavenly spot where excellent times are consistently had by all) and stocked with tasty treats and bevvies.  I think it will e just the evening to debut a certain feline stole I've been working on...


 If you're in or near Philly and would like to attend, get more info here.  I hope to see you there!



Oh right.  The chair.  Basically we all were provided with a plain old IKEA seat, and told to go wild.  I mounted some calf legs to the steel chair legs, and upholstered the seat with the calf's hide.  
 This was an 80 pound dairy calf that I skinned and tanned myself.  Now that I mention it, I got it from one of the lovely gents of Little Baby's Ice Cream- he fetched it from their local dairy farmer- who will be serving up treats at this Design event.  Connection, connections.
 I was feeling folk inspired to I incorporated some brightly colored woven tapestry with tassels onto the legs and back and voila.  Diamond Tooth's first foray into chair making.



Hoof It











A taxidermy calf hoof bows as deeply as possibly to present light to whomever wishes to receive it. A simple an elegant gesture, this piece will add allure to any table scape or bathtub meditation.
Solid and sturdy build that will last through many candles and memorable evenings.




Calf Hoof Candle Holders, Pair:







Contemplate the future while gazing into this glass orb poised atop a preserved calf hoof. Keep this piece in a sunlit room to see the light refract in the loveliest ways.
Stands on its own, this is a solid piece that will stand the test of suns, moons, spells and dreams.









Two elegant and eternally youthful legs dangle from a gold chain, eternally entwined in playful pose with one another.
Can be worm as a necklace or hung up as decor, dangled from a rearview mirror and anywhere you want to look at something sweet and tender and beautiful.








Sort out the fine print with this elegant magnifying glass and be sure to take in every detail of the contract before you. Or look for stray hairs and other clues to whatever modern day mystery confounds you.
A solid and sturdy piece that will stand the test of many a query, while enhancing your mystique cred at the same time.





Orca was a much beloved sheep living on the Bearded Lady Farm in upstate New York. Sadly, she perished while giving birth due to complications. One her miracle offspring lives on however, and Orca's spirit also lives on in the light cast from the glow of candle burning in this pair of holders fashioned from her back hooves.
These are delicate and while they stand on their own, it is recommended to secure them with a dab of museum wax on the bottom as they are sensitive to hips bumping into the table and strong vibrations from feet stomping on the floor.
Viva Orca!




Mouse & Rat Fetus Ornament:
I made a limited run of a dozen or so of these Christmas ornament snowglobes with tiny fetuses inside.  They're selling too fast to bother listing on Etsy so I'll just share them here.  If you'd like to place an order, there are a couple left so please email diamondtoothtaxidermist@gmail.com to claim one.


It's heart breaking to open up a specimen and find that she was carrying a little family inside of her, and I don't take those moments lightly.  I've held onto my petite "nursery" for a few years now, and I want the little guys to go out and experience the world.

I hope they can bring some cheer to a few warm and fuzzy hearts.





What to wear to Dressage? Or Traffic Court?

Diamond Tooth has you covered.



The Cher:
 Platforms aren't giving you enough height? Fret not, this piece will add a solid 6" to your statuesque figure while framing your face in luxurious iridescent turkey feathers. Made from the saddle part of a wild turkey, fanned out over hand-made buckram band frame, and embellished with vintage studded jewelry and chains.



Death on Two Legs:

For the woman (or enterprising gent) who wishes to never be forgotten. Dress to kill in this vintage buckram frame hat with a taxidermy wild turkey wing swooped around and hugging the head. No nonsense, just outrageous. The spotlight is on you and you alone. 



 The Lydia:
 Thin out the herd of simpletons on a daily basis with a piece like this- only the bravest of hearts will dare approach. Ideal for the young woman who already knows not to suffer any fools.
A taxidermy rooster head swirls into a nestled coil with a horsehair cushion on its underside. He holds a giant pearl in his beak for eternity. The entire piece is anchored to a steel headband, rendering it quite sensible for the young lady on the go, be it cycling, dancing, or levitating with the ghosts of deceased football players.








The Jane:
 The Jane is for a quiet, practical sort of gal who can hop off her cruiser bicycle to deliver a breached calf or present a thesis on the benefits of counter-transference and disclosure in the therapy hour with the same relative amount of ease. She's not a show off, look at me type (not that there is a SINGLE thing wrong with that), she's more of the silent but deadly type. The kind you definitely want on your side.
A taxidermy chicken wing wraps the head of an antique felt cap, embellished with vintage lace detail.






 The Margaret:
 The Margaret is for the reserved but stylish woman; ideal for strolling through an apple orchard to pick apples or simply survey her domain.
The base of this piece is an altered antique velvet cap; a chicken tail & hide pieces frame the front. Embellished with vintage buttons, the amount of provenance in this piece is palpable.




 A Simple and easy to wear piece with maximum impact. A disc of premium, lush iridescent turkey feathers stands straight up, anchored by a steel head band. Sits slightly cocked to one side for asymmetrical hair styling options. Ideal for adding height without making too much of a splash.


Night on The Concorde:
Channel your inner classy and carefree airline attendant with this jaunty and easily beautiful piece. Take your Coffee, Tea or Me with a dash of modern class in a hat that can compliment long flowing locks, or a formal work-appropriate chignon.
Taxidermy rooster wing mounted onto a felt hat base with a silk fringe tassel and fabric bow detail.












Chicken Wing Mohawk:
Add instant height and intrigue to any ensemble and hair style. Taxidermy chicken wings fold into each-other on a hand made buckram frame which is anchored to a steel headband, making an easy to wear (except on windy days!) piece for any gal (or guy) who intends to stop traffic or command a room.



Fox Tail Earcuff and Rabbit Tail Earcuff
The tip of a fox tail dangles from a chain and attaches to the wearer via a sterling silver ear cuff. Instantly dress up any look for the day with this piece, while simultaneously giving yourself something soft to handle during dull moments.
A no brainer




 





Raccoon Baculum Charm Necklace:

 Dare to wear a Raccoon Baculum (penis bone, Texas Toothpick, etc) and see what good juju comes your way. Women have been known to don one while trying to conceive. Gamblers wrap a baculum in a $10 bill, tuck it in their pocket and head to the track to clean up. They are said to generally attract positive energy and spirits, aside from that they are an elegant and beautiful bone to behold. This one is embellished with a genuine Swarovski Amethyst and several snug brass jump rings. Necklace included.





Halo Rose and Araucana Headpiece:





Fabric roses and Araucana chicken hide nestle together onto an antique buckram halo frame to form this playful and romantic piece. A bit Spring-like in appearance perhaps, but the right lady can work this topper any time of year. It's easy to wear and frames the face is a most flattering way.










The Pearl 2.0:




A second incarnation of the original Pearl hat, this one is a bit more compact and snug against the head, ideal for riding horses or traversing the avenue with your best "don't F with me" face.
Very no nonsense.
Taxidermy rooster wing hugs the curve of the cap and a vintage gem holds up a portion of the brim creating a face flattering swoop. Hat base is vintage felt, Stetson quality.






Possum Tail Necklace:





A taxidermy Possum tail curled into an elegant swoop, and capped off with a steel end hangs from a chain at just the right length to flatter any decolletage. Often reviled as undesirable, creepy rodents, Opossum actually have some their own sort of beauty as demonstrated in this piece.





Rooster & Deer Tail Beret:

Meeting a stranger in a cafe for a clandestine exchange? Here's your hat. Elegant and practical, with an amount of flair that will get you noticed by the right people and deter the rest.
Taxidermy rooster hide woven with dyed deer tail swoop around a vintage brown felt beret, terminating in an antique charm.






Rooster Hide Visor Cap:
Make sexy eyes across the arena at that handsome Terrier breeder during the next American Kennel Club event. Dogs and humans alike will be drawn to you in this vintage altered velvet cap with black visor and rooster hide.


The Harvest Queen:
This piece made its way up to Sharon Springs this year and was an honorary guest at the Harvest Festival kicking off an entire 3 days of celebrating all things seasonal, local and organic. Seeing as it's crafted from a taxidermied chicken hide sourced from a farm just down the road in Cobelskill, a repurposed vintage hat base and a handed down magic amber button embellishment sewn on with antique suture thread, The Harvest Queen was a perfect fit. She is full of provenance and positive energy, an asset to any wearer.






The White Witch:
Goes perfect with a glass of champagne and an icy attitude. Altered antique faux fur hat sprouts taxidermy chicken hide and tail from the front top, and is embellished with vintage jewelry. A snug fit, perfect for the Anna Wintour in your life.







Taxidermy Chicken Wing Epaulets:
 I haven't listed these on etsy yet because I'd like to get more shots of them, from the underside explaining method of attachment.  Basically they pin onto the shoulders of whatever the wearer' has on, like a brooch.   If you're in love and don't want to wait, just email me directly at diamondtoothtaxidermist@gmail.com and we'll talk.


Thanks a bajillion to me talented and patient photographer James Coughlin, and the lovely Bell sisters.  Pearl is more than a great model; check out her plethora of other talents here.






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!

New Taxidermy Talon Charms plus a TREAT at the end!


Here are some of the trinkets I've been working on; this is everything I just listed on Etsy, with the exact descriptions listed on that site:


 Taxidermied chicken foot charm, from the very enchanting Silkie breed. These are very special birds, with skin unlike any other fowl. They have an extra toe and the talons are hauntingly long.
Great as a holiday ornament or for home decor, this charm is medium sized (about 7" in length) and delightful to touch.











 Taxidermy Raccoon paw charm with small Swarovski crystal accent. Raccoon paws are enchanting and remarkable in their shape and dexterity. This is a wonderful piece to hang around your neck for holding onto during times or stress or while in deep thought. Channel the energy of the resourceful and imaginative raccoon.
Also great for hanging from a bag, rear view mirror, Christmas tree , candelabra, the list goes on...












 Not all Taxidermy talon charms need to be clutching tings. Some of them are perfect in their own frozen finger expression for eternity. This piece genuine Swarovski crystals on one talon. This piece is on the larger side, measuring about 10" in length.
An ideal holiday ornament, gift, or charm to hang from a dream catcher over your bed to lazily reach up and bat around like a kitten, as you ease into your day.











 Two Large taxidermy chicken feet entwined in an eternal embrace cradle a mammoth costume ring. Talons are painted a metallic brown to compliment their feathers. This piece is on the larger side, measuring about 10" in length and speaks to the more elegant and sophisticated side of talon charms.
Lovely to hand from a Christmas tree or candelabra, perhaps from a door frame to replace that dusty old mistletoe. A magnificent gift for housewarming couples or newlyweds.












 Two Large taxidermy chicken feet entwined in an eternal embrace cradle a vintage functioning locket from a delicate chain. One leg is decidedly more "lady-like" as its emblazoned with a smattering of genuine Swarovski crystals and coated with a high gloss finish to contrast the rough simplicity of the bare leg it clasps.
This piece is on the larger side, measuring about 10" in length and speaks to the more elegant and sophisticated side of talon charms.
Lovely to hang from a Christmas tree or candelabra, perhaps from a door frame to replace that dusty old mistletoe. Put a secret note in the locket for your lover, or pass on as a magnificent gift for housewarming couples or newlyweds.










 Taxidermied chicken feet charm, eternally embraced and cradling a small piece of carved shell. One leg still has its identification bracelet.
Great as a holiday ornament or for home decor, this charm is medium sized (about 7" in length). An ideal gift for newly cohabited or unioned couples.















 The red nails contrasting with the black charm reminds me of my Friday evenings spent combing the racks of Contempo Casuals as a tween at the Granite Run Mall. This large (10" long) taxidermy chicken talon charm holds onto this throwback charm with the ferocity of a Ridley girl about to fight behind the Ruby Tuesday in the parking lot.
An idea gift for your favorite Don't F*** With Me friend to hang from their tree, rear-view mirror, etc.










 This piece is a direct reference to the way Bastian twists his fingers at the breakfast table in the beginning of the movie The Never Ending Story. This film is was beyond influential in my development as a human and I continue to hold its message dear: dream, dream, dream. DO NOT LET THE NOTHING GET YOU.
Like the one grain of sand Bastian is asked to rebuild the Princess's world with after it has been destroyed, this charm flaunts the beginnings of a sparkly new universe on its side. Caress it as you dream; see what manifests.
An ideal gift for you, the dreamer, or the dreamer in your life.











 Taxidermied chicken foot charm, from the very enchanting Silkie breed. These are very special birds, with skin unlike any other fowl. They have an extra toe and the talons are hauntingly long. This particular foot was dyed lavender, and embellished with an old Hollywood style vintage necklace. It will catch the light and reflect in it the most bewitching ways.
Great as a holiday ornament or for home decor, this charm is medium sized (about 7" in length) and delightful to touch.

















Not Listed Yet:



Experimental Raccoon Paw Charm:
 This piece can hang, ideally on your wall.  its hollow enough inside to house a teeny tiny little moss plant or gem.


Large Talon Necklace:
I'm waiting to shoot this piece on a model to show how elegantly it hangs on the human form.  But here is a preview, it's for sale ($128) if you can't wait until the 18th of September when it will be listed properly.








Possum Tail Necklace:

Also not yet listed on Etsy because I am waiting to shoot it on a human model, again, if it strikes your fancy ($138), don't hesitate to contact me.


 




Fox Tail Ear Cuff:
Another addition to my rabbit tail ear cuffs, this little fox tail poof hangs from a shorter chain.  Like all my ear cuffs, the hardware is sterling silver.  Again, this piece will be listed on Etsy after I've shot it on a model, but it pretty much speaks for itself.  If you'd like to purchase ($68) feel free to contact me at diamondtoothtaxidermist@gmail.com
 

As American as Chicken Hats

Voting is now open for the Martha Stewart American Made Competition.  You can find Diamond Tooth in the Style category, and to win would be such sweet bliss for this sometimes starving artist!  Read on please:





I've been bombarding my social media sites with pleas for votes, but my bases would all be covered unless I blogged it as well, right?  I am just about the epitome of hand made, over here at Diamond Tooth.  90% of what I use are raw materials sourced from a farm in New York, or local folks here in Philadelphia.  The embellishments and most structural elements I incorporate into my pieces are objects I have found and held onto for 20+ years (justified hoarding, anyone?).
 



I really, really, want to win this competition.  While I am always wary of these online voting based contests, (it just seems like someone can generate some sort of algorithm to have a spam bot army of voters but what do I know) I'd like to think the Martha Stewart name lends some credibility to this particular event. 


Initial registration is a small pain but once you fill out the itty bitty form (for your chance to win a trinkets as well!) you are free and clear for easy breezy voting every day, six times a day until September 14. Please VOTE!

Let Dolly Help:

This is a chicken "trophy" mount I named Dolly, simply because that's the name that kept coming to mind when I looked at her.  The boys over at The Farmers' Husband actually passed on a treasured chicken of theirs named Dolly in life; she became a wedding headpiece.  This black Silkie was not named anything in life, to my knowledge, but I digress:



She's a regal gal, her soft fur-like texture contrasted by her vintage diamonds.  I gave her pheasant eyes for no reason other than I think pheasant eyes look best.


This piece was a commission for a very sweet woman who wanted to give it to her niece, who is/was having some issues with toilet training.  Ugh, even that term makes me cringe, and I already typed the p-word and deleted it.  She is having difficulty being comfortable in the bathroom.
Why am I telling you this, you may be wondering.  Here you are then- when the young lady is at her aunt's house, she seems to be just fine and it is attributed to a taxidermy chicken the aunt keeps in her bathroom.  Apparently she likes to gaze upon it and it relaxes her.  I love this notion.

 The aunt figured, maybe if she had a taxidermy chicken of her own in her bathroom at home it would help.  As someone who had her own difficulties at that stage of life, I am so touched by this woman's gesture and was honored to take on this project.


I just hope it doesn't turn up 20 years from now when she sees my work in a museum and becomes so relaxed that she pees her pants.

Actually, that would be kind of magnificent.

Charming

Here's some Friday morning eye candy for you: I just listed all these little beauties on my Etsy page, along with the same descriptions you see below.  For prices or to order, just head over to Etsy or email me directly at diamondtoothtaxidermist@gmail.com.
And thanks!



Taxidermy chicken foot with feathers cascading down to the toes, clutching high end chandelier crystal beads. Great for gazing into and losing yourself in the refracted sparkling light the crystal casts from its many faceted surface. Hang it in your sun room and have the sweetest daydreams. 










 A pair of taxidermy chicken feet in an eternal embrace, clutching onto a salvaged hunk of antique chandelier crystal. Just imagine the dinner parties and life moments this crystal absorbed in its time as a magnificent light fixture. A great gift for newlyweds, eager to infuse a precious object with their own energy. Full of provenance, perfect for hanging in a window and casting spark0les about the room.








Taxidermy Fawn Hoof embellished with an iridescent Swarovski crystal dangles from a delicate chain. So tiny and precious; a great gift for tiny hands with taste beyond their years to channel their own magic into. A sweet and wonderful charm that can hang from a window, a book bag, a belt, dream-catcher, or necklace.
Or just place it under your pillow for sweet dreams. 











 There is no prying this metal backed mother of pearl fan charm out of these talons. A small taxidermy chicken hand holds on eternally, a reminder to keep your dreams and ideals within your grasp. Fan charm reflects a variety of colors as it moves; a great piece for hanging from a purse, rear-view mirror or necklace. Petite and easy to manage, but capable of starting mammoth conversation and ideas.








A taxidermy chicken foot hold onto a piece of beaded chain necklace as it it had just snatched it from the sidewalk and is bringing it to their nest. Perhaps as decor, or a gift for a loved one.
A small, understated and simple charm, this piece is easy to wear on the body as it's very lightweight. The beads are great for antsy fingers to play with, and the talon itself makes for a delightfully unconventional ice breaker.





 North meets South in this piece where a chicken from upstate NY clutches a dos peso coin from Cozumel Mexico. A small piece, great for hanging from a purse or rear view mirror to gaze at and remember we are all connected no matter where we are.
 





 Taxidermy chicken foot clutches a translucent piece of plastic in its talons, salvaged from a jeweler's studio. Still wearing its identity cuff, imagine the stories you can conjure of this bird's life as this charm hangs from your window and the sun shines through the charm.





 Taxidermy chicken foot with feathers cascading down to the toes, clutching high end red chandelier crystal beads. Great for gazing into and losing yourself in the warm heated glow of the deep red crystal. Almost like blood dripping from the talons, its a reminder of the magic that is flowing through us all.





 A taxidermy chicken foot clutching a genuine Sesame Place coin in its talons, sourced from a childhood trip to the park in the artist's own childhood. A wonderful regional souvenir or gift for someone who grew up in the area but may have moved away, this charm bridges the gaps of time and space.


Have a charmed day!

Another Bride in my Lipstick Case-

And Mother Too!



I adore bridal commissions.  I love ceremony, ritual, and acts if significance.  Being entrusted to help dress a woman as she carries herself through these rites is an honor I will never take lightly.

M got married today.  I can safely post these photos her commissioned piece.  She basically gave me carte blanche; the only parameters were keeping her hairstyle in mind (a low chignon on the right side) and adding a nautical flair.
I picked this bird with feathers that naturally curled up and away from its body, making a light and swirly shape that moved in the most fantastic way:


  The mount itself was anchored to a steel band which can be visible or masked by hair, depending on style.  I've yet to see how she wore it.




 




 Some silk knot work, a subtle nod to the nautical locale at which the ceremony was being held.  She was not interested in having a veil, per-se, but I snuck in some subtle antique netting.  Provenance, baby.


 Underside knot detail:


Inside lining.  It felt gauche to stick a big old leather tag with my name on it inside her piece so I opted for one of my more discreet tags.





But wait!  There's more!  What about the mother of the bride? 



 This piece is sort of a reincarnation of an original I made for the same woman a few years back, and it suffered irreparable damage at the paws/mouth of M's dog.  So behold Muriel Blingstar 2.0, this time in the form of a Polish Hen perched atop a felt wide brim hat.
I think the Polish are my favorite chickens to work with, next to Silkies of course:


 Of course she needs accessories.





 I provided a ribbon option for securing the hat to her head.  While its all attached quite nicely and discreetly, one can never predict how blustery those maritime afternoons can be.  Heaven forbid another hat fly off and out of our lives.



Three cheers for true love!  

Vintage Post: My First Tan (the good the bad and the hairless).

In an attempt to empty out my freezer stock to make room for what I'm anticipating to be a mother load of fresh specimen next week, I've been skinning, fleshing and processing hides like a maniac.  I do all my own tanning in studio, and while I have occasionally err on the side of awful,(fortunately never with a client's hide, always my own where I attempt to bend the  rules.  I should know by now that science is unyielding when it comes to these kinds of rules),  99% of the time I've gotten quality tanned hides that stand the test of time.  Even my brain tans hold up, but wearer beware- you will smell like a campfire for the first five months of enjoying your furry garment.
As I salted a raccoon hide today I fondly remembered the first raccoon I ever did, fresh out of taxidermy school back in 2010.  I wrote about it and you can see the blog post below.  The coon was (and still is) a grand success, the deer was doomed from the start.  I made too many mistakes from the very beginning.  Thankfully I make most of my mistakes on practice pieces.  It's nice to look back and see how far I've come.  I can't believe I was able to make my little podunk operation work out of a 100 sq foot room in my house back then.
Note for home tanners: I used a product for these two hides that McKenzie no longer offers, much to my dismay.  I have settled on their house brand of tanner as it's basically just as good.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

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.

Like a Soft, Furry Fairy Whispering in Your Ear:

I'm working on a line of ear cuffs, so far I have rabbit tails in stock but will have some fox tail tips soon.  All up on my etsy page or available for pick up at my shop.

 These photos aren't the greatest but I think the pieces speak for themselves.  I've been wearing one throughout the day lately and I find them delightfully cute, lightweight and fun to wear.
  Not only are they a superb ice breaker but if you're prone to the occasional fidgeting they serve as a perfect place for your fingers to play.


Tell Frankie I Said Hi: Secret 1st episode!

My amazing friend Carmen was gracious enough to let me interview her about being preggers for my first ever podcast, and she bore with me thorugh the bumps and whatnot.  After I get a little better at this podcasting process I'll get this operation up on itunes but for now I'm using soundcloud and this first one is on Podbean.  It's neat to hear Carm's pregant past self from a few weeks ago now that she's a new mom.   Give a listen, won't you?
CLICK HERE FOR EPISODE 1 OF TELL FRANKIE I SAID HI



"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

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.







See how High she Flies:



 Meet this witchy woman.  A commissioned piece for a lovely client, I was basically given carte blanche for a head mount.  These are my favorite projects because the mount really takes shape organically.  It might sound corny but I'm being completely sincere when I say that I let the creature guide me in terms of its embellishment/projected personality traits.
I was getting some serious Priestess vibes from this raccoon and rolled with it.

I incorporated some dyed deer tail hair in the whiskers and "Mohawk":


 

 Her paws hold an antique silver jewelry bowl which was part of a set I purchased at a flea market a while back.  I wanted this piece to be functional in some capacity and this bowl conveys a cauldron element while serving as an intimate space to store/stash love notes, wishes, contraband, jewelry, etc.



Her face is also embellished with assorted Pheasant feathers:




I just got the word that she arrived safely and is already right at home on my client's wall.  This brings me tremendous joy.

I got your HANDS ON experience right here:


As I've mentioned here before, I'm getting more involved with workshops and group engagement in terms of taxidermy.  What has been a deligthfully solitary craft for me all these years is slowly morphing into a social experience as more people gain interest in this practice.  I've actually just finished my first week of private tutelage with a  talented and creative young man who completed his first pheasant mount from scratch under my watchful eye. 
It's exciting to see how may people want to peek behind the curtain and see what taxidermy is all about.  In Brooklyn, the Morbid Anatomy Library hosts a slew of various workshops and educational events ranging from how to mount your own squirrel to setting up your own beetle diorama.  I can now list my own specialty among the roster: How to create wearable taxidermy.
Here's a full description of the workshop:


Event

Wearable Taxidermy Workshop by Beth Beverly
Date: Saturday, July 27
Time: 12  6:30 PM
Price: $150
RSVP Email: diamondtoothtaxidermist(at)gmail.com
This class is part of The Morbid Anatomy Art Academy

Students will be provided with pre-skinned and tanned chicken hide elements (wings, tails, heads, etc) along with millinery hardware and all the glues, threads, chain, and miscellaneous decorative elements to create a one of a kind custom taxidermy headpiece.
Starting with the malleable hide parts, students will be instructed on how to manipulate, fill and and position the feathered sections while anchoring them to the metal hardware using foam mannequin heads (provided) for stability. Millinery accents like netting, crinoline, jewels and metal embellishments can then be added to complete the students' own personal design, finishing off the workshop with instruction on lining the inside and adding a personalized garment tag.
Students will leave with their new wearable piece of fashion taxidermy, along with printed out lesson sheets and sourcing info so that they may employ these new skills for life.



I've already got 6 full birds skinned, tanned and ready to head up to NY next month; I'm using my best and brightest specimen because I truly want to create a dazzling workshop for my students and make sure they take home something truly beautiful.  I even had a Polish Hen ( I rarely get those) but got greedy and decided to keep that one for myself.  Here is a hint at some of the colors/textures I'm offering that aren't Polish hens:




 A nice assortment, and I've still got loads more!  In fact, I'll be going up to the farm to collect some freezer treats from the boys at The Farmer's Husband early next month so who knows what stunning pieces I'll have!

I'm looking forward to this workshop and meeting the folks who are as enthusiastic as me over wearable bio art. I'm also eager to see what other creative minds come up with, left to their own devices.  There's still a few spots left if you are in or near Brooklyn on July 27 and would like your own custom made for you by you piece of wearable taxidermy!  Just email me through my website or go to Brown Paper Tickets to secure your place in class.

One of My Favorite Things: WILBUR VINTAGE/A Beth Beverly Fashion Retrospective

Blouse from Wilbur Vintage

 I want to start incorporating posts about things and people who make my life as wonderful as it is that aren't necessarily taxidermy related, and am feeling inspired today to tell you all about one of my nearest and dearest, Wilbur Vintage.  I've known Dan Wilbur (owner and proprietor) for almost a decade now and ours is the kind of friendship that feels so instantaneous that the possibility of having met in other lifetimes isn't even questioned.  It's just understood. 
Gold shirt under black sweater from Wilbur-I'm posing with Cesar Galindo & model for his Fall '13 shoot.
Sweater again, in 2010
Dan has unparalleled taste in clothing and what makes him such a valuable asset to any woman's wardrobe is that he knows what women look good in.  Also, he's not afraid to tell you when something is not working on your body.  He understands that we all are built differently, and can see us through an unbiased filter- not the one we see ourselves through which can be tinted with flaw seeking shame or dumb shit we've been told by vampires who pose as people close to us in our formative years.

Recently I was getting dressed for an event and realised just about everything I wear is from Wilbur.  Especially clothes for events where I know I'm going to be photographed.  Without a doubt almost every time I leave the house, I can look down and see at least one piece from Wilbur Vintage on my body- dress, shoes, belt, scarf, shirt, gloves, anything and everything that looks good comes from this magical place.

Here's a brief video  from The American Hipster series in which I am lovingly ensconced in one my my favorite Wilbur blouses:






This dress is possibly my favorite Wilbur purchase- it's a vintage Bonwit Teller piece, which holds sentimental value for me since I spent five years of my life as the window dresser for Daffys which occupied the old Bonwit Teller building:

Cruise Elegant, baby: 2011


On the set  of Immortalized, 2012



 Back in 2010 when I made that fateful trek up to Brooklyn to compete in the annual Carnivorous Nights taxidermy competition (and won best in show in case anyone forgot) I armed myself with this stealthy suede number that was completely open backed.  It's hard to tell from this photo but it was drawn quite tight at the waist line with a little ruffle.  It felt very Cruella Deville which is exactly what I needed that night to dominate in unfamiliar territories.  This dress is probably second favorite in my collection.  Sadly, it requires a small waist and I've grown a couple inches since then- relegating this piece to its space on the dress up rack until I decide to put down the chocolate for a month or so.

Dress and gloves from Wilbur Vintage



 Back in 2011 I attended the Kentucky Derby and several of its surrounding events (The Barnstable Ball, The Brown Ball) to which I had donated taxidermy pieces to be auctioned off in exchange for tickets to said balls (side note- Mike Mills from REM and his girlfriend bought one of my hats. I wonder if she ever wears it and thinks of me...).  Of course I turned to Wilbur when planning my wardrobe for this trip:


   
At the Derby:Pink dress from Wilbur


 Our first night in Kentucky I stunned the locals with this number:


Unfortunately the hat is really being a camera hog so below is the same exquisite gown again, this time paired with a rabbit fur and antler hat:

Elegant night, AKA the night we narrowly escaped the Cozumel mafia

 Last year at the Radnor Hunt, the tailgate theme was "Islands", to be interpreted many ways. I went with Cuba and channeled my inner priestess, with the help of this colorful number from Wilbur.  This is definitely a do not try this at home level ensemble.

Dress from Wilbur Vintage





 When Immortalized was gearing up for its television premier there were several promotional events where I had the opportunity to dress in my finest.   The photo below is borrowed from Takeshi and that's me posing with him outside- it was a pop up gallery called Immortal Love and it was just terrific.  This vintage jacket paired perfectly with my just finished lamb fetus hat.

Jacket from Wilbur Vintage



 Inside from the same party:

Dress from Wilbur Vintage


 I also had the opportunity this year to show one of my hats during a NY Fashion Week runway show.  Here's me posing with the designer, Cesar Galindo and my hat.  The model wore it like a champ.  I took a mental snapshot of how it felt to sit in the front row and see someone walk so flawlessly in a piece that I made, and I take that snapshot out of the recesses of my mind and cuddle with it on rainy days.  I'm wearing this fantastic jacket I got from Wilbur that wraps around the body like a blanket and has tassels and ropes, a couple of my favorite things.
Jacket from Wilbur Vintage



I most recently wore this batik dyed dress from Wilbur to the second annual Ladies Tea at Devon, where it received rave reviews.  (Carson Kressley said it was his favorite dress of the day and that's that.)
Dress from Wilbur Vintage


In case you're not tired of watching me play dress-up, this video captures me in all my Wilbur Vintage glory, in motion no less:





 If you're feeling inspired to go check out Wilbur yourself, the shop is on Fabric Row in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia:

Address: 716 S 4th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone:(215) 413-5809
Hours:
 
Monday1:00–8:00 pm
Tuesday1:00–8:00 pm
Wednesday1:00–8:00 pm
Thursday1:00–8:00 pm
Friday1:00–8:00 pm
Saturday12:00–7:00 pm
Sunday12:00–7:00 pm


Not in Philly?  Lucky you, he's got an etsy shop:  Wilbur Vintage on Etsy










MAKE IT A DATE: Chicken Mouning Demo with MOI at Diamond Tooth HQ!

On the heels of my delightful and engaging presentation at the Wagner Institute, I've started offering live demonstrations in the more intimate setting of my studio.  If you're curious about taxidermy and would like to see it up close and personal, executed by a licensed professional who is more than happy to answer any and every one of your questions- then VOILA! Both dates are on Saturdays, the first being June 29 and the second on July 13.
These workshops are hosted through a company called Side Tours; they assemble a calender of unconventional experiences for anyone enthusiastic about getting to know more about what Philly has to offer.  Directly from their site:

Discover the Bygone Art of Taxidermy at an Artist's Workshop

Witness an enthralling demonstration of preserving and mounting a chicken before trying out the process yourself.

Discover the Bygone Art of Taxidermy at an Artist's Workshop
  • Beth Beverly is an artist, fashion designer and licensed taxidermist
  • Watch as Beth demonstrates how to properly prepare and mount a chicken, then try it yourself
  • Push your boundaries and challenge your perceptions of death in a lively interactive environment
An important ritual in ancient Egypt and the Middle Ages, the real golden age of taxidermy came during the Victorian Era, when it was all the rage in interior design. The fashion eventually faded, but as with most fashions, it has recently experienced a big revival.
Beth Beverly is the proud proprietor of Diamond Tooth Taxidermy. An artist and fashion designer, Beth found her calling in the form of sculptural and wearable taxidermy. Since then, she has become a licensed taxidermist and was featured on AMC's Immortalized, a reality show about rogue taxidermists and their colorful creations.
Join Beth in her warehouse studio for an interactive demonstration in the art of preservation, as you watch her prepare and mount a recently deceased chicken, creating a wonderful (and wonderfully odd) piece of home decor in the process. After Beth shows you the ropes, you’re encouraged to take the wheel, tumbling the hide, blowing the specimen dry and preparing the animal for tanning. Afterwards, try on some of the incredible, wearable animal creations made by Beth and pose for pictures. Grab a feather on your way out, as a memento of your fashionable new skill.
Host photo credit: Ben Leuner for AMC
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Beth Beverly - Taxidermy Artist

Beth Beverly

Taxidermy Artist
Beth Beverly's fascination with the lost art of taxidermy began soon after she started incorporating animal fibers into her work as a fashion designer. When she happened upon a dead bird on the city sidewalk, it felt only natural for Beth to pick it up. A decade later, Beth is a fully licensed...
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I hope you can make it!  And if you know anyone who may be interested, sign them up!

The Other Dark Meat


Here's a pile of fat at my dubious feet.  I read that I had to cut out the glands under the armpits but I never saw any glands.  Just mountains of fat.  I started to wonder if I was making a huge mistake.


 Let me explain.  A few months back I was presented a raccoon from a trapper who occasionally gives me the spoils of his never-ending attempt to keep predators from his ducks and chickens.  I feel not-so-great to downright terrible about trapping, despite the more "humane" traps out there these days, which is why I have set about learning more about this practice (blog post on that later) so I can feel fully informed before falling squarely one one side of the fence.
In the meantime, however, while this guy is dispatching these "nuisance" creatures, I may as well make use out of every part right?  I'd heard about eating raccoon before; my buddy who grew up in West Virginia claims to have eaten it many times as a child.  My friend Georgia Pellegrini who wrote a book on eating less tan conventional meats (Girl Hunter, do yourself a favor and go get it now if you haven't read it) has prepared and eaten raccoon dozens of times.  In fact, she walked me through the preparation of this dish via multiple text messages over the weekend.


 A little info about the "other dark meat" from an essay by Bill Hanks:
Trapper Larry Brownsbeger runs an add in the newspaper. He sells his Raccoons for between $3 to $7 each. that isn't a pound either. His Raccoons are clean and neatly wrapped. He announces his location of where the sales with take place. It doesn't take long and he is sold out.
The meat isn't USDA inspected either. Neither is Deer for that matter. There are no laws to prevent trappers from selling their meat. When you think of "green", Raccoon has no additives, steroids, growth hormones, or antibiotics. It is truly an organic "green" form of meat.
In Missouri, it is estimated that there are 20 Raccoons for every square mile. The Raccoon population has doubled since the 80's. There are more Raccoons now than when the State was first settled.
Pioneers use to eat Raccoon. They were easy to trap and prepare. A Raccoon can easily fill a family of four or five. Unless you know a trapper or trap yourself, it is hard to find a Raccoon that has already been cleaned and wrapped properly.
Raccoons provide a great source of protein to a person's diet. Still for many Americans, a Raccoon is still considered as a rodent that they try to avoid hitting on the road. However, for a few that know how to cook it, it is a meal that they can't wait for.


I began by quartering up my raccoon and making a marinade.  I used salt, sugar, rosemary, Spodee (I kind of live off the stuff), pear vinegar and pineapple juice.  In hindsight, I used much too much salt but now I know for next time.


 I let it sit for two full days and then set about braising it.  I've never actually braised anything (I attempted to braise a fox a year ago but didn't look up directions or anything so it turned out just awful) so I looked up instructions on several sites and kind of married a few recipes.  I cooked the meat in really hot grape seed oil for about a minute on each side:



 It began to smell REALLY FUCKING GOOD.  I started to think I might be onto something.


I then added "aromatic" vegetables  (onion, carrots, celery, shallots, crushed garlic) to the hot oil after taking out the meat.  Here's where I made my second mistake.  I added more oil to the veggies while they were cooking which was completely unnecessary.


After the mixture had become soft, I deglazed the pot (another first for me!) by adding sherry.  The recipe called for wine but I think sherry is pretty much the same, right?  Plus its all we had in the house.
I then added the meat back in, added more sherry and a 32oz can of crushed tomatoes.  The liquid didn't quite cover the raccoon so I topped it off with some water, bay leaves and paprika (I don't even know what paprika is for but it was looking so lonely on the spice rack really wanting to be useful so I figured, what the heck), brought the whole thing back up to a simmer, covered it tightly and in the oven it went for 4 hours.



Except it was more like 6 hours because I fell asleep.  Still, I tasted it before putting the whole pot in the fridge for the night and the meat just melted in my mouth.  It left an unusually velvety texture in my mouth.
The next night I heated up a couple bowls for the mister and me and we dined on coon stew with garlic bread and side salads.   A few notes:
-I think because of the crazy amount of salt I used in the marinade, the meat itself was just a bit too sodium rich.  I don't mind a little salt though; it keeps my blood pressure at human level and prevents head rushes.  Jim however, was NOT feeling it.
-This is an eztremely rich dish.  The raccoon is so fatty to begin with and like I said earlier, I used far too much oil.  Again, I don't mind, especially if there is bread to soak up all the goodness but it does feel like more of a cold weather comfort dish than anything you'd want to put in your body on a 90 degree day. 
That said, I ate leftovers for lunch today and was just as happy with it lukewarm having sat in my bag all day.  Does that sound gross?  Should I be refrigerating my food?  Psssssht.  No thanks.

I will, however, be packing up the rest of this dish (this raccoon really could feed a family of five, there is so much of it!), freezing it and saving it for a really dreary low energy day in November.

In the meantime, I might get Georgia to give me some more pointers.  She and I have been trying to figure out a joint class we could teach where I show how to skin and mount a specimen and she shows how to turn it into a gourmet dish.  No waste!  Maybe raccoons are the answer.

This Chicken was Skinned in Front of a Live Studio Audience.



















I recently teamed up with The Wagner Free Institute and author Rachel Poliquin for a Philadelphia Science Fest event called Skinned, Stuffed and Mounted in which Rachel gave a presentation on the history of taxidermy and America's current obsession with it, and I skinned a chicken while discussing the actual nuts and bolts of taxidermy.

 From the Wagner website advertising the event:
Rachel Poliquin
Rachel Poliquin is a writer and curator dedicated to exploring all things orderly and disorderly in the natural world. Most recently, her work has focused on the cultural history of taxidermy. She is the author of The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing (Penn State Press, 2012) and ravishingbeasts.com. Her museum work includes “Ravishing Beasts: The Strangely Alluring World of Taxidermy” at the Museum of Vancouver and the permanent Vertebrate exhibits at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. She is currently writing a book about beavers for the Reaktion Book’s Animal series.
Beth Beverly
Philadelphia’s premiere rogue taxidermist, Beth Beverly specializes in wearable taxidermy. Her hats have won awards at the Devon Horse Show, Brandywine Polo and Radnor Hunt Clubs. Her work has been featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, plus galleries such as La Luz de Jesus, Art in the Age, and Michael Vincent Gallery. In 2010 Beverly won "Best in Show" at the annual Carnivorous Nights competition in New York. Currently featured as an "Immortalizer" on AMC's series about competitive taxidermy, she relishes in being photographed wearing her work and defying common stereotypes of taxidermists.
The Philadelphia Science Festival is a citywide collaboration showcasing science and technology every April. Part of a national movement to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, it builds on Philadelphia’s rich history of innovation with dozens of events at museums, universities and neighborhood libraries. Learn more at PhilaScienceFestival.org.
The Festival is funded in-part by the National Science Foundation and presented by The Dow Chemical Company.

  The Science Festival was a truly fantastic thing to be a part of; I come from a science-heavy family and it's nice to remind people that art and science do not exist exclusively of one another.Here's Rachel, demonstrating her well-polished public speaking technique:


And here's one of the slides from her book. Is was great to watch her presentation; her voice has an entrancing quality to it and her vocabulary is outstanding- a quality I hope to emulate.




Yours truly, getting started.  It's peculiar; I adore being the center of attention and commanding a room, being in front of the camera, etc...yet before I ever get on stage or do anything like this, my hands start to shake and my knees literally get weak.   I'm starting to think this will always happen and never go away, and I'm also starting to think it's not the symptom of me being a scared little girl.



It's my body getting terribly and uncontrollably excited because it knows something very wonderful and fulfilling is about to happen.  I'm good at this, and my body knows it, more than my mind.

If you know me, you know that before I commence skinning any specimen I say a prayer of thanks and burn sage.  The kind folks at the Wagner Institute were considerate enough to let me practice my ritual despite the many ancient and flammable artifacts in that auditorium.


Skinning, and taking questions:

I can't tell you how cool it was for me to work in front of a large projection of myself working.  I think part of my ego exploded a little bit.  I had to force myself to not turn around and look at the screen-it's like catching yourself on a security camera and being completely mesmerized.  My hands were shaking so badly that I actually nicked my finger with the knife and started bleeding, but it apparently wasn't as obvious as it felt.  For all they knew it was chicken blood.












So obviously the event was a success.  It felt great to be part of something that was such a great fit for all involved.  The dream continued next morning when I had the honor of in-studio guesting on a program I have listened to every day for years, Radio Times.  Meeting Mart Moss-Coane was just fucking keen, pardon my French-not-French.  If you missed it or would just like to hear us speaking in hushed tones about all things taxidermy, listen here: Radio Times

From the Radio Times website:
Guests: Rachel Poliquin, Beth Beverly
Walk into any natural history museum and you’ll see the animal dioramas – lions prowling the African veldt, a herd of buffalo on an American prairie, a polar bear towering over a dead seal.  And, in hunting lodges, and even home décor, an animal's head might be mounted on the wall.   For years people have stuffed and mounted animals to display as science, art or a trophy.   This hour, we explore the history and art of taxidermy with RACHEL POLIQUIN, curator and the author of “The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing” and BETH BEVERLY, a taxidermist and artist and owner of Diamond Tooth Taxidermy in Philadelphia.


After the Wagner workshop (like a week later, not literally after) , I hosted a group  of mature adults all belonging to a crwew called Mystery Club. 
 

The Mystery Club is in its 30th year of existence and what they do is have an adventure every month that is a complete surprise to all involved except the two who plan it.  This month's organizer, who chartered Diamond Tooth for the day, told me about the first ever excursion they had where a van picked them all up, drove them to NYC where they were instructed to climb up a fire escape and into a building where they were fitted with armored costumes and thrust out onto stage as background characters at the MET for an opera.  I cannot tell you, after hearing this story, how honored I was to have my lil' old taxidermy shop count as a notch in these folks' belts. 
I skinned this chicken in front of them while fielding questions. The only snag was that one woman turned out to be deathly allergic to feathers and had to wait outside the building the entire 2 hours.  I've never wished harder that Kensington wasn't just a little more scenic.


After the skinning demo, I invited everyone to paw through my wares and try on hats. See this Audrey Hepburn looking gal?  Just an hour before this picture was taken she was emphatically declaring that there was no way on earth anyone would ever catch her with a dead bird on her head:


It feels so good to help people open their mind to new things.  Is she not the perfect model for this hat?


Another winner:




My favorite quote of the day: "For the golf course!" (have I told you how much I adore these people?):


And so begins a new road down the path of workshopping.  I have more events scheduled and will be writing more soon; if you've ever wanted a behind the scenes, hands-on experience with taxidermy and animal preservation, here is your opportunity.  It's a dream come true for me to combine a craft that I'm truly passionate about with performing, in a sense.  I promise all who attend, a wonderful and dreamy experience.









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.



It Takes Two to Make an Accident-


And what happy, delicious accidents you will make with these feathered partners in crime atop your head!



I've been working on this small collection of Gatsby-themed hair pieces since February, and have been having a challenging time trying to schedule a shoot with models and my photographer to properly catch them in their best light.  I'm leaving town again on another job though, and am feeling the pinch to broadcast these pieces out to the world since the weather's warming up, pretty hat season is upon us and the movie which inspired this line has now finally been released!  So I beg your pardon in regard to the glaringly unprofessional photography here, but I did manage to find two mute models who would work for free.  I will take better shots upon returning to the US but for now I think this gets the point across.  They're all lightweight and anchored with a metal headband or clip; this makes them easy to wear without needing any ninja bobby pin skills.  The security of a headband or spring clip allows the wearer to dance, drink, kiss, ride a bike, or even recline with ease and no worries about slippage or displacement.





The Angel:  Named simply for the shape and color of the chicken wings I used to create it.  I can picture it on a soft faced woman dancing with herself on the edge of the party, contrasted against the starry night in her cream dress.  





 The Carraway: This is a simple, no nonsense clip I named  after our story teller.  Understated and classy, this piece can easily slip into any party without raising the wrong eyebrows.


 



The Edie: Just because I imagine a deleted scene where the Grey Gardens gals crash a Gatsby party- in their early days, of course.  A somewhat conservative yet jaunty poof that rests on the side of the head with an antique Indian charm dangling from it:




Little Edie:






 The Myrtle: A netted fascinator for a fierce, strong woman who is adored by many but keeps all at bay.  There is a great deal going on under that cage veil...



 The Suzanne: A burst of feathers from the top of the head for a playful and engaging woman with a healthy sense of fun.  Named for Suzanne Roberts who helped me make this piece (filmed for an upcoming segment on her show "Seeking Solutions with Suzanne").






 The Daisy: Bold, striking and pursued by many.  Dripping with class.






 The Jordon: Also classy, but with a masculine flair. 




 The Jazz Hippie:  She's at every party, the one you have the most surprising conversation with while sharing the last dregs of a bottle at four in the morning.








 The jay:  Named after Gatsby himself, this piece is for a woman who demands to be seen.  Style level: Moderate to advanced- it takes an experienced woman to pull off this look.



 All of these will be listed on my etsy site upon my return next week.  For inquiries, purchase or rental please email diamondtoothtaxidermist@gmail.com

Happy Gatsbying!

OcCult of Birthdayality

 Recently a very special person had a very special birthday and I wanted to mark the occasion with a one of a kind, thoughtful piece of art.  So....how about a professionally blessed candle from the local occult shop nestled inside its own custom cow hoof holder?


I've been wanting to explore this shop for quite some time, as I am fascinated by all things occult but never really took the time to inform myself on it.  I often feel tuned in with certain vibrations and know first hand that listening to my inner voice yields unique and perfectly tailored-to-me results, and for my own amusement have made up my own new-age sort of modus operandi for navigating my way through this world.  It's a hodge podge of cherry picked bits and bobs I picked up from books, film, etc but feel too personal to really get into here- I'll save it for the Shrine post coming up shortly.

Digression aside what I'm trying to say is that I finally stopped into my local occult shop to check it out with my own eyeballs and get my paws on some "official" merchandise, most importantly a custom blessed candle for my friend.



I spoke to the practitioner and told him about S; he began to take notes on a piece of paper while I spoke and his enthusiasm was contagious.  He was so excited about this candle! I didn't want to kill the mood by telling him he'd spelled her name wrong. I figured the intent was there and that's what really matters.  He disappeared in the back for about fifteen minutes and emerged with this glittering hand painted candle.  He proceeded to explain all the symbols on it to me- I know Aries is in there somewhere, plus a heart and something about water- but due to sensory overload I could only retain so much information.  I was given strict instruction to pass onto my friend that she is to burn the candle at times when she feels she needs to meditate or clear her mind before making an important decision.  This card he made is to stay underneath the candle while it is lit.  After the entire thing has burned away, the card is then put into the flame and ignited as well.


 


 I wanted to make it really special and put my own blend of magic into her gift.  Hence the candle holder.  She was born in the year of the Ox, so I used some cow hooves to make this piece since the two are so closely related.  It's my first "double foot" holder, so to speak, and while I like the elegance of the tall, single foot holders with their long tapered candles, there is something raw about these two feet forever pushing and pulling one another that quite strikes my fancy.










And of course no piece of mine is complete without a little diamond somewhere!


 Happy Birthday to anyone anytime anywhere.  Today is the best day ever because it's the one we are living.


VINTAGE POST: LADIES TEA & HAT COMPETITION AT DEVON


Devon Horse Show LaYDEEEES day: 2012 edition

Early Wednesday morning my friend Mearah swung by to primp and prep for our first Ladies Tea at Devon. Neither of us had attended such an event but thankfully it was the first one of its kind  so all of us were excited about having no expectations.  Upon arrival we’d be meeting my other friends Beth, Claudia and Sharilyn who all were kind enough to be my hat models for the day.  We arrived in time for the contest and “parade” and while Caron Kressley was not in attendance (he did so adore my duck hat from 2010, poo) I managed to hit it off with Bill Henley who made for a great consolation prize.  We paraded ourselves in front of the judges and Diamond Tooth emerged victorious, placing fourth among excellent company.
Image from the magnificent Susan Scovill
I of course chose to wear an entire Guinea Hen on my head which, being the most in-season option my butcher could provide, made for a sensational dinner as well as a fun hat.
photo by Brenda Carpenter, http://brendacarpenter.com/
You will see this same hen make a guest appearance in a few weeks as part of a short video profile about taste makers in Philadelphia: she was a dream to work with.  Absolutely no drama.   But I digress.  I fasbricated some new, and sourced some classics for the rest of my gal pals ranging from tastefully conservative to somewhat more exotic.  When I’m not crafting my own hat bases for my pieces, I pair up antique hats gifted to me or sourced from flea markets that I collect.  Along with all the trinkets I collect from the street, it’s profoundly rewarding to marry up materials after having held onto them so long.  Of course, what I’m doing is certainly nothing new or that shocking- I just hope that I can do the legacy of high society ladies from the late 1800s justice with my interpretation of their taxidermy hat fashion. I do understand that taxidermy is not for everyone, as I’ve said many times.  How boring would the world be if we all had the same tastes?  Lucky for me I was in the presence of some classy, kind and open-minded ladies.
Thank you Susan Scovill!
As you can see, my ladies and I had a great time.  Beth, on the left, is wearing the Prairie Chicken Hat from my website while Claudia sports a gorgeous Bantam rooster saddle mounted on a vintage brown velvet beret.  Next is Mearah with a rehabbed vintage blue cap with a rooster wing and glass charms affixed to it. I couldn’t find any shots of all of us together but here is Sharylinn (below, center) wearing a fascinator I made from (tada!) more Guinea hen feathers and some antique cage veiling.  It’s hard to see but some rooster tail feathers are peeking out here and there as well, plus assorted gems:

After we did a little winners’ photo trot, the whole gaggle of us headed across the grounds to the Ladies’ tea, of which my friend Jen McGowen did a sensation job planning.  I was actually on the planning committee with a dozen or so other women, but spreading the word and promotion was about the extent of my planning.  Jen seemed to shoulder the bulk of managing this event with the grace and panache of the Fresian horses I was drooling over later that same day.   Once under the tent we ran into some old friends and made new ones.  I was making every attempt to visually memorize all the beautiful dresses and shoes I saw:
Again, thank you Susan Scovill
I could sit and watch pretty ladies, dressed up and socializing for hours.  Sometimes I still feel slightly intimidated as my financial status does not allow me to dress in much aside from second-hand or hand-made, but seeing as one cannot buy style, it levels the playing field for me a bit.  Not like I needed it: these ladies are all so kind and friendly and sociable it just makes for a truly enjoyable and uplifting experience.  It warms the cockles of my heart to see a great group of women from assorted backgrounds coming together to not only sip champagne and nibble cucumber sammies (my FAVE) but also to simply enjoy each other, our health, and how amazing life is that it allowed us to spend such a luxurious morning together.  Just look at these happy faces!  I kind of fell in love with the three ladies in cream in the left of this photo.  I didn’t actually learn their names but they were a dream team.
Photo from Constant Contact
After the tea wrapped up, a few of us stayed back to soak up some pony action.  Ladies side-saddle is a perennial favorite of mine to watch, and this year I caught some of the Fresian dressage (I could be wrong and probably am- it looked kind of like dressage but not quite.  The riders wore top hats and brightly colored coats, and in one event the horses pulled them in little chariots!).  Of course I need to bone up of my pony facts but I do absorb a thing or two from other spectators who are generous enough to share their knowledge with me.  Example: there is an entire industry which manufactures hair extensions for horses!

BORROWED POST: THE FARMER'S HUSBAND, ORKA

Please read the following post I borrowed from The Farmer's Husband, telling the story of Orka and the unexpected end to her charmed and lovely life.  This is the part where I step in; stay tuned for more stories of Orka to come as she is immortalized through love, art, and taxidermy:

 

Orka

April 24, 2013

Orka, one of our Icelandic ewes, began to show signs of lambing two Sundays ago. Her bag (udder) was full and she was becoming restless and aloof. A total of nine goats and sheep had successfully given birth so far this season, and she was to be the tenth. Well they say that one out of every ten births proves to be problematic, and if you are at all squeamish, I suggest that you NOT scroll down any further.
WARNING: RATHER GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW
Orka, in the front here, was by far the most striking of all our sheep
Orka, in the front here, was by far the most striking of all our sheep
Sheep really don’t require any intervention during the lambing process. We do not separate the lambs at birth, as we do with the goat kids, and it is best if the ewes can do everything out on pasture without the stress of us hovering over them.  I went out to check on her after evening chores and everything seemed fine. Her water broke while I was shining my flashlight on her vagina. “Great,” I thought, “We’ll have some more lambs in the morning. Good luck, Orka.” And we went to bed.
The next morning, there were no new lambs. We found Orka lying in the sheep house, exhausted and in pain. She was having contractions but was hardly dilated. Because of last year’s tragic lambing and kidding season, we know exactly what to do in these situations. We reached in, expecting to find a (preferably live) lamb in need of some assistance getting out. But neither of us could feel much of anything. Something wasn’t right.
Her bag was big, purplish blue (not normal), cold (definitely not normal), and very firm. We wanted to relieve some of that pressure in order to make her just a little more comfortable. But when Bailey went to milk her, a foul-smelling, chunky, cloudy, bloody liquid squirted out. We immediately called our friend Cindi, who is not only a goat and sheep expert, but also a professor of animal sciences at the local university. She explained that Orka had gangrene mastitis, that the unborn lambs were probably dead, that the only way to save Orka was to slice open and drain the udder, that if she didn’t die from the whole ordeal (which she likely would) that she could never be bred again, and that we needed to call our vet right away.
Our vet echoed all of that, but told us that if we wanted to bring Orka in to the clinic, she would be able to see her in 3 hours or so. We had two options: 1) Make her suffer for a few more hours before loading her into the back of the pickup and spending hundreds of dollars at the vet, where her udder would be sliced open, her lamb fetuses extracted, and then she’d be put on a serious course of antibiotics, which would likely not keep her from dying anyway; or 2) put her down.
We have a gun, but it’s not the right kind of gun for shooting a sheep. Plus we have no idea how to use it. So we called a neighbor friend who kindly came right over and put her down for us. When we called the vet to cancel the emergency appointment, she told us that we had made the right decision.
We then called Cindi, just to follow up and let her know how everything had transpired. As it turned out, she was teaching an Animal Sciences Lab that afternoon, and asked if we would be interested in bringing in Orka so that she could conduct a necropsy with her students. So sure enough. We loaded up the carcass after brunch and headed to campus, where, under the sun on a beautiful Spring day, Cindi disassembled Orka in front of 25 or so students. Not only was it a very rare opportunity for them to see gangrenous mastitis, but she also had two unborn lambs that had come to full term.
IMG_3369
The first thing Cindi did was remove the udder, seen in the above photo.  The little light pink patch is what healthy udder tissue looks like, everything else is toxic gangrene. On the bottom of the udder, she found a deep cut. Orka was short-legged and her udder nearly dragged on the ground when she walked; she had apparently punctured it on something–likely an unnoticed piece of wire sticking out of the ground–the wound became infected and gangrene developed very quickly.
IMG_3373

The two unborn ram lambs were big boys (nearly 12 pounds each). We got to see all of Orka’s stomachs, her reproductive system, and well, everything else.
We are so happy that she was able to be used for educational purposes and feel really fortunate to have been able to experience something like that. There happened to be a butcher taking the class; he was able to comfortable and cleanly remove the legs and head. The legs and lambs were put in the freezer for our dear Beth at Diamond Tooth Taxidermy. Maybe she’ll make some more hoof candleholders or fetus hats? And we are going to have the head mounted for our dining room. She was so beautiful, and now her beauty will live on forever.

VINTAGE POST: Meeting my Meat




Meeting My Meat

Last weekend was an exhausting yet emotionally fulfilling one. I made the trek up to Schoharie to visit my beloved farm boys Thomas & Bailey by way of a short stay in Harlem with another dear friend while working a non taxidermy job in NYC.  I arrived at the bus stop in Albany weary, bedraggled, and depressed and drained.
The reason for my visit was not only pleasure, but purpose: the boys had been raising some rabbits for food and the time had come to process a few of them.  Thomas, who was taking on this project, immediately thought of me as a viable processing partner, given my philosophy on eating meat.  I won’t call myself a vegetarian ( I still occasionally eat meat when someone offers me a free meal and I would otherwise go hungry due to lack of funds, so call me a hypocrite if you wish) or any other label because whenever I try to talk about it, I just sound pretentious.  Unfortunately, it mostly comes up when I’m declining an offer at a gathering where everyone else is partaking in the meal.   It’s not like I want to stand up in a room full of folks enjoying themsselves and say, “well its just that you’re all eating shit meat”.
But for the most part they are.   And that isn’t the problem to me but more a symptom of something much, much more saddening.***
And maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone but this is my journey and perhaps someday I will articulate it (through words or taxidermy) more clearly but it’s no coincidence that the craft about which I am most passionate revolves around the manipulation of skin onto forms, or why I gravitate towards the rogue genre of taxidermy.  In this realm, I can take a skin and put it on a form that has nothing to do with the original specimen.  I can give it wings, diamonds for eyes, a stretched neck, anything my mind comes up with.  As someone who has struggled (to an agonizing degree)  my entire life to achieve a healthy amount of comfort in my own skin, manipulating fantasy creatures out of the dermis of others is a projection of my own wishes to occasionally escape this body I currently occupy.
It’s also no coincidence that underneath these hides are meat.  Thick, bloody, nourishing meat.  My journey as a budding taxidermist also led me down a path of exploring the source of my food, and the subsequent attempts to negotiate my ambivalent relationship with it.  This has been a years long puzzle in which I occasionally fit in a flurry of pieces in one instant, or spend months trying to jam the same ill-fitting piece into a spot that won’t accept it.  Sometimes I just have to walk away and come back when the time is right.
Last weekend in New York, my food puzzle was ripe for some work and ready to accept a flurry of new pieces to their rightful home.
Here is Thomas, watering their garden :

They’ve got corn, tomatoes, pepper, squash, a wide variety of herbs and edible flowers plus many others that I am forgetting.  It’s basically 99% edible though, and they are incorporating it into their daily meals. For example, here are some treats we harvested with which to make a salad dish for our Elizabethan Rabbit dish that evening:

Even though my parents had a garden in our yard when I was a child, my knowledge of plants and how to grow food is so profoundly lacking.  To actually see where the ingredients grow, how they are cared for, then pick them myself put some of those pieces back in the puzzle.
Meet Meat and Tilda.  Meat is just that; he’s to be processed sometime next year I believe.  Tilda will stick around for some breeding.  The boys know so much about breeds, and all the animals that they raise- they are fully invested in this life and it shows.  They admit it will be difficult to say goodbye to Meat when the time comes but I think Thomas put it best when he said “I’ve nourished you your entire life, now it’s time for you to nourish me”.  And how much more rich an experience to have touched that thick muscular tank of a creature and to have heard its delightful snorts while it was alive!

It saddens me how much bacon is consumed every day, purchased thoughtlessly at some drive-thru window or convenience store and consumed in a car or subway en route to wherever the day is to be spent. I understand that most of us are in no position to raise our own food, and the majority of us need to rush somewhere to keep whatever shitty job is keeping our electric running, and this is the larger issue I was referring to earlier.  We as a people appear to share this common need to multi-task and get everything done quickly and graduate from one spinning gerbil wheel (sorry for the cliché analogy but it fits!) to the next, never stopping to rest or be kind to ourselves because that type of behaviour simply is not encouraged.  Working oneself to death is rewarded, taking a day to sleep and rest is frowned upon.  Given this constant sense of urgency in everything all the time, it’s no surprise that food has become completely  overprocessed and unrelateable to its origins.  Eating.  It’s just one more thing we have to do.***

Meat receives his daily cocktail bath massage.
I cannot stress enough how much of a difference it has made for me to see the full circle.  I will never view dairy or meat products the same, especially after seeing the different ways in which farmers tend to their stock. If an animal is raised with love and respect, why shouldn’t it make sense that the meat it provides us will be better?



Which brings me to the rabbits.  Below is the big mamma rabbit who birthed the ones which will serve as meals.  She’s a really darling, and we thanked her for her hard work.
Now, the next few pictures after this are graphic, but no more so than any cooking website with a meat recipe.  There is plenty of educational material out there on how to humanely kill and process a rabbit so I felt no need to further saturate the internet with my own images, but there are some meat and guts pictured so consider yourself warmed.

After plenty of thought, discussion, and watching videos on the subject, we decided that severing the spine at the cervical vertebrae would be the safest and best bet.  I felt more comfortable using my bare hands than some external device like a broom stick of which I could possibly lose control.  So we each picked a rabbit, went to our designated spot, said a prayer of thanks and counted to three.  Mine didn’t go so smoothly but we remained calm and it was over in a matter of seconds.  My heart was pounding, my knees and arms felt weak and I had to crouch down to collect myself.
Wow.  I had just taken a life.  I had just looked this creature in the eye, held it, stroked it, comforted it and then snapped it neck.  And I wasn’t sorry.  I wasn’t even crying, like I thought I would.  Instead I felt surprisingly in touch with my surroundings and how I related to them.
Look.  I know that hunters dispatch animals all the time and every modern luxury I enjoy comes at the price of an animal’s life, one way or the other.  I’m not trying to pile on  any more significance to this event than my own personal amount, and certainly don’t want to be seen as the next hipster chick to fool herself into thinking she invented “farm to table”.  So please don’t misinterpret my words for any more than what they are: a description of my experience, the very first time I embarked on paying the karmic price for my meal, as Georgia Pellegrini has said.
Without wasting any time we hung them up and started processing.  Here’s Thomas peeling the skin off his rabbit:

Gutting: his went much more smoothly than mine, but I enjoyed the process regardless.  There is an intense heat that comes off a creature once it has died; I noticed this the one time I purchased a freshly killed squab from the live poultry market and I could feel its heat burning through my bag and into my back as I rode home with it.  This heat is even more concentrated inside the gut cavity and it was a bizarre and grotesque thrill to stick my hands in it and yanked out the heart.

Thomas successfully removed his bladder- which is just beautiful -while I cut right through mine and wound up with a pee covered pair of bloody hands.

The butchering, if you can call it that,  (I feel like I’m insulting real butchers by calling the hack job we did by that name) took the better part of an hour.  Clearly both Thomas and myself could benefit from some lessons.  If only we each had our own reality shows where attempts at self betterment through education could be sponsored by some third-party….
The rabbit chunks were tossed in flour and then lightly fried, and ultimately went into this wine-based stew mixture and cooked for three hours in Thomas’ new Le Creuset.  Please check The Farmer’s Husband for full recipe and details.

In honor of my visit, Bailey created an outstanding centerpiece for the dinner table.  Mr. Pickles approves.

All the photos I took of our three course meal came out blurry and dark, so I’m going to leave that coverage to the pros at The Farmer’s Husband.  What I will say is that it was by far one of the best meals of my life, and along with the dazzling sensory experience of taste, smell and sight, there was also the sense of having earned this meal by getting my hands dirty and truly engaging myself in it.  I felt so full that I had to undo the top button of my jeans but for the first time in my life I felt no shame associated with this fullness.  Nary a hint of the words calories, exericize, weight, needing to justify this food or guilt reared its ugly head.  I just felt nourished and content.
And for me, that was the gap closing right where it needed to.
The next morning I “helped” the boys with their chores by hovering about taking pictures.  Here they are treating the pigs to some goat’s milk.  I think the Lass was tickled mid milking and stomped her hoof in the bowl, warranting it pretty much unfit for human consumption.  But just right for hungry piggies!  Nothing is ever wasted on this farm and everything has a purpose.

Even rumps double as pillows.

Story time with the Littles.


Life imitating art imitating life.

Chicken city, rush hour.

Sandals are a poor choice on a farm during chores but my feet survived.  In other news, I would like for my hair to mimic the coloring/pattern of this chicken.  Can anyone help me with this?

That afternoon I boarded a bus back to NYC  which connected to another bus to Philly which connected to another bus home.  All the while in tow I had a mini-coolor with rabbit heads, pelts and feet for me and organs for my cats.  They LOVE raw rabbit.  I also had a generous amount of treats from the boys, clear eyes and a full heart.
CAN’T LOSE.


*** It occurred to me I posted this that my sadness over mindless consumption transcends food, and is directly connected to waste.  How many times have your pantyhose ripped and you just shrugged and threw them out, knowing you could just as easily replace them?
I’ll just buy another.
I have come to loathe those words.  I’ve always had a disdain for waste, but my financial status as of late has forced me to put a very fine point on this.  Waste is unacceptable.  I cannot afford to throw anything out or damage my nice things so I handle my precious goods with care and find ways to use everything to the last drop.  I’m talking about slicing open the moisturizer tube and scraping the inside to get one more dollop.  I remember as a kid I thought it was so funny that my depression-era grandmother (who I’ve come to realise was never actually poor, she was just resourceful) would re-use her hosiery in so many creative ways: the elastic waist bands served to secure boxes of brownies, the material made into really cute puppets or even soap savers. Now I totally get it.  This mentality of “just throwing it away and buying a new one” is why we have an entire industry built around “Field Destroying” (it’s so difficult to find info about this online but basically it’s when folks are paid to destroy any merchandise that is flawed or just plain undesirable instead or donating, or selling at a discount.  It isn’t even permissible to toss these items in the garbage for fear of some filthy dumpster diver getting their dirty poor person paws on it.  If this isn’t a the canary in the coal mine showing us how fucked up the retail/consumer system is, than my head is exploding for no reason.)
There is no connection to where our goods come from.  Even if it’s techno-wares, someone’s hands touched it.  Someone made the packaging.  Someone trucked it over to your corner store and stocked it on a shelf for you and I, the consumers.  I really hope that when my clients take a piece of mine home, they treasure it and feel all the blood sweat and tears I poured into that item.  Obviously, a custom taxidermy hat is much more involved and labor intensive than a bobby pin but please, next time you’re at the counter, handing over your paper or plastic to be swiped, run through your mind the series of events which brought this product to your possession, and acknowledge the extraordinary amount of coordination and teamwork that made it possible.  Thanks for reading.

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. 


Vintage Post: Early Polo Days

The warmer climes have me dreaming of ponies, so I thought today I'd revisit one of my early polo polo matches.  Soon it will be long lazy afternoons of steeple chase, polo and dressage.
Mostly polo though. Polo people are my favorite.

 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

If there WAS a hat contest, you would've won the whole thing.

Last Sunday I took my gals back out to the Brandywine Polo Club for the 1st annual Philadelphia Cup.  This time we didn't work so hard; we just snagged ourselves some VIP tickets and hung out in the tent with the open bar (where the bartenders were pouring the BlueCoat with very heavy hand, if I may say so.  No complaints!).  While bringing our own tailgating supplies is fun too, on a super hot day it's nice to have the luxury of a VIP tent and everyone else doing the work.  Plus a DJ.  You's almost forget why we were there...







Oh yes-the game!  In between getting to know some of the members and networking with my hats  (it really was too bad there wasn't a hat contest but I'll take being showered with attention any day) we caught some excellent polo-pony action, and luckily wound up rooting for the winning team!







However, I think it's agreed that we all know who the REAL winners are.  My fascination with all things anatomical has me quite interested in horses; particularly polo ponies.  It takes a certain breed of horse to play polo; one that is shorter in the back and able to turn on a dime, one who is also capable of short bursts of speed comparable/greater than that of a race horse.  I imagine they're pretty intelligent too, as some basic understanding of what they're tying to achieve on that field must be present.  I can't help but marvel at their graceful, delicate looking ankles and how they hold up all that weight while gracefully trotting, running, turning, ect.  Having dissected a horse leg myself (I'm still working on the shoe; updates next month I swear) I have  a more vested interest in seeing these muscles in action for reference, as well as appreciation.



Those bandages on the front keep them from getting hurt when they get inadvertently whacked with a stick.







Speaking of sticks, one fo the female players from the winning team happened by and chatted us up while we admired the horses.  She was a darling by the name of Kathy Whitman and even gave us a brief lesson in hitting the ball.







That's Rachel Lynn K, our photographer for the day, and as you can see a real beauty.  All the ladies wore my hats swimmingly.







And look who we ran into!  One of my adversaries from hat parade past, Lauren St. Clair!  It's more fun to compete with people you really like, so we've become fast friends.  She even invited us on one of her gastronomical adventures taking place later in the day.  If you haven't heard about her eating her way through Philly, act like you know, fool.  Where all the food goes on that little frame is beyond me, though.



I know, I need a tutorial on how to mug for pictures.  I look like some kind of crazed animal.







Here's Eva in my squirrel hat; she was gracious enough to wear it and I think it gave her super powers....the unexpected side effect of wearing taxidermy on your head!







At halftime we all went out on the field to stomp the divots and surprise a sweet little red Ferrari (OK, I know nothing about cars so that's all you get) drove out on the field with Miss. Philadelphia sitting on the back with Maria Papadakis, both of them waving to the crowd.  While they're pretty and nice and all, the REAL sweet stuff was in the trunk which was filled to the brim with bottles of Veuve!  Those were promptly opened and we all enjoyed a toast ( or two or three) on the field.



When the game resumed we all took turns imagining ourselves driving such an exquisite piece of machinery.











Back in the tent, my hat was still commanding plenty of attention.  These ladies were pretty bummed about Mexico losing their world cup game earlier in the day but I think petting my duck lifted their spirits somewhat.







Handsome creatures:















And the winners!  What a fantastic day.



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!




VINTAGE POST: Blackbird Pie (4/6/2010)


I'm not sure why but Black Bird Pie seems fitting for Easter time.  Maybe it's my mind making the connections between Jesus supposedly returning from the dead and emerging from that tomb, with the birds flying out of that pie.  It was the last thing people expected to see, I'm sure.  Some cursory searching online shows that the two have nothing to do with one another but I decided to make the blackbird pie for Easter, regardless.  Here's the poem:



Sing a song of sixpence

AKA blackbirds in a pie
Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,

Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,

Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?

The king was in his counting house counting out his money,

The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey

The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,

When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!




Apparently:

"During the Medieval times, there were occasions when the cook in the house of a wealthy knight did indeed put live birds (often pigeons, but I'm sure it could just as easily have been blackbirds) inside a huge pastry crust, on his own initiative. This was seen as a great joke and the cook would usually have a real pie waiting to bring in when the birds had been released."

So here's my cook, mashing potatoes in with ham and Starling meat, which was then spooned into phyllo dough cups and baked with cheddar cheese on top.  I had two of my girlfriends take over after my competency in the kitchen came under serious question and it was decided that I should simply observe.







While the pies baked, some friends dropped by and joined me in dying eggs.























Later we trickled into the kitchen and tested the pies.  While some of my friends loved them, others refused to try, and my husband and I both voted them as tasting too gamey.  Next time I will marinate the Starling in some sweet wine at least a day in advance, instead of the rush job I did for this occasion, substituting tonic water and agave syrup for the wine I didn't have around.  All is not lost however; the cats practically bit my fingertips off trying to get some of the little morsels so at least the leftovers have a place to go.



This week I'll be skinning out the rest of the black birds and studying them.  I may have an order on deck for one or two, and I intend to use a few others in a hairpiece which I will hopefully finish in time for an event I've got to attend on Friday.

Self Portrait, the Wordy Version

If you've been following the show Immortalized, you most likely saw this coyote on last week's episode titled "Self Portrait":
Here are some photos I shot of Ruby the Coyote in my studio before shipping her out, back in October (Super storm Sandy to be exact- I remember because I rode my bike to Kensington that day with a pile of bubble wrap balanced on my handle bars, making every effort not to sail off into the sky)

Also, due to the time constraints of television, much of my verbal presentation to the judges explaining my interpretation of the theme wound up on the cutting room floor so to speak.  I am quite fond of this piece and felt strongly about my presentation so why not share it with you now?  Also, I incorporated some new techniques (new to me) into this mount and thought the nuts and bolts might interest you.
I wanted a coyote that looked fierce.  Menacing and vicious, lunging at any perceived threat.  Angry, hungry and tough as nails.  This is how I often feel, as an artist trying to follow her heart and blaze my own trail in a world where nobody gave me an instruction manual, and acceptance (from family, self and others) has been hard to come by.
Often times, following one's own dreams and making art a full time job presents a life riddled with frustration, poverty and hardship.  My nails are torn and atrocious from hands that take a tremendous amount of abuse.  Manicure?  Maybe when I'm dead and lying in my coffin* my hands will be still enough to warrant one.   My back is a tightly woven tapestry of knots from the internalized stress of hustling for ways to pay this or that and still maintain a fairly decent life.  I've made a shitload of sacrifices to pursue my art and sometimes I'm jealous when a car full of warm, dry folks cruises by me as I huff down Delaware ave on my bicycle in the bitter cold.  That said though, this is the life I chose and the physical, temporary challenges are beyond worth it to feel the way I do when I wake up in the morning and know I am free to be exactly who I am.

Along with feeling snarly and fierce, I think I project this image as well.  I can be intimidating to strangers who only see bleached hair, combat boots and torn clothes on the chick blowing snot-rockets onto cars parked in the bike lane.  Just like the ridge hair that stands up on this coyote's back because she's threatened and needs to appear larger than she is, a good portion of my bravado is making sure nobody mistakes me for a doormat.  


Here's a look at what I started with for this mount: I used a commercial coyote manikin and began with cutting it in half  to hollow out the chest cavity where the kitten would sit.  Once this was done, the two halves had to be rejoined.  I used a strong adhesive and reinforced the seam with wooden skewers.

 

I lined the inside with a hardening epoxy that would create a uniform and solid surface upon which I could lay lights and rhinestones.


Now the form was ready to be wired for electricity.  My friends over at Scenery First helped me out here- we wired up the proper length of cord to an LED light track, soldered it together and ran it down the along the inner thigh of the form.  It terminated in a jack that would be plugged into the other half of the cord upon installation, which was nestled into the steel base (also created by Scenery First)





I aimed the lights inward in order to illuminate the crystals and fill the chest with light.

 



                                                                         Tada!




Which brings me to the kitten element of this self portrait.  Being autonomous and pursuing my dreams without any higher power to really tell me how can be scary.  Being a woman in a typically male dominated trade has left me feeling tiny and alone at times, not unlike this kitten who is the poster child for vulnerability.  This particular specimen was a barn kitten, brother to Cookie Salad, another barn kitten who is thriving and well up at my darlings' farm in Cobelskill NY. Like most kittens, he was adorable and craved touch, connection.  This I can relate to.  I believe many of us can.  We long for human connection but it can be such a tightrope walk as we attempt to avoid getting hurt.  Most of the shitty behaviour in the world can be attributed to our fear of being hurt by someone else, I think.

I've embellish med my presentation a bit here but that's the gist of what I stood and said in front of the judges on the show.  Another part that didn't make it to air but I find quite fascinating is how I resolved the issue of not having a form to use for the kitten hide.  What I wound up doing was my first carcass cast, which I now swear by as far as making custom forms.
First I made a negative mold by pouring a latex solution into my container.  The kitten carcass was inside, frozen into the desired position.



The tricky part was time.  The solution needed at least 6 hours to set, and this carcass would start thawing as soon as I took it out of the freezer.  I could only hope that it wouldn't slump out of position as the hours passed.  
The moment of truth:
  


Perfection!  It reminds me of Hans Solo trapped in whatever that stuff was.

 
Here's the negative mold. The carcass has been removed and the next step is taping the mold back together inside the container and pouring expanding foam inside to make the positive mold.



Classic first timer's blunder- I used way too much foam!

It took over an hour to chip and chisel away into the mold and dig out this little gem.  Completely worth it though!   Look at the detail on his little ribs!


After altering the form a little bit, and prepping it, I taxied the skin on.  
In case you were wondering, yes, from time to time I cry while I work- especially when the subject it little baby animals.

 
Meanwhile, I was lining the inside of the coyote chest with Swarovski crystals.  This took fifteen hours at least.

 


One of the last steps was fitting the stand with custom cut mirrored acrylic.  This was to convey the surprise underneath the coyote while keeping everything at the  correct eye level.  As the viewer approaches, they see the coyote with all the chandelier beads, mimicking intestines,  dripping down and a burst of light form her chest.  The beads draw the eye down to the mirror which reflects the kitten above.  This entices the viewer to then approach and look directly underneath. 




Hi!




                                                                     C'est tout!






*That scenario will never occur because I intend to be cremated.









































Dances with Chickens (and goats, sheep, rabbits, sweeties, etc)

               
Recently. when the kind folks at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction approached me about curating a show of my work, I responded with an enthusiastic yes (despite my having sworn off any type of gallery-style exhibition after a spell of lackluster experiences - AITA and their products/people are a sound and superior bunch and will always be near and dear to me). I took the opportunity to do something I've been itching to do for a while now- write a public love letter, of sorts, to my guys at The Farmer's Husband where about 99% of my specimen come from.




Meet Bailey and Thomas.  For those of you who don't already know these two dolls, they are a delightful pair who lived in Philadelphia until just a couple years ago.  While still in a row home in South Philly, they had already begun their slow and steady ascent into full blown farming with a chicken run, two beehives and many plants packed in their teeny back yard like a tetris champ's wet dream.
I met Bailey first when he contacted me through a mutual friend about borrowing some taxidermy to incorporate into a window display for his floral shop, MODA botanical.  It was kismet.  I had been admiring that shop for a few years and wondering who was behind the mind-altering arrangements on the other side of the windows.  I met Bailey at his house one day and he showed me the elegant urban farm system he'd set up outside.  I believe he sent me home with a couple fresh eggs.  I was smitten.  Thus began a long and careful courtship into Dear Friend Land, in which Bailey would call me when one of his chickens passed and I would come spend some time while collecting nature's spoils. 
Bailey is a thoughtful and deliberate person, like me.  Perhaps even more so.  I immediately admired him for his approach to this farm life he was taking on.  He knew from the start that he would eventually graduate to  "real" farm out in the country, but he also was smart enough to build a solid foundation upon which his future lifestyle could be layered upon.  No cutting corners when it comes to educating oneself on raising livestock and self sustainability.  Most of all, it was his calling and something he pursued on his own, not something to brag about (I think I brag about him and Thomas enough to pick up their boasting slack) or impress friends with- which I think is a dangerous trap many of us fall into at this time of intensely curated lifestyles crafted to be shared on social media.
Thomas came into Bailey's life shortly afterward and it was like I met my long lost brother.  I'm fairly certain that he and I shared a womb in another life.  I actually can't imagine Bailey without Thomas, now that I think about it.  It's like he was always there.
They fell in love, got more chickens, peeved the neighbors (deal crack and scream obscenities at 4 in the morning, YES.  Raise chickens in your yard that cluck and shit, NO) and decided to move on.  Two years and two farms later, they've grown and evolved beyond our wildest dreams. I wonder if they ever gaze out upon their 100+ acres housing chickens, turkeys, geese, peafowl, goats, sheep, and pigs, and scratch their heads in astonishment at how far they've come and how gracefully they did it. 
Anyway, I love these two.  I love their farm, their lifestyle, their philosophy, their aesthetic.  I love the way I feel when I'm there and the happiness hangover that lasts for days after I leave.  These are two delightful and compassionate people who make the most of every last bit life has to offer. I urge you to read their blog- it might change your life.  In fact, I'll spoon feed you and start repostig their posts on my own blog.

Hence the inspiration for this show.  Almost all the pieces on display are made from specimen sourced on the farm.

I often will use chickens in parts, separating the pelt from the wings and legs to make several different items.  Talon charms are my calling card, so to speak:

 I created several new mounts using chickens, showing them interacting with man-made elements.  I wanted to convey how smart and creative these little birdies can be, and personify them a bit just for fun.  This guy is guarding an antique glass light fixture filled with pretty trinkets.  Perhaps this will add a bit of edge to his game with the ladies.  Or maybe he actually is a lady.  I still have a hard time discerning the two!
 A yawning chicken in her repurposed bird cage, and another who can't handle the sight of skulls.



Many thanks to Daniel at AITA for providing all the farming accouterments.  His curating skills and sourcing ability really brought the show together.
 

A small vignette of life inside the farm.  

  
Goat hoof candle holders.  These are from Harriet, the 80 pound goat I skinned in my bathtub before I had a proper studio.  Her hide and head were incorporated in to a rug/floor lamp which is on display in the shop window for the show. Please come see her in person.

 Finally, what Diamond Tooth show would be complete without hats, my signature specialty?  All from chickens on the farm:

Thanks again to the folks at Art in the Age, and to Bailey & Thomas.  Seriously, read The Farmer's Husband to keep up with developments on the farm, and info on ordering some of their future edible delicacies like hand raised porrrrrrrrk! (I just had some a few weeks ago and it pretty much blew my mind).

So there's this show:


I've tweeted, I've facebooked, I've instagrammed, and basically had the time of my life promoting this project. It's been such a long time in the making that it almost feels surreal having already happened. I filmed both my episodes back in November, one of which has yet to air so I still can't say much but it feels like giving birth. I mean, if I had any idea what that felt like I suppose I could rightfully compare the two, but since I've chosen to pursue a different sort of labor and consequent "baby" in my life I feel justified in using the term "birthing".    I'm so honored to have taken part in this show and also that the producers took such a shine to me in the casting stage. The last couple years have been very eye opening to me as far as how much time, psychic energy and work goes into just a few minutes of television. It reminds me of my stylist days, when working on a shoot I would step back and mentally take note of all the wages being paid that day, the catering, the wardrobe, the location rental, equipment, insurance, etc. Then there's post production and the negotiations between the client and advert company...all for one page in a magazine that most folks will flip by absent mindedly in line at the supermarket while they kill time in line. The mind reels.
So I went into this having some sense of how things get boiled down, so to speak. Being on the more glamorous side, however, of getting primped and performing while maintaining my identity as a fashion taxidermist was earth shatteringly novel to me. I just melted into every second of it and relish it to this moment. I might just start wearing stilettos to skin chickens just to get a little rush when I miss that experience.   I hope you'll watch the entire series.   I believe in this program and think deeper exploration of taxidermy, its history and how the craft itself ties into our consumption and interaction with nature's creatures will yield nothing short of mind opening experiences for all involved.

My, what large...3D printed antlers you have!

Another fun Christmas commission I can now write about (recipient is pleased, no spoilers, etc) involved a collaboration between myself and another very accomplished jeweler named Doug Bucci.  Mr. Bucci's first role in my life was that of teacher: he taught my stone-setting class in college.  Being as Philadelphia is a small city and the artistic community a tightly woven one, Doug and I have loosely kept tabs on one another throughout the years, along with most of my other jewelry school survivors.   It felt like a war, sometimes, and we have the PTSD to prove it.



BUT.  I digress. Doug and several others in my jewelry clique have moved onto the art of 3D printing. An example of Doug's outstanding work in the CAD arena:







 



Despite the fact that my studio-mate owns and operates one of these crazy newfangled things in the space we share together (I have seen it work with my own eyes), I cannot wrap my mind around this phenomenon.  I don't quite care to.  I'll let my hands do the talking and leave the techno stuff to the experts.  However, I am quite happy to endorse, receive and benefit from the articles produced by these machines.  (Have you seen me sporting my Loop Hoop earrings by the amazing Maria Eife?)



 



Loop Hoop Earrings  by Maria Eife



 



Imagine my excitement then, when Doug approached me about making a jackalope using antlers designed & printed from this technology.  This piece was to be a gift for his daughter and I was instantly smitten with the idea of not only a dad commissioning such a cool piece but also contributing his own talents.    He designed, printed and cleaned up the antlers, brought them to me and I got smurfin'.



front work in progress



These days I always seem to have at least one rabbit head (and feet, skin, etc for that matter) in my freezer, compliments of my boys at the Farmer's Husband.  I thawed one out, cleaned his skull and built a form around it with clay.  The antlers were deliberately large; we thought an exaggerated look would be fun.  After all, this creature doesn't exist naturally so why not make it as fantastical as possible?  This thought process is Rogue Taxidermy at its best, in my opinion.



underneath work in progress



I was nervous about supporting the weight of these bad boys on my rabbit's head but I drilled holes through the skull and wired it up.  Success.



 



profile in progress



I got swept up in a Victorian theme, leather & lacing the shit out of this thing.  Much to my delight, I might add.



full slight left



I used grey fox eyes instead of the anatomically correct hollow black glass ones to give him more personality.



I'm a terrible photographer and this piece, due to its dimensions, was difficult to capture.  These photos are disappointing to me but I suppose they get the point across.



profile left



He's snarling.  Those are the rabbit's actual teeth.



right turn



And that's Jackelope.

Tryin' to get a nut to move your butt.

Here's some photos of a fun piece I was commissioned to do for a friend this Christmas.  Apparently his lady friend has a disdain for squirrels (I'm hearing of this more and more; are squirrels taking over the city?  Do you all have any idea how tasty they are?  No kidding...) and seeing a stuffed one under her tree channeling some devil vibes seemed to be the ultimate gift.



 



 



face



So here's the little scamp mounted on a piece of garland, stealing a glass ornament.  Devil horns and all.



above



I took some liberty with the eyes; obviously in nature squirrels do not look like this.  But when touched with the evil stick, some artistic interpretation is welcome, I'm sure.  Also, these peepers are antique hand-crafted glass eyes that I've been looking to use for ages.



full left



 



Man, he looks pissed.



 



left



Merry Christmas!

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!

This Little Light of Mine-

 



 



both front



Well, this little light of Harriett's, actually.  She's the 80 pound goat I took from my lovies up at The Farmer's Husband after she expired during childbirth.  I fashioned her hide & head into a rug which has turned into a rather complex project involving fiber optic lights and whatnot, and her feet have been spun into candle holders:



 



 



gem detail



 



Please pardon the waxy bits I forgot to dust off before photographing, I was too excited by how festive the red candles look with these hooves.



left then rear



These are just two of Harriett's four peds, I am in the midst of fashioning the other two into candle holders as well. I'm quite smitten with the idea of honoring this beloved goat with light.



 



 



sans sticks

Immortalized

 



I've tweeted it, I've facebooked about it but just to be sure I'm spreading the word I'm blogging about it:



If you read this blog, I'm guessing you're into taxidermy.  Therefore, it would behoove you to check out this television show on AMC slated to premier on February 14.  I am on it.  It was a unique and fabulous experience which I am very excited to see in its final form.  The show is called Immortalized and you can learn more on the AMC website  since I can't figure out how to put the video up on my own blog. But here's a picture:



Immortalized Cast Photos



 



So I hope you can watch it!  I know the other Immortalizers and they're a talented, riotous group.  I'm stoked to see all eight episodes!  So let's all make a date to watch the premier on Valentine's day.  It will bring new meaning to that chocolate heart.



xoxo,



BB



 

Rabbit for Reggae

Remember my Twenty4Twenty project? I know it seems like I may have forgotten it but fret not, I'm just stretching it out.  Some of the people on my list are quite hard to reach; others I've just decided I'm not so wild about anymore.



The piece I'm writing about today falls in the fan art category but isn't quite a Twenty4Twenty gift as I orchestrated a trade for this mount.



If you know me personally, you know that I'm a rabid consumer of podcasts.  Especially the ones falling into the comic variety.  While I get a tremendous amount of laughs from these podcasts, they are also quite thought-provoking and mentally stimulating.  Comedians are, in my opinion, the most observant, intelligent and unique people on earth.  Recently I added another podcast to the weekly roster and it quickly become my favorite. It's called Twisting the Wind- check it out.  The host, Johnny Pemberton, incorporates music samples into the already captivating material and that's what gave me the idea to reach out to him and propose a swap:



face right detail



Every song I've heard on this podcast was new to me.  And wonderful.  It took me back to my grade school days of mixtapes, where I discovered most of the music I still love today.  Perhaps I'm aurally lazy but I just prefer my favorite songs be spoon fed to me.  Record shops are among my least favorite places on earth to be, right up there with live music venues.  If someone else has really great taste, it only makes sense to me that I glom what I can off them.



SO.  I wrote Mr. Pemberton on a whim and proposed I send him a custom piece of taxidermy in exchange for a custom mix tape.  And he responded yes.



This was going great.  I was working on the rabbit I'd dispatched with Farmer Thomas, and trying out a new mounting technique (new to me, at least) in which I taxied the skin over the rabbit's actual skull and not a form.  I also tried out a new type of ear-liner which produced mixed results.



straight on full



The mount itself is riddled with technical issues but it's still pretty rad- he holds a little mirror in his rabbit hands to serve as a "last check" point: something to look at before seeing another person or people, and make sure there is no food in your teeth or gunk in your eyes.



mirror detail



He also has a small tiara type embellishment because he's dripping with meaning, history and charm.



left  full



I'm quite pleased with his exposed teeth- the neat and perfect little rabbit chompers are what inspired me to incorporate the skull in the fist place.  It was a great experience to try something new and still be able to share it with someone while getting something in return, to boot!



right face detail

Ahoy!

It's been embarrassingly long since I've posted, I feel a little ashamed about that but here is me dipping my toe back into the taxidermy blog waters with a quick little ditty about a pirate bunny for a client of mine who waited over a year for it!



I think the photos speak for themselves; my client had dropped off a rabbit for mounting some time ago but upon skinning the specimen I found  significant bug infestation and had to dispose of it.  I offered to replace the rabbit with one of my own and for no particular reason decided to make him a pirate.







Wooden peg-leg, check.



Eye patch, check.



Pipe, hoop earrings, anchor charm and shark bit ear, CHECK.







Happy client, CHECK.



 



I promise to have more posts up next week; soon enough I will have some very exciting projects to tell you about that will completely make up for my shameful blog negligence!



Taxidermically yours,



Beth Beverly



 

Charmed Life

Here's a short sweet little post about a few talon charms I made the last week. All are chickens sourced from my favorite farm in Schoharie  New York.



This Foot is clutching a wooden Saint charm gifted to me by a friend whom I know through Bailey, one half of the Farmer's Husband. (Side note- I was mentally composing a list in my head today of all the people I have to thank for my blazed taxidermy trail and it's astounding how each one is connected how we are all connected but that's a post for another day).  I'm not sure what saint is represented here but I think it looks so much like Dora the Explorer that I just named it after her:







Accentuated with soft ducking hide:







 



Another gift from this friend was a horse shoe charm bracelet.  Hence:







FYI: For anyone who doesn't already know this, horseshoes should always be kept in the is direction so your luck won't run out.



 



Remember Miss. Hannigan from Annie?  I imagine her wearing this:







Sorry that picture is so terrible; clearly I do not poses my husband's camera skills.  Here's a better one:







 



Something I've been wanting to make use of is this mini watering can:





It won't pour water but you can stash your drugs diamonds in there!







As usual, if any of these strike your fancy don't hesitate to contact me.



 



And that's been post.



 

pssssst: hi.

What's that I hear?  Is it the pitter pater of little hooves in my studio?







Behold Lambie, the extremely young baby Katahdin lamb whom I had been referring to as a baby goat until last month.  Clearly I need to do some boning up on my animal husbandry.



Here is Lambie in tanned skin form back when he still was a goat to me:











I'm also not sure if Lambie is a he or a she.  I don't think I properly sexed him when I skinned him ("what kind of taxidermist IS this chick?" I can almost hear you thinking...) but I like to think of him as a tender little boy who prefers the color pink.  This is why he chose to wear the vintage pink velvet flower cage veil to keep the shivers off his delicate tresses.







Lambie was part of a brother/sister combo, born together but one thriving more than the other, the latter being my guy here.  The famer-lass who tended to this flock opted to donate her specimen to Diamond Tooth and for that I am eternally grateful.







Since no lamb forms are readily available, I used a fawn form which I then altered drastically in size and head shape.  I used glass cat eyes which I turned sideways to mimic the sheep's horizontal pupils.











Lambie has become something of a mascot around the studio; he's even slated to be the subject of a painting next month.  So proud of my little guy!  Eventually he'll need a forever home though; please contact me if you or the luckiest person you know might want to love this little darling forever and ever.



It's Anne with an E and Dream Catcher with a bit of magic.









 



I'm not sure what possessed me the other day but whilst completely on autopilot I made this dream catcher:







 



It's not unlike me to make dream-catchers, and I'm posting this on my site as well so potential clients have an idea about the scope of my skill set but this is so unlike the typical Diamond Tooth  style that I'm not afraid to say I was possessed....



by  Anne of Green Gables.



Does anyone else remember that series of books from childhood?  I read them all.  Anne was my hero.  I admired her cool differences that set her apart from the typical prairie crowd, and her boyish toughness and confidence.  I wanted to be like her so badly; I didn't even see that I already had my own cool differences and was indeed, quite tough.  What I wound up projecting was an unsure and contrived version of a misfit when all I had to do was just be myself.



UGH adolescence.  If you know someone in the throes of this truly bizarre stage of life or are going through it yourself, I would love to hug you and tell you that most adults (and other kids for that matter) are very stupid, brainwashed and insecure so just listen to your heart because it will get better...in 15 years.  It's a long time to wait but trust me.  You've got a long life to live.







 



So maybe I was channeling this longing I had to reconnect with this book series that held such prime real estate in my heart throughout my tweens and early teens and that's how I can explain the pink floral print fabric making up the bulk of this piece.  The material itself is actually older than I know; it was passed onto me from the collection of my friend's grandmother when she passed some years ago.  I took it, not ever really imagining myself making something with this...pink stuff...but feeling a soul tug just the same.  My grandmother was a skilled seamstress and I love using her old pins and threads and trying to pick up on her energy from these objects.







Dream-catchers are such great opportunities for me to incorporate pieces from my found-on-the-street collection, like the crystal above (from a real antique chandelier) and this key.  I like to imagine the history of these objects calling out to be combined with one another and I'm just blindly obeying their wishes.  When  a project comes completely out of autopilot like this one, it's hard for me to believe otherwise.







This skull was gifted to me from a friend who picked it up on a hike.  Who knows how this doe lived and died?  Humbly and anonymously, like most prairie-folk I imagine (OK I know I'm getting really cheesy).







I also incorporated some scraps of squirrel fur from one of my first attempts at taxidermy.  I suppose subconsciously I was really trying to reconnect with my 12-year-old self...







It's weird, I remember thinking when I was a kid that being an adult would suck so much because all the gown-ups I met told me to "enjoy your childhood!  Before you know it its gone!"



Despite all that heaping unsolicited advice,  I still couldn't wait to be me, now.  I'm finally the person I wanted to be for so long and it's like I knew this as a kid and felt nothing but angst for being stuck inside that kid body and mind.  Did any of you feel that way?







I have a bag of vertebrae bones which were also a gift from a friend.  These bones bear a particular significance to me since I had a piece of my back removed years ago to correct an issue with my spine.  It still blows my mind that us humans can be opened up like rag dolls and have bits added and subtracted but that's a post for another time.  Needless to say though, my back is a very important possession of mine, possibly my favorite one.  Also my parents paid a shit ton of money for it. Thanks Mom and Dad!







 



Finally, no piece would be complete without a dose of chicken from my boys on the farm so here's a little tail feather for ya:







So who is this dream-catcher for?  Do you know them?  It's not for me, and I want it to find its rightful owner.  This thing has powers and it will protect the right soul from nightmares.  Please help me find them?



And just a FYI: I love making these.  Custom orders would be graciously accepted.



 



Sweet Dreams.



 

Millenery Boomerangs.

Some time ago I was fortunate enough to receive a box full of magnificent vintage hats from old college chum Rebecca Strzelec.  This was just weeks after embarking on my twenty4twenty project and I'd sent out a few of my hats with no response whatsoever.  Seeing this giant box of beautiful hats on my doorstep reminded me that everything, every intention you put out into the universe comes back to you , but rarely in a form you'd expect.



These pieces had been sitting in her home, I believe, for years, and once she arrived at the conclusion that she had no use for them they became mine.  All she asked in return was that three hats make it back to her: two for her daughter and one for her.



Let's start with mom:







I chose this base since it was just misting (dripping would be too much) with class and elegance.  Very proper, like my friend.



















For her child, there were two smaller hats.  This first one I bent the brim to give it a more formal feel but the actual material was so delicate that it proved quite challenging to work with.







I added miscellaneous feathers and sourced gems:















This base was much easier to work with.  Plus I have a huge sift spot in my heart for bonnets so it was a natural fun piece.







I added chicken wings, a chicken foot and switched out the white button for a pearlescent pink bead in the talon and on each side, plus a poof of white fox fur for good measure.































So that's that.  I was very touched to be given such a magnificent gift from Rebecca.  She is an amazing, talented and accomplished woman whom I am honored to even associate with.



Also I am short on words today because sometimes life beats the vocab out of you.  More soon.

Top of the Squirrel to you!

A few months back I was proposed with a fun and clever design for a commission piece.  The liaison between myself and the designer was a friend who I've done work for in the past.



And the individual who wanted this item?  A young man slated to start the seventh grade this Fall.  A talented and creative mind, no doubt, this little guy has no idea how much I appreciate getting projects like this.



Here are the sketches I was provided:











I was nervous about sourcing a boy's top hat at first, until I noticed that this kid is a size 7 & 3/8 which is a full-grown adult sized head. Must be all those big thoughts he's having.  I ordered the proper topper (I have yet to possess the facilities or training to make a top hat from scratch, which is why I hesitate to call myself a "milliner") and went about fitting a squirrel form into the proper position.  Here it is, broken into several pieces and pinned into place:







After getting the placement and angles of the bits and bobs all sorted out, I secured with glue, pins, wire, and slim wedges of foam inserted into gaps for reinforcement.  After that comes the clay to smooth things out.  I then had to determine the contact points at which the squirrel would meet the hat and anchor some wires at those spots:







Maneuvering the skin over this form, wires and all, proved a challenge but in the end came  out just peaches.  Here are shots of the finished product:











I recreated the sketch to the best of my ability; due to the squirrel's size it does occupy a tad more real estate on the hat itself but I think that's OK.















I'm actually quite proud of this red ribbon- I made that bow myself!







Also, this squirrel was a female!  Almost all the squirrels I have ever skinned were male; I just assumed they were the ones being brazen enough to get hit/killed/shot/etc.  I forget how this one perished; I think it was a fall from a tree or something but I almost wonder if she got shocked on an electric line because a teeny patch of her skin was bare of fur and the area surrounding is was slightly discolored.



















And that's hat!

Meeting My Meat

Last weekend was an exhausting yet emotionally fulfilling one. I made the trek up to Schoharie to visit my beloved farm boys Thomas & Bailey by way of a short stay in Harlem with another dear friend while working a non taxidermy job in NYC.  I arrived at the bus stop in Albany weary, bedraggled, and depressed and drained.



The reason for my visit was not only pleasure, but purpose: the boys had been raising some rabbits for food and the time had come to process a few of them.  Thomas, who was taking on this project, immediately thought of me as a viable processing partner, given my philosophy on eating meat.  I won't call myself a vegetarian ( I still occasionally eat meat when someone offers me a free meal and I would otherwise go hungry due to lack of funds, so call me a hypocrite if you wish) or any other label because whenever I try to talk about it, I just sound pretentious.  Unfortunately, it mostly comes up when I'm declining an offer at a gathering where everyone else is partaking in the meal.   It's not like I want to stand up in a room full of folks enjoying themsselves and say, "well its just that you're all eating shit meat".



But for the most part they are.   And that isn't the problem to me but more a symptom of something much, much more saddening.***



And maybe this doesn't apply to everyone but this is my journey and perhaps someday I will articulate it (through words or taxidermy) more clearly but it's no coincidence that the craft about which I am most passionate revolves around the manipulation of skin onto forms, or why I gravitate towards the rogue genre of taxidermy.  In this realm, I can take a skin and put it on a form that has nothing to do with the original specimen.  I can give it wings, diamonds for eyes, a stretched neck, anything my mind comes up with.  As someone who has struggled (to an agonizing degree)  my entire life to achieve a healthy amount of comfort in my own skin, manipulating fantasy creatures out of the dermis of others is a projection of my own wishes to occasionally escape this body I currently occupy.



It's also no coincidence that underneath these hides are meat.  Thick, bloody, nourishing meat.  My journey as a budding taxidermist also led me down a path of exploring the source of my food, and the subsequent attempts to negotiate my ambivalent relationship with it.  This has been a years long puzzle in which I occasionally fit in a flurry of pieces in one instant, or spend months trying to jam the same ill-fitting piece into a spot that won't accept it.  Sometimes I just have to walk away and come back when the time is right.



Last weekend in New York, my food puzzle was ripe for some work and ready to accept a flurry of new pieces to their rightful home.



Here is Thomas, watering their garden :







They've got corn, tomatoes, pepper, squash, a wide variety of herbs and edible flowers plus many others that I am forgetting.  It's basically 99% edible though, and they are incorporating it into their daily meals. For example, here are some treats we harvested with which to make a salad dish for our Elizabethan Rabbit dish that evening:





Even though my parents had a garden in our yard when I was a child, my knowledge of plants and how to grow food is so profoundly lacking.  To actually see where the ingredients grow, how they are cared for, then pick them myself put some of those pieces back in the puzzle.



Meet Meat and Tilda.  Meat is just that; he's to be processed sometime next year I believe.  Tilda will stick around for some breeding.  The boys know so much about breeds, and all the animals that they raise- they are fully invested in this life and it shows.  They admit it will be difficult to say goodbye to Meat when the time comes but I think Thomas put it best when he said "I've nourished you your entire life, now it's time for you to nourish me".  And how much more rich an experience to have touched that thick muscular tank of a creature and to have heard its delightful snorts while it was alive!







It saddens me how much bacon is consumed every day, purchased thoughtlessly at some drive-thru window or convenience store and consumed in a car or subway en route to wherever the day is to be spent. I understand that most of us are in no position to raise our own food, and the majority of us need to rush somewhere to keep whatever shitty job is keeping our electric running, and this is the larger issue I was referring to earlier.  We as a people appear to share this common need to multi-task and get everything done quickly and graduate from one spinning gerbil wheel (sorry for the cliché analogy but it fits!) to the next, never stopping to rest or be kind to ourselves because that type of behaviour simply is not encouraged.  Working oneself to death is rewarded, taking a day to sleep and rest is frowned upon.  Given this constant sense of urgency in everything all the time, it's no surprise that food has become completely  overprocessed and unrelateable to its origins.  Eating.  It's just one more thing we have to do.***



[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Meat receives his daily cocktail bath massage.[/caption]



I cannot stress enough how much of a difference it has made for me to see the full circle.  I will never view dairy or meat products the same, especially after seeing the different ways in which farmers tend to their stock. If an animal is raised with love and respect, why shouldn't it make sense that the meat it provides us will be better?















Which brings me to the rabbits.  Below is the big mamma rabbit who birthed the ones which will serve as meals.  She's a really darling, and we thanked her for her hard work.



Now, the next few pictures after this are graphic, but no more so than any cooking website with a meat recipe.  There is plenty of educational material out there on how to humanely kill and process a rabbit so I felt no need to further saturate the internet with my own images, but there are some meat and guts pictured so consider yourself warmed.







After plenty of thought, discussion, and watching videos on the subject, we decided that severing the spine at the cervical vertebrae would be the safest and best bet.  I felt more comfortable using my bare hands than some external device like a broom stick of which I could possibly lose control.  So we each picked a rabbit, went to our designated spot, said a prayer of thanks and counted to three.  Mine didn't go so smoothly but we remained calm and it was over in a matter of seconds.  My heart was pounding, my knees and arms felt weak and I had to crouch down to collect myself.



Wow.  I had just taken a life.  I had just looked this creature in the eye, held it, stroked it, comforted it and then snapped it neck.  And I wasn't sorry.  I wasn't even crying, like I thought I would.  Instead I felt surprisingly in touch with my surroundings and how I related to them.



Look.  I know that hunters dispatch animals all the time and every modern luxury I enjoy comes at the price of an animal's life, one way or the other.  I'm not trying to pile on  any more significance to this event than my own personal amount, and certainly don't want to be seen as the next hipster chick to fool herself into thinking she invented "farm to table".  So please don't misinterpret my words for any more than what they are: a description of my experience, the very first time I embarked on paying the karmic price for my meal, as Georgia Pellegrini has said.



Without wasting any time we hung them up and started processing.  Here's Thomas peeling the skin off his rabbit:







Gutting: his went much more smoothly than mine, but I enjoyed the process regardless.  There is an intense heat that comes off a creature once it has died; I noticed this the one time I purchased a freshly killed squab from the live poultry market and I could feel its heat burning through my bag and into my back as I rode home with it.  This heat is even more concentrated inside the gut cavity and it was a bizarre and grotesque thrill to stick my hands in it and yanked out the heart.







Thomas successfully removed his bladder- which is just beautiful -while I cut right through mine and wound up with a pee covered pair of bloody hands.







The butchering, if you can call it that,  (I feel like I'm insulting real butchers by calling the hack job we did by that name) took the better part of an hour.  Clearly both Thomas and myself could benefit from some lessons.  If only we each had our own reality shows where attempts at self betterment through education could be sponsored by some third-party....



The rabbit chunks were tossed in flour and then lightly fried, and ultimately went into this wine-based stew mixture and cooked for three hours in Thomas' new Le Creuset.  Please check The Farmer's Husband for full recipe and details.







In honor of my visit, Bailey created an outstanding centerpiece for the dinner table.  Mr. Pickles approves.







All the photos I took of our three course meal came out blurry and dark, so I'm going to leave that coverage to the pros at The Farmer's Husband.  What I will say is that it was by far one of the best meals of my life, and along with the dazzling sensory experience of taste, smell and sight, there was also the sense of having earned this meal by getting my hands dirty and truly engaging myself in it.  I felt so full that I had to undo the top button of my jeans but for the first time in my life I felt no shame associated with this fullness.  Nary a hint of the words calories, exericize, weight, needing to justify this food or guilt reared its ugly head.  I just felt nourished and content.



And for me, that was the gap closing right where it needed to.



The next morning I "helped" the boys with their chores by hovering about taking pictures.  Here they are treating the pigs to some goat's milk.  I think the Lass was tickled mid milking and stomped her hoof in the bowl, warranting it pretty much unfit for human consumption.  But just right for hungry piggies!  Nothing is ever wasted on this farm and everything has a purpose.







Even rumps double as pillows.







Story time with the Littles.











Life imitating art imitating life.







Chicken city, rush hour.







Sandals are a poor choice on a farm during chores but my feet survived.  In other news, I would like for my hair to mimic the coloring/pattern of this chicken.  Can anyone help me with this?







That afternoon I boarded a bus back to NYC  which connected to another bus to Philly which connected to another bus home.  All the while in tow I had a mini-coolor with rabbit heads, pelts and feet for me and organs for my cats.  They LOVE raw rabbit.  I also had a generous amount of treats from the boys, clear eyes and a full heart.



CAN'T LOSE.



 



 



*** It occurred to me I posted this that my sadness over mindless consumption transcends food, and is directly connected to waste.  How many times have your pantyhose ripped and you just shrugged and threw them out, knowing you could just as easily replace them?



I'll just buy another.



I have come to loathe those words.  I've always had a disdain for waste, but my financial status as of late has forced me to put a very fine point on this.  Waste is unacceptable.  I cannot afford to throw anything out or damage my nice things so I handle my precious goods with care and find ways to use everything to the last drop.  I'm talking about slicing open the moisturizer tube and scraping the inside to get one more dollop.  I remember as a kid I thought it was so funny that my depression-era grandmother (who I've come to realise was never actually poor, she was just resourceful) would re-use her hosiery in so many creative ways: the elastic waist bands served to secure boxes of brownies, the material made into really cute puppets or even soap savers. Now I totally get it.  This mentality of "just throwing it away and buying a new one" is why we have an entire industry built around "Field Destroying" (it's so difficult to find info about this online but basically it's when folks are paid to destroy any merchandise that is flawed or just plain undesirable instead or donating, or selling at a discount.  It isn't even permissible to toss these items in the garbage for fear of some filthy dumpster diver getting their dirty poor person paws on it.  If this isn't a the canary in the coal mine showing us how fucked up the retail/consumer system is, than my head is exploding for no reason.)



There is no connection to where our goods come from.  Even if it's techno-wares, someone's hands touched it.  Someone made the packaging.  Someone trucked it over to your corner store and stocked it on a shelf for you and I, the consumers.  I really hope that when my clients take a piece of mine home, they treasure it and feel all the blood sweat and tears I poured into that item.  Obviously, a custom taxidermy hat is much more involved and labor intensive than a bobby pin but please, next time you're at the counter, handing over your paper or plastic to be swiped, run through your mind the series of events which brought this product to your possession, and acknowledge the extraordinary amount of coordination and teamwork that made it possible.  Thanks for reading.

Freshest Head and Neck Fruits from my Hand Labor

Last week the gorgeous and talented Pearl ( you've seen her beauty here, see her creations here: Pearl Bell ) braved the sweltering climes in my third floor studio along with photographer and all around hottie Jim Coughlin (blog here: Snap Bam Splat and follow him on Instagram too @jimsinspace ) to shoot my latest headgear.  I provided the champagne.



Behold!



The Pearl:







I blocked this green felt hat myself, and named it after Ms. Bell for the simple reason that wide brim hats remind me of her.  There's a taxidermy wing tucked into the brim and some of the feathers trail off on the side, complimenting the downward swoop of the hat.







I also incorporated a sparkly tennis bracelet from my mother's collection.







The Pomp:







Comprised of the very same chicken from the Pearl hat, this piece is a taxidermied mount dried to mimic the shape of a swooping pompadour.







The mount itself is affixed to a handmade millinery base that I lined with pink satin and blue lace trim, which serves as a point upon which the hat can be secured on the wearer's head with bobby pins or elastic.  I like to see it paired with a cage veil but it can also be worn alone.







The Frenchie:







A taxidermied wing is enmeshed into the ruffles of a vintage millinery base, a fun jaunty little number.







Secured to the wearer's head with an elastic band, it can provide hours of worry free dancing, drinking, laughing, etc.  Worn alone here it's a flirty little number but can be paired with a white cage veil for a stunning wedding piece.







The Carnival:







Named after a wild night in which this hat remained on my head for 8 straight hours of drinking, dancing, being chased by Mexican gangsters, etc,  this hat takes a licking and keeps....on your head.







Secured to the wearer's head with an elastic band, the focal point of this piece is a pair of deer antlers embellished with genuine Swarosvki set amethyst crystals that point dangerously close to the eye.  The base is an antique millinery piece upon which I have added a raccoon fur poof and some hand twisted crinoline.







The Bobby:







My obsession with visors is still going strong, this example being in a hand blocked blue felt cap with a taxidermy chicken swirled around to create a bird butt poof at the top.  The chicken is, of course, embellished with crystals.







Along with the practical purpose of visors reflecting glare, the not so secondary mystique element of a slightly veiled face cannot be denied.







Le Roth:







As it took shape, this hat started to channel a sort of David Lee Roth ala "California Girls" energy, but en peu more French.  A taxidermied rooster wing sits atop a vintage millinery base with a yellow visor.  The bird head is hollow, while the exterior is just dripping with crystals.  Take from that whatever symbolism you wish,







The Andrea:







My classic visor hat.  Raccoon fur lined with felt and embellished with a sweet little green velvet ribbon.  Perfect for eye sex across the slopes and a toasty tete.







The Duchess:







This hat is a mashup of several species: the base is an antique rabbit fur pillbox, and I added a yellow poof of gosling down along with assorted chicken, guinea hen and pheasant feathers.







Ideal for a post hunt dinner on the estate, or a stroll down the avenue with you best beagle.







The Ladyship:







I think this piece speaks for itself. I just adore it.  It commands respect and gives the wearer an air of dignified authority. The base itself was so stunning to begin with, all I could do was add to it.  So add I did- a patch of assorted feathers, some gold metal charms from my personal collection and a tassel I made from silk fringe.  For women only, no girls please.







 



 



El Gatador:







A super cute felt number, this is a seriously easy to wear piece that stays on the wearer's head thanks to an elastic band, and it extremely lightweight.  One of my favorites, it's made especially special with a swirl of black rooster on top and a repurposed (read: my old earcuff from '84) alligator charm serving as an anchor for a bouquet of turkey beard hairs.







Perfect for any occasion, in my opinion.







 



The Marie:







Inspired by my Maid of Honor, this is a very proper velvet halo with a taxidermy rooster wing and saddle affixed to one side and a generous amount of Swiss dot veiling.  If only I'd had this on my wedding day; she would've worn it perfectly.  It conveys class, stoicism and a tremendous amount of fun just below the surface.  For the gal who can conduct herself properly at an exclusive event and then share a cigarette in the alley with the staff five minutes later.







 



The Shannah:







Not for the faint of heart!  The centerpiece of this headdress is a mummified bunny corpse coated in clear lacquer and covered in gems.  He's holding chain reins and resting comfortable among the spider-like fur "arms" of this vintage mink millinery piece.  Can be worn alone or paired with a cage veil.







 



The Mearrah:







I was going for a flapper feel with this hat; again the base is a vintage millinery piece and I added a taxidermied wing plus miscellaneous feathers and gems.  Works great with slicked back hair or a curly mane.



 



 



The Isabella:







I wore the unfinished version of this to my opening at La Luz and it was a hit.  Seeing it finished, and on a model, it feels more like a tribute to the late Isabella Blow, hence the title.  It's a simple piece consisting of a taxidermied rooster dried in a shape which hugs the crown and points out at such an angle so as to keep simpletons at bay.



 



Foxy Fascinator:







A simple little ditty comprised of chicken feathers fanning out from a taxidermied fox nutsack.  Sorry to be crass but I quite enjoy the juxtaposition of something people tend to shy away from serving such a pretty purpose.  An excellent conversation piece.







 



Guinea Hen Necklace:



Taxidermied leg with fox fur poof, gold chains and an old charm from a church in Philadelphia.







Guinea Hen necklace with pearls:







Freak Mutant Rooster Leg Necklace:



That spur says it all.  Ideal for someone who really wants to thin the herd of idiots who talk to them daily. No canvassers will even try to get your attention when you're wearing this.







 



Jawbone continuous earrings:



Fun to wear, lightweight nad a nonstop conversation piece.











Jaw bone continuous chain earrings:



Same as above; the chain is aluminium so it's also very lightweight.











 



So that was an eyeful, right?  And there is still more in the works!  Please think in advance about your Fall pieces and order now, folks.



XOXO Diamond Tooth.

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.

My most conventinal fox

Here's a few shots of a commercial mount I created recently for a new client, and I foolishly scheduled to shoot this piece the same day as pick up, which of course is like a glowing invitation for Murphy's Law to come and tap my on the shoulder.  What went wrong?  I forgot to pack the camera battery with the camera.  I didn't have enough time to go home and retrieve it, and I also didn't want to push this pickup back because, to be honest, I needed the payment to get some bills paid.  So, camera phone pictures it is, and I'm quite cranky with myself since this is a mount I'm very proud of.







Paul brought me the fox, and wanted it in this exact pose with a squirrel in its mouth.  I provided the squirrell.  It was a fun and challenging mount, and then I kind of went bananas putting details like moss and embellishments on the trunk.



 







 



What a mouth full!







All boxed up and ready to go.  And that's fox mount.



2012 Biennial Rogue Taxidermy Exhibition: Truly Outrageous

I'm almost done packing my bags and headed off to bed to get some beauty sleep before I hop on a sexy new Virgin America airplane for a direct flight to LA. 



I'm almost as excited for the flight as I am for the purpose of my entire trip, which is this:







I'm over the moon to be showing with some folks I've been admiring from afar for quite some time now.  It's truly an honor to be in their company.  I still have pangs of self-doubt here and there as I prepare for this trip, wondering how my pieces will measure up in person when displayed next to everyone else's.



And yes, I know it's not a competition and I know those aren't pretty feelings but it's me giving you the truth.  I also know that everything I fret about always turns out fine in the end so I'll cross my fingers, kiss my elbow, and enjoy my mini vacation.







Speaking of crossing fingers, you may recognise that gal above from such things as your childhood, saturday mornings, or recent forays into tv nostalgia.  It's Jetta, from the Misfits.  My three submissions in the show are hats of course, all made from chickens sourced at my dear friends' farm.  As the pieces came together and I listened to MIA's "Bad Girls" song on repeat (I cannot stress enough how much of an inspiration this video has been on every single facet of my life) , these identities started rearing their naughty heads.







Jetta is composed of a Brahma Hen mounted atop a vintage pillbox cap.







Sparkly embellishments abound, of course.















I'll bet you remember most clearly Pizzazz, the leader of the Misfits.  Man, what a bitch.







This Polish rooster was just dripping with attitude  (wait until you see the spurs on this cock) and came to be Pizzazz quite naturally.











I see you!











This guy is also perched atop a vintage hat, this one an old mink pillbox.







Last and never least is Roxanne. Did you know she was from Philly?  Of course she was.  And I'll bet she walked around with a razor blade stashed in her mouth, Goretti girl style.







Roxy is a Buff Orpington Hen with a bad-ass beak piercing, nestled firmly into another vintage pillbox hat.  I should mention that the brass sculptural elements are from a remarkable lamp I trash-picked one Sunday morning- a time which I never would have been out and about except for walking what was at the time a brand new puppy.  So thank you, Jonesy, for that.































So that's that. In keeping with my theme I've whipped up a poultry themed ensemble which I will be tweeting and facebooking and blogging all about so stay tuned should you be so inclined.



Along with the show opening, I'm pretty pumped to catch some good comedy in LA (I'm a stand-up hound, did you know that?) and perusing some estate sales.   Or napping in a hammock and eating some stellar sushi.  For now, toodleooooooo!

Foxy Lady

Well, hello.







This sassy little dandy doesn't have a name yet but he's the manifestation of what happens when I ask myself, "if my client were a fox, what would she look like?"



Another commission for Kiki Hughes, one of my fave rave patrons, I was given carte blanche basically,with this piece.  The parameters I was asked to work within were that it had to be a fox, posed luxuriously with some flair.



 







It took almost 8 months to source the right specimen while staying within the ethical boundaries I have set for myself and my practice, but I think this piece was worth the wait.  More important, my client did as well- in spades.  She was simply over the moon with joy upon finally meeting her little dandy, and looks forward to incorporating him into he shop window displays.  If you're in the Philadelphia area, by all means take a stroll down 21st street (259 21st street to be exact) and say hello to Kiki and her fox!



 



 

And I'm TALON You...

Time has been skipping and speeding up quite magically over here at Diamond Tooth.  Maybe I'm not tapping into the voodoo magic of these new chicken talon charms correctly; it would be behoove me to figure out how to slow things down a bit.











Perhaps you'll have more luck.  Behold a slew of new charms; photographed yesterday, while the remaining batch continues to cure on the vine.



[caption id="attachment_1532" align="alignnone" width="1024" caption="Large talon with vintage locket"][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1533" align="alignnone" width="1024" caption="Fully functional locket whose photo would YOU slip in?"][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1534" align="alignnone" width="1024" caption="Large talon with original ID cuff still in tact"][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1535" align="alignnone" width="1024" caption="Small talon with real jade stone"][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1536" align="alignnone" width="1024" caption="Large mega-feathered talon with glass bead"][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1537" align="alignnone" width="1024" caption="Look at those feathers!"][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1538" align="alignnone" width="1024" caption="Medium talon with vintage pink sparkle charm."][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1539" align="alignnone" width="1024" caption="Medium talon with antique unicorn charm"][/caption]



 



Although I have no magic training and make no claims about the voodoo potency of these charms, I'm a firm believe that teh energy I'm putting into these pieces (and all my creations for that matter) can only bring positive vibrations to the recipient.  It's the same concept as never serving food to someone when you're angry for fear of poisoning them.  Bad vibrations, man.  Just for fun:



"The chicken foot is traditionally used in Southern rootwork and "New World Voodoo" (ie, New Orleans Voodoo) for protection with an undercurrent of "scratching back" against those people, entities, or energies that would harm you."



I'm a believer.



All of these feature chains ending in a lobster claw fastener, to easily secure it to your necklace, hair doodle, rearview mirror, purse, window, etc.  If any of them strike your fancy, don't hesitate.  Your voodoo charm is waiting for YOU!

Beating the Meat.

Immersing myself in a craft that deals with death is a constant pot-stirrir, so to speak.  I got involved with taxidermy in the first place to deal with the profound sadness I felt when seeing recently perished birds lay to waste on the sidewalk, and the disrespectful way their corpses were treated.  I am compelled always to imagine myself in the place of any person or creature when faced with their situation; its my empathetic nature.  So of course when I come across a pigeon laying dead on the sidewalk while busy pedestrians brush past it or absent-mindedly nudge it into the street where it will just be  repeatedly run over for weeks until its essence is completely blended with the pavement, I imagine myself or some other person I love there, dead on the ground, being ignored until I or they decompose.



So I started with pigeons and city birds.  Then I moved onto pheasant purchased from my local butcher.  It occurred to me that I was closing the gap between "farm to table" which back then hadn't become a buzz-term yet.  I just knew that, along with being compelled to preserve these creatures, I had a nagging feeling in my gut telling me to develop a closer relationship with my food sources.  All this meant at this time was actually knowing if the chicken on my plate was even chicken.  Food was a bit of a mystery to me; I never picked up the cursory skills in the kitchen which would allow me to debone and butcher a chicken with confidence.



But it tasted so good with everything and was the perfect source of lean protein!



So I kept turning my brain off for the time being.  Then I watched "Food, Inc.".  My husband and I swore off chicken and meat, unless it was "happy meat" meaning it was organic, purchased at Whole Foods, etc.  This has kind of lasted, on and off, depending on how healthy our wallets are at the time, and then recently this nagging feeling clawed its way out of my stomach and into my frontal lobe.  I cannot ignore it any longer.



My mind has been a swirling perfect storm lately of feeling disenfranchised at the cold and painful realisation that my government is a bloated, bizarre and antiquated machine which cares not an iota for me or my family .  Commercials aren't true.  Magazines lie.  Everything I see and read about anything is some sort of visual or emotional manipulation to sell me something or just fuck with me, and you too.  The latest fiasco with the pink ammonia slime in ground meat is outrageous. Then there's the nonsense with FDA & Monsanto vs. Whole Foods.  That's two headline-hogging recent events out of the millions \ of atrocious and irresponsible things going on behind the scenes with food distribution in the last twenty years.



And I'm not going to point fingers and say that there's a bad guy because it's so much larger than that.  I don't think "the man" wants me and you and everyone we know to eat poison and die.  I just think the human race exploded like a popped kernel of corn and our population, along with its needs, have grown faster than the machine can keep up with.  There are too many people to feed in the fashion the last couple generations have come to expect, and the only way mega purveyors have come up with to supply the demand is to prioritize quantity.  They've lost sight of what nourishment really is, along with most of us.  A steak is something that should be treated gloriously; it can be a warm, sensual, savory experience which, when obtained and consumed properly can nourish one's entire being.  A grace should be said, not necessarily to any god but to the actual cow whose life was taken to make this meat, and the workers at the slaughterhouse who do all the dirty things we can't bear to think of when we buy our nice precut, seran-wrapped goodies at the market.







That's what eating a steak should be like.  But what its become is an anonymous substance which the general population happily shovels into their mouths with nary a thought of where it came from or what's in it.  This fact was grossly illuminated for me as I worked a gig on a cruise ship recently while reading Georgia Pellegrini's "Girl Hunter" in my downtime.  Absorbing her experiences of working in the food industry and deciding to make a change and source her own meat herself, against the backdrop of thousands of folks absent-mindedly shuffling down the buffet line three times a day piling their trays high with mystery meat was a surreal experience.







Surreal enough, in fact, to finally push me over the line and ban meat from my diet.  I don't really consume much to begin with except when I go out to eat so it's not a huge change.  And it's not that I don't like meat.  I love the chemicals my brain releases when I bite into a wild boar taco or a juicy dripping burger.  It's carnal, its sexy, and it's nourishment.  But for the moment, until I can construct a way to be more responsible and involved in the steps taken to land this meat on my plate, I am staging my own personal protest against it.  The exception to this, of course, is pheasants or rabbits I purchase from my trusted and ethical local butcher whom I know sources his animals properly, or any game meat from a hunter I trust.



And this is where my craft/career comes into play.  As taxidermy gains more traction in this country as an art form, a byproduct is cheaply manufactured fur and feather products ( feather hair extensions, anyone?) available at any discount beauty supply store in any metropolis.  There is an exploding demand for this stuff and folks who see dollar signs are too concerned with obtaining their stock to care about just how much of it they're slaughtering and what conditions said stock is living in before getting dispatched.



My career has been making a slow and steady ascent up into the success stratosphere and as I continue to make my way and become more renowned for my calling, I feel the need to distinguish myself as an ethical and humane taxidermist.   I'm constantly testing my moral waters and trying to figure out what my comfort level is, and it changes all the time.  I mounted a fox that was sourced using traps and I'm not proud of it ( I also attempted to make a meal out of this fox so no part of it would be wasted) .  At the time I thought it was OK to use the newer more humane technology but now I just don't feel informed enough to make that call.  I would need to be the person collecting the animal from the trap to see just how it feels to look this creature in the eye, to see it die.



Ms. Pellegrini touches on this throughout her book; the electrifying moment when she would "look her meat in the eye" before she killed it.  And this is my point: I really am not trying to say that there is any right or wrong.  I'd like to eliminate the black and white notion of good vs bad in my mind altogether.  What I do want for myself, and for you and everyone you love, is to be aware.  Think.  Just think the next time you sink your teeth into that chicken sandwich, about the bird and where it came from.  Was it genetically modified to have such large breasts it couldn't walk?  Does the burger pattie on your grill contain more pharmaceuticals than any of us might consume in a lifetime?  If this is OK, fine, eat it.  Just know.  I think if we all took a little more time to connect with where our food comes from, the results would be resoundingly positive.



Am I claiming innocence and superiority?  Far from it.  I have NO ROOM to judge anyone and no intention to do so.  I still eat my daily helping of yogurt and cottage cheese from cows I've never met.  I put the little bit of faith I have left into the "organic" label on the container and hope that these cows aren't a bunch of sad girls hooked up to a maze of tubes all day.  I consume an insane amount of canned tuna and how do I know that just because I bought it at an organic shop it wasn't sourced by unethical fishermen dropping anchor too close to some tiny pacific island, thus "stealing" all the fish form the locals who depend on that food source?



I eat fruit that has never (and will never -well, a heated planet could bring lemon trees to Philadelphia...) grown anywhere near my home and has to be sprayed with chemicals to preserve it for the journey across the country to my local grocer, and who knows how many low wage workers are exposed to these chemicals in the process.  I still work jobs that require me to get on a plane that chokes birds with fumes when they're not being chased off their natural migratory path by airport employees trying to prevent them from being sucked into jet engines.  I wear leather boots.  I'm still bewildered by (yet always thankful for) the phenomenon of indoor plumbing and probably use more water than I should.  I am dependent on contact lenses that come from who knows where and the chemicals that go with them which I am sure have been tested on animals.



It's overwhelming to think of all the ways in which my lifestyle is harmful to animals, but I have chosen not to be bogged down with guilt.  Instead I am making each decision with thought and care, constantly thanking each and every animal or human who sacrificed to bring me the luxuries I've come to expect in my life, like my iPhone and a decent Manhattan.  Because it's only where and to whom I was born that separates me from them.  And we're all connected. I truly believe this with every fiber of my being.



This is a lengthy post and if you are still with me, I thank you. Hopefully something in here struck a chord with you and I invite you to comment on it.  Please.  If you agree or think I'm way off base, please let me know.  Discussion can only bring more awareness and I can always use more of that.



xoxo



Beth Beverly

Twenty for Twenty #7: Cherie Lily

Behold the goddess known as Cherie Lily.  I have been an admirer of hers since I first met her, briefly, in the ladies room of some bar in Austin during South by Southwest, 2010.  (Which, technically should make her ineligible for this project since it's about folks I've never met but nobody cares so there).  She was wearing a spandex get-up not unlike the one you see pictured below, and washing her hands. I walked in with my friend and exclaimed, "Great outfit!  You look awesome!", to which she replied, "Hey thanks, I'm performing upstairs if you're interested!", and I was too embarrassed to tell her I had no money to see any ticketed shows; I was only there to catch the free performances on the outskirts of the SXSW event...so I just peed and left it at that.







Cut to two days later when my friends and I went to see the free GWAR show, and among the day long line-up of performers, there she was!  Cherie Lily, onstage with Andrew WK, aerobic dancing and looking like a neon spandex glamour queen.  In between songs, the audience was treated to multiple aural doses of positivity, feeling good, loving yourself, and being beautiful no matter what anyone says.



Does that sound hokey?



Well then go fuck yourself.



Sorry, harsh.  What I mean is, if that sounds hokey it's probably because self-acception/celebration is an unfamilliar concept to you.  And that is sad.  Forget what your family/acquaintances tell you and embrace your body, your dreams, all of it.



YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.



This attitude in mind, I started with a felt hat from a vintage collection I received as a gift from a friend (more about that in the future), a bright kelly green one because of the strength represented in that hue.  It had some wear and tear; I re-pressed it ad gave it a new shape, but some of the small pock marks couldn't be erased.  That's ok, I thought, they're the small imperfections which document a full life lived.



I placed the taxidermy accent pieces under a studded flap on the side of the hat; chicken feathers, red squirrel tail, dyed deer tail, and some blue dyed feathers which I acquired with another vintage hat. When worn, this would be the straight-on view:







It's on the small side, meaning that it's more like a fascinator since it won't fit snugly on the head; it will need to be set in place with combs or a hair pin.  I sewed two combs on the inside, envisioning her pulling it back over her thick hair and it resting in place.  But, this is an unsolicited gift for a woman I can't even say I know, so all I can do is touch wood and hope it works out on her head.  I did get a thank you email from her this morning, all full of kind and gracious words, but I can't help but wonder if maybe it didn't fit well enough.  Alas, she said she can't wait to wear it so I'll eagerly await any possible sighting of her in this little ditty.







Finally, as a detail, I incorporated an old wrestling pin I rescued from the trash heap in my brother's room.  The ten year old in me can't help but chuckle at the homoerotic-ness of these two spandex clad men in such an embrace, and I thought, as a gay icon, she would appreciate it.



As a gay man with lady parts, I know I can.







Let me know if you see her wearing it, New Yorkers!



And thanks Cherie Lily, for inspiring self-confidence in little freaks like me who never felt they could possibly fit into any of the factory modeled forms provided.

Arrrrrt Starrrr Craft Bazaarrrrrrrr

I've come up for air after the Art Star Holiday Craft Bazaar, if only for a moment.  The weekend was a success and I feel pretty good about how my first time at the rodeo went.  It didn't hurt to pair up with Art Star veteren Maria Eife wh also has an international show plus the Martha Stewart Holiday Craft Show under her belt.



I presented (and sold!)  an assortment of combs, pins, picks, joined earrings, hats, and talon charms.  Below is a smattering of the pieces I've been toiling away in my ivory tower creating:



A chicken feather hair pin with vintage jewelry elements,







More chicken feathers with more vintage jewelry,







And look!  An equestrian flair!  I finally got around to creating those horse shoe themed pieces I promised my polo buddies so many months ago!  Perhaps this Summer I'll actually follow through and sell some at the Friday Night matches...







Some of the combs were feather based while otehrs were built around entire taxidermied wings.  Below is an in betweener, comprised of the taxidermied tail of a chicken.







Oh look!  A frizzle chicken wing!  Perhaps now would be a good time to let you know that 90% of my feathered elements come from my dear friends Bailey and Thomas.  They are quite possible the sweetest, kindest and most compassionate farmers this world may ever know.  Yes, My opinion is totally biased.  They keep an outstanding blog in which they document their adventures in farming, please give it a read: The Farmers Husband.







Another winged comb.  I would also like to give a shout out to my dear friend Daniel who owns Wilbur Vintage for letting me purchase his odds and ends of vintage gems.







For those who choose not to sport a long mane, fret not!  Stick pins are always within reach.  Pop one into your hat, your lapel, blouse, sweater, bag, etc.







This one belwo didn't sell, much to my surprise.  Instead, it and one cimilar to it are en route to a faraway city as I write this, where it will make Christmas gifts for a pair of very special friends.







The gang!  (some of them, anyway)







I also made a trial run of these fur bangles with tails for the show.  People responded quite positively so I intend to tweek the design a bit and create a series.







Perfect for gesticulating wildly at cocktail parties...







I also created three new higher end head pieces for the show, as my little neon signs to lure in passers by.  They absolutley did the trick, and had many a lady tryign them on.



Right here is a vintage rabbit fur pillbox hat to which I added a chicken tail, with feathers from other birds.







Here's a view of the side.  Can you guess what that super fluffy soft yellow plush is?







It's gosling!  Compliments of another farmer friend of mine, Jeannie. I sewed another patch on the opposite side:







Next up: A vintage velvet fascinator base with a pair of chicken wings on one side and down on the other:







It's hard to see form these photos (all of these hats need to be reshot on a model's head, but I also added a small metal crown jewel charm to each side; a reference to my new logo, which you'll see below.







Laslty, my fave piece of all, this vintage black felt hat base with chicken wings, vintage jewelry adn a tassel made by yours truly.  I have a thing for fringe and tassels, and I think you do too:







That's actually the side view.  Below is the hat, straight on.  The curved shape frames the wearer's face beautifully.  I just adore this hat.







On Friday night my husband came and got a few shots of our booth.  Here it is, our gypsy caravan in all its glory:







My "side" of the booth:







Like that fox? I worked with the very talented designer Dave Seater to create it and a more cohesive look for all my online presences, which you will be seeing soon.  He's the best.  The fox with the crown was entirely my idea though; I think it really embodies the Diamond Tooth philosophy.







Here I am making a sale!  Yippee!  Like I said, I feel pretty good about how I did this weekend, as a greenhorn.  I visited with Sue Eggen at her booth, Giant Dwarf where she not only promised to play hat model for my next set of shots but also to toss some much needed (my words, not hers) pearls of wisdom my way in regard to navigating through this wild and wacky craft show life.  Sue, I'm holding you to both these things!







And that is all for the craft bazaar, now its time to work on my entry for this year's Carniverous Nights competition.  If you plan on coming, buy your tickets now!  ALso coming up: A cat, a fox, a hamster, a rabbit, more bridal pieces and the next 20for20 gift which is going to a mystery man that some of you may have dressed as for Halloween as children...

Here's a hint....or seven

I did a search for a video with the word "hint" and this came up. Listen while you read; it's invigorating ( I think she's saying, "I love wearing taxidermed birds on my head Beth Beverly should be rich and famous by now she is a god in my heart"):











So I've lapsed a bit in my writing and for that I feel bad.  This tends to happen when I work on multiple projects all at once; there is a period of holing up in my studio and then a burst of online activity once it's all finished and photographed.  Another thing pulling at me in administrative issues.  Paperwork, licensing, biz shizz, etc.  It's time-consuming and profoundly mind numbing to me, but necessary.



So while I have no new pieces to report on, I have several works in progress, such as:







Can you guess what this mystery item is?  Come and see it and others like it at the Art Star Holiday Craft Bazaar next month!  Friday the 18th is the preview party; part with a few shekels and be the first to browse all the wares whilst sipping cocktails made with my favorite spirit, Root.  I'll also be peddling many of these:







and these:







Oh! and several pairs of these:







Along with these smaller trinkets I'll have fascinators, hats and brooches on hand so you, your roommate, your crush/lover/one night stand AND your mom will have something to fit them.  Be gifted!



Plus, I'll be debuting a very unique pair of  shoes.  Hint, hint:







Along with prepping for the bazaar, the PA Hunt Cup is next Sunday.  This is one equine event I have yet to dip my hooves into so I'm not sure what to expect, but you can bet I've got new hats in the works.  Fall themed, of course:











Speaking of hats, I've got two sweet ones, plus a brooch in the works for my next three Twenty4Twenty recipients.  One is a drag queen, another is an fitness goddess and the third is an accomplished and published huntress.  They are inspirations to me and  I get a kick out of their pieces living in my studio together while they come into their own.  Here's a hint of two:











On top of this, I've been forever preparing a custom form for my favorite client's cat.  I want it to be absolutely perfect so it's to my benefit that she is very patient.







There also some other miscellaneous client projects in the works, as well as sourcing materials for my entry in this years Rogue Taxidermy Competition.   More on that soon.



That's a wrap, yall.    And now I'm off to Mexico....again.

No time to say hello goodbye I'M LATE!









I wish I had just listened to this song this morning when I felt so rushed.  I really hate rushing.  It's  bad for the constitution and just pointless really.  I feel much better when I slow down.



This morning however, I was tired and foolish.  I stayed up until 2am  skinning a cat (that's another blog post for another time) and got up early enough to set up the backdrop and persuade Jim to shoot this piece before he left for work so I could drop it off at my client's shop today.  These early and harried morning shoots don't come with a model so I will happily slap a wig on and try my best.  After seeing these photos, though, I have decided that looking tired and cranky in no way makes a pretty picture.



That said, here is the piece in question:







Behold the White Rabbit from "Alice in Wonderland".  Oooo, writing that just made me crave those white rabbit licorice treats I used to find in Chinatown.



Anyway, this woman has an event and commissioned me to create a "rabbit mask type of hat" and that was my starting point.  I gave him a monocle, although having just watched a few videos of the rabbit in action, I see he actually wore glasses and carried a pocket watch.  No matter, monocles are cooler and this one s made from a vintage watch face so take that, facts.











As a bonus I threw in the rabbit feet on a chain that can be clipped in the hair...or on a belt, whatever pleases the wearer.



Fuck, I look so angry.  Good thing nobody came up and slapped me on the back.







I'm also annoyed because this could have been styled so much better, with a wicked up-do and some makeup.  Perhaps my client will be willing to sit for me someday.



And now to cleanse your palette:







These shots are actually a reference to some magazine clippings a friend passed onto me when I first started dabbling in taxidermy.  I wish I could remember the stylist/publication but it was an entire spread of adorable animal heads placed atop vases.



Here's one last shot but Rabbit really has to go because he's late he's late he's late!







xoxoB

Stick it.

 



Recently one of my favorite clients commissioned me to create several custom pieces for her, one of which being two pairs of talon hair sticks: one for her and the second pair as a birthday gift for one of my other favorite clients.  These two gals are so fun to design for because they just tell me what they want and let me go.  They trust me, and enjoy what I create.  It inspires confidence when people have faith in me.



One set is crafted from a pair of feet formerly belonging to the black rooster I skinned a while back to make a hat out of.  I just remembered I need to photograph the hat; it's really quite smashing.  Anyway, the spurs on this cock's legs are a force to be reckoned with and I got such a good energy from this specimen that I really wanted to use it for this project.







The foot itself is mounted on a stick I sharpened and textured myself, and accentuated with rabbit fur and feathers of peacock and rooster.  The talons themselves are treated to a glossy pearlescent coat of color.







The second pair is slightly larger in size; I used pheasant feet and from there it's basically la meme chose as the first pair.







I used repurposed mink fur with pheasant feathers this time around.







And that's that.  I'm eager to see how they look on the ladies as they both are quite striking women with full heads of thick black hair.



As usual, thanks to Jim Coughlin for taking such consistently awesome photos of my work.



Philly confidential: Happy Birthday, Shannah!

20 for 20 #2: Turd is the Word









I got a sweet note from my newly minted overseas pal The Fashion Turd, so it's safe to post about what I sent her:









The Turd received a custom created, larger than life, bird talon hair stick!  Based on photos from her blog, she's got a head full of colorful locks, which made the job fun to the power of awesome because 1) dread locks are thick and strong, and therefore can hold pieces with a bit of heft, and 2)someone who deliberately works their hair into this style is most likely open to wearing items that are less than conventional.



That said, I felt free to go bonkers.  I started with the talons of a very large chicken (sourced from one of my farmer friends) clutching a chunk of electro-formed copper with a crystal embedded in it.  Once this was mounted on the hair stick, I embellished the base with dyed deer tail, rabbit fur and pheasant feathers.  I felt free to get as far out as my heart could carry me, knowing this gifteewould appreciate the outlandishness of it all.







Due to the size and weight of the claw end of the stick, some balance was needed both for aesthetic and functional purposes.







This was achieved by running a large link chain from the top, to a cap which would attach to the bottom, so the stick could be worn securely like so:







I'm sure she'll make it look even better than I am in this photo.  Now that it's in her little paws, I am excited to see how she wears it.  I imagine it could even serve as a unique sweater/kilt/cape/shawl closure clasp, not to mention sharp pointy self-defense mechanism for those late night crawls home from the bar, er...pub.  Mind the gap, ye!



xoxo, BB



ps: I don't mention it in every post but it should pretty much be assumed that all product shots seen on this blog, as well as on my etsy and website, are done by my on site photographer and husband, Jim Coughlin.  He also is a musician and painter; check out his stuff here: SnapBlamSplat



 



Up next: a client update or two



Coming soon on the 20 for 20 project: girl hunters, drag queens and another fashion dragon from the UK!

20 for 20, # 3: Put a Zoe on it.

I just finished making a hat box which is housing the halo fascinator I just finished custom making for Rachel Zoe.  I doubt she's aware of myself or this blog so I feel like the risk of ruining the surprise by posting this before she receives it is minimal. While this is technically the third piece I've created for my 20for20 project, #2's gift is still traveling through the postalverse and I know she reads this so I don't want to spoil it for her.  So there's that.



In a few hours, this piece will be en route to Madame Zoe, by means of which I don't care to bore you with.   The box is somewhat hastily made and it shows, but what's inside was made with plenty of love and thought.







 







I used a vintage halo-shaped fascinator base and built on it with feathers from a variety of foul, along with some salvaged antique mink tails.  My impression of Rachel Zoe is romantic hollywood gypsy, and while I know very little about her personally, I selected her for this project because I love her style, I admire her tenacious drive, and am inspired by the better-to-apologise-later-than-ask-first attitude I imagine her to have.







Unfortunately I don't have a blonde wig but I anticipate the brown velvet and feathers popping quite nicely against her light hair.  The charms make a nice tinkly noise and their translucency in the sunlight gives this piece a very gypsy feel.







I just hope it fits her!  That's the tricky part about designing unsolicited gifts for people-how to predict sizing.  I have very thick hair though, and that's underneath the wig (ha!  I wish this luxurious mane were my real hair!), so there should be a small amount of wiggle room.







Fancy chickens, pheasants, grouse, and vintage trinkets.  Let Madame Zoe look into your future.....







 

Le Lapin Cocquette

Voila!



Below is a video I put together documenting my awkward yet successful foray into rabbit stew.  I've prepared rabbit dishes several times, all of them okay but coming up short.  This time I knocked it out of the park.







Twenty for twenty

I was chatting with friends at polo a few weeks back and two of them, almost simultaneously said, "I could see Kat Von D in your hats."



My reaction was "Really?  Wow."  I'd never seen LA Ink but I've seen many photos of her-and I love her look.  She's absolutely stunning.  "Too bad she has no idea who I am," I sighed, defeated, ready to move onto another topic but my friend persisted, "No, ding-dong, just send her a hat."



This sentence rolled around in my head for a while and set into motion a brainstorm which gave birth to my newest project, an interactive "piece" I am calling Twenty for Twenty.



I began by simply imagining that Kat had put an order in for a custom hat and said, "Beth just make it me.  However you see me."  I went with my heart and created the hat you see pictured in this post.  As I worked on it, I took a moment to really explore this feeling coursing through me, this in-the-zone elatedness I get when I'm not even thinking about my work but just letting my hands and eyes do all the talking.  I began to embrace this feeling of following my heart and creating something wonderful even though nobody asked for it.  There was no demand. Not yet.



That didn't seem to matter to me at the time.  I just focused on custom work and how right it feels.  I thrive on connecting with (nice, good) people and creating for them.  It just feels right.







After I finished Kat's hat, I was re-reading segments of an online book called "The Art of Earning" by Tara Gentile.  Toward the end there is a passage which inspired me to turn this good feeling about custom pieces and reaching out to people into a project. I decided to come up with a list of twenty individuals whom I've never met  but have been inspired by in some capacity or another. Some of them I'm just a plain fan of.  I would reach out to each of these people and make a connection through my work.  Like good old-fashioned fan mail!



This ties in to my love affair with the postal service.  Anyone who knows me well has received a note from me at some point in our friendship.  I love sending thank you notes.  At times when we are more organised, my mister and the kiddies and I would create our own holiday greeting cards to mail out each year.  I'm a sucker for that tangible piece of "hello" from the mailbox.  Like a long, convoluted paper-cup-telephone on a string.



I complied my list of twenty, and began the process of reaching out to them.  Some are more accessible than others (twitter is amazing for this), and some might never happen.  It's hard to tell (any of you guys tight with Gwen Stefani's team?)  But the responses I've gotten so far have been overwhelmingly positive and I'm so very excited to reveal more names (and why I'm inspired by them) in future posts.  I'm hoping that by following through with this brainchild, I can not only get more of my product on more people's bodies (I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a hint of self-promotion in this) and gain some exposure, but also to fully express the gratitude I feel towards individuals whom I am happy to know exist in this sometimes glum and banal planet.  Also, I want to remind people how rewarding it is to receive a gift in the post, a piece of art that someone spent hours of their own life to make.







And that, my friends, is that.  I'm tapping into something deeper than taxidermy and hats, so bear with me as I explore this.  I'd love to know your thoughts.



For now, here is Kat's hat.







I used one of my gifted vintage bases and spent oodles of time fastening the perfect chicken wing and feathers/pelt to it.







Inspired by her military meets goth meets doll type style, I used an vintage Trifari gold tasseled baton brooch and tied it all together with some chains and such.











Up next: My larger than life and circus inspired piece for The Fashion Turd!



24K video

I don't know what to title to video segment of my blog yet.  But here are some moving pictures set to music, telling the story of a lovely rooster:











Throw some bonmots my way, and if you give me a decent title a free treat is coming your way!



 



 

From my cold, dead hands

Here are some items I recently added to my etsy shop, for all the tween-witch kids:







I don't want to alienate though, they're actually for anyone who would want to wear a bird talon.  This includes me and it could include you but it may not include your roommate or your cousin.  I wind of separating the feet from most birds I skin because, at this time, bird feet aren't all that palatable for the budding fashionista so I just use the wings/pelt and save the feet and heads for my own purposes.  And that's fine with me.  How boring would the world be if we all wore the same thing?



 







But for those of you who ARE into this symbol of strength and beauty with a dash of menace, what a great little trinket you can add to your wardrobe for barely any monies at all.  Customize it with your birthstone or any other kind of crystal, tie it up in your hair ,hang it from your phone, whatever your icy little heart desires.







OK, this is too sales pitchy.  Just check it out, OK?  I think they make great gifts...(too early for Christmas ornaments?) starting at under $20 a pop.



Felicia's Fascinator

Such a creative title, hmmmm?  I'm starting to think my wit went on vacation and left the rest of me in this South Philadelphia brick oven.  Alas, there are some wonderful things I've been cooking up in said brick oven.



HIYO!  There's that whip-smart writing style, peeking out through my sleep deprived haze.



I met Felicia recently and was instantly smitten at her zest, pep, zip, and rabid enthusiasm for all things culinary.  Upon being introduced to them Felicia then became somewhat smitten with my pieces, and it was then that we decided she must wear a Diamond Tooth custom crafted fascinator to an upcoming wedding at which she would be a guest.







I met up with her this morning at the Reading Terminal Market and watched her order an assortment of baked goods from Termini Bros with the panache that comes from years of tasty experience.



Yes, this gal knows her sweets.



I could hardly keep up with her, in fact she only slowed down to take her fascinator out of the box and give me the thumbs up.  When she learned that I used the wing from a chicken which had belonged to a dear mutual friend of ours, the approval rating went up.







I need to get a shot of her wearing it; the wing curves around from the back of the head and hugs the side before gently peeking out just a wee bit around the front.  I embellished it with hand curled ostrich feathers and vintage crystal-studded lace patches.







She strikes me as a woman of understated elegance so I wanted to keep it subdued and gentle.  I threw in some pheasant feathers and a chain detail that can dangle from the comb and over her hair, and called it a day.







Hopefully the sun will catch the crystals and make her pretty head sparkle at the wedding.  I hope you enjoy her, Felicia, as much as I enjoyed crafting her.



Release the Hounds!

But after I've unstuck my pink stilettos from the grounds, please.



The soil is quite moist from the precipitation we've been experiencing.  I aerated (free of charge!) about 80% of the green you see below:







When I wasn't feigning absolute comfort in the most impractical shoes in the entire place, I was relaxing in style under the -speaking of which -Philadelphia Style Magazine tent.







What is this event,you ask?  Why, the Radnor Hunt Steeplechase of course!  I was the very fortunate guest of my dear friends at the Brandywine Polo Club who joined forces with the Style mag to produce the most luxurious tent-mosphere I've ever had the privilege to enjoy.  The furniture, the florals, the displays, all were thoughtfully arranged and delightfully polo-philic.







These mini arrangements were scattered throughout the infield seating area.







These chaise lounges were borrowed from my future powder room:







Lush, green grass is a nice touch.







If I hadn't been wearing fishnets I would've taken the heels off and dug my feet in.







Look at the bridle bits!  My love for all things equestrian is making it hard to write.



Below is a solid gold chair crafted by hand from three generations of British royalty on loan from Will & Kate's personal collection.*







In the tailgating area the classic cars enjoyed their moment in the sun.











The theme this year was the Great American Novel.  First person to leave a comment correctly naming this story gets a taxidermy treat from me!







I'm sure this tasted just like chicken.







Old Man and the Sea, complete with Mr. Hemingway himself!







I met a lovely woman named Heather who had a daughter competing in the hat contest (thankfully there is a child's division so no "accidents" had to happen to the little dear); they invited me to this particular tailgate where, along with the Old Man, I encountered an entire roast pig!







Some friends of the Polo Club (and female players!) were hosting this tailgate, the theme being Moby Dick







Up by where we'd set up the  Polo Club table, there were some tres classy air-conditioned portopots complete with pump flush action.  This stall came with enhanced instructions.  It's hard to see the wording but some clever little scamp wrote "otherwise you might catapult shit onto the ceiling".







She may have been overestimating her strength just a tad.



Back down infield at the Phila Style tent, a handsome gentlemen stopped by with his horse to chat.  I wasn't able to catch it but his four-legged pal took out a woman's mojito in one gulp.  Can't blame the furry guy.







My new friend Claudia!  She's one of the players at the Polo Club.  I can't wait to watch her play.







More friends of the Polo Club.  I just adore how effortlessly well they all match.  Total eye candy.  Listening the Portuguese being playfully shouted back and forth didn't hurt either.  At least I think it was Portuguese.







My all too gracious host Branden Walsh,  polo-phile extraordinaire, with a beautiful mystery woman standing on a chair.  Note the flip-flops.  Very intelligent.  All the ladies seemed to know what they were doing and wore flats or wedges.







This adorable little lady wore boots.  The nicest boots I've ever seen, I might add.  She was learning how to shake hands and properly greet people when we were introduced, but her and I made a silent agreement that shaking hands is totally gauche and real ladies curtsy.  And so we curtsied to one another and if I had gotten a video of it your heart might break.







Parked next to us was a gentleman and his wife and their antique Packard.  Silly of me not to get a picture of the entire car but I certainly enjoyed posing inside of it!



That damned smirk...







Oh!  Right.  That's my ribbon for taking third place in the ladies hat contest.  While I am absolutely thrilled; I really need to work on getting a different color ribbon.  I thought the blue hair would clue the judges in on what I was aiming for...



Thanks to the Daily Local News for this lovely photo in their online coverage of the day:







Back to that Packard: I had the presence of mind to take a shot of my view from the steering wheel, seeing as I have no clue when I might get the pleasure of sitting at the driver's of one of these ever again.



Yummmmmmmmmmm.







Oh hello!  The owner was emphatic in telling me that my sitting in his car had added a significant amount of provenance to it.  I replied that his Packard had done likewise for my seat.  And there begins the slippery slope of dirty jokes that I'll leave up to your imagination.





Considering the world was supposed to end on Saturday, I think it's fair to say I would've gone out in style.  Speaking of which, it didn't occur to me until late in the day that every stitch of clothing/accessories I had on was from WILBUR Vintage.  I didn't even plan that; but I guess I love the shop that much.



For more pictures covering the event, please check out the photographs my new pal Juan Vidal took throughout the day.



*Bev-tale?  You decide.

Like a ________ with its head cut off.





Specifically, a pheasant.



I recently came into contact with the striking and fabulous Kiki Hughes, proprietress of Kiki Hughes Boutique in Philadelphia.  Word to the wise: click on that link and check out her store if you're near Philly.  There are some truly, truly gorgeous wardrobe pieces in there (like my ostrich feather skirt!!!) and all the clothing is merchandised in such a clever and unique fashion that you'll kind of get sucked into a time warp and forget how long you've been there ogling at the displays.



Anyway, Ms. Kiki has this lovely pheasant head hat from her personal collection which her cat made into a sacrifice one night by ripping the head clean off.  What killer instincts!



My cat Frankie, a.k.a the Diamond Tooth Studio Mascot, seems to not care less about anything feathered which makes him an ideal work buddy, provided I keep all things mousey out of his reach.  For the most part, he just wants to be near whatever I'm doing.  Example:







Upon closer inspection, this bird was more than just decapitated.  He was straight ripped.







I started by sewing binding tape over the cracks and along the edge of the head which I then reinforced with an adhesive.  This would provide a stronger  bond once the whole thing was sewn back together.







Cotton filling back into the head:







Next was the binding tape along the edge of the bottom half:







Finally it's time to sew the head onto the body.  This is where curved needles come in handy.







After the head was securely reattached, there was still the job of filling in the blank skin spots with feathers.  Fortunately I have an abundance of pheasant plumage on hand and was able to find the right shade/size.shpe to blend in with the originals.



And he's finished!  Top view:







Side view:







Other side view:







So the moral of the story is:  I do repairs.  Please feel free to contact me should an old piece of taxidermy in your collection need some new life breathed into it.

Last Ride

I recently collaborated with fellow artist and compadre Andria Morales on a performance piece titled "Last Ride".  Formerly known as Andria Biblioni, Ms. Morales wanted to mark the moment in her life where her maiden name (and previous self) ceased to exist.  We both share a fascination with death and how we as humans approach/accept it within our various cultures.   Coming from a Puerto Rican background, Andria has personal experience with the practice of posing for photographs "with " the departed at their funeral.  Being of Irish and German descent myself, there aren't any notable funeral practices I've personally experienced.  I still think the act of embalming is extremely bizarre, and dare I say...pointless?



Which is why I'm all for the outrageous viewing displays created by Marin Funeral home in Puerto Rico:







If you're going to embalm a body, why not make it interesting?



All of this led to us performing a "viewing" for Andria where we transformed the space at local venue the Rotunda to look like a funeral home.  This required some manual labor, elbow grease, and the occasional frightening ladder climb by yours truly:







I designed the ensemble and provided the taxidermy mounts scattered throughout the scene for ambience.  Here is our subject, looking positively stiff.







We got a decent crowd of friends and relatives flowing in and out to pay their respects; my favorite was dear friend Bailey Hale and Jennifer Cohen who came with the two little ones in tow.  I believe she said something about opting for the fake viewing over gymboree that day.  The tots were stoked.











Every viewing has its downtime.







The view from behind:







Another mourner:







More photos HERE.



This event was several weeks ago and this past Friday the gallery edition of "Last Ride" opened at Air Space which is where Andria currently resides as an artist in residence.  We basically recreated the Rotunda set-up with some tweaking, including substituting a mannequin for Andria, who stoically held still like a real body (with my rigging help) throughout the entire two-hour original viewing.













Now that she has ascended, Ms. Morales is currently entrenched in some other activities with artist Maya Escobar.  You can learn more by checking out their Are You My Other (self portrait dialogue exchange) project and the AMerican MEdia Output project .

A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place

Whenever I throw myself into a large project, my studio suffers.  I go into a frenzied state of just trying to get it done right and on time; I can put this away later and find a home for that tomorrow.  Apparently this isn't uncommon amongst artists, as I've shared this gripe with several friends in the last week.



Common or not, I've spent the last five days in and out of my studio, cutting the fat and gifting what I haven't had a use for (and honestly don't think I ever will), vacuuming feathers and organizing.  It's an extremely tight space and I have amassed an impressive collection of trinkets  in the course of my life, so keeping this room functional takes some creative organizing.



Anyway, here's my desk.  I intend to upgrade soon but this little guy gets the job done for now.  All my eye candy is posted on the wall in front of me, as well as the measurements I hastily scrawl onto it when skinning specimen.  To the left is one of my freezers.







The drawer is organized with all the tools/embellishments I need for finishing touches.







Below is my extremely high-tech trinket organization system.  Over time the labels need to be changed to reflect my inventory.  It feels great to have finally updated the system.







Things I collect:



















Another highlight: my closet.  It wasn't meeting its potential before, so I moved a bookshelf into it and got cracking.







Bones, skins, mannequins, solvents/chemicals, dehydrated specimen, all live here as well as a few early stabs at the whole taxidermy thing.







And that's my studio, in a nutshell.  I plan on moving to a bigger space in the next year but why not make the most of my humble, quaint little room while I still occupy it?



Now that I'm all clean and organised, I can focus on whats next, like hats to wear at the derby, and several orders for some very , very patient clients.

Running for the Roses

I love horses.  I've never wanted to own one, I don't even really enjoy riding them...rather, I prefer observing them.  I could watch a horse move for hours.  In my eyes, there is no more perfect example of the balance between strength and agility, brute force and beauty.  I also love horse people.  There is something in their blood perhaps, that I can relate to.  Seeing as all things equestrian tend to be on the financially steep side, one would think that there would be a sort of elitist vibe that could frighten a Bohemian artist such as myself.  I couldn't find that notion further from the truth though.  At every equine event I've attended, I've found myself amongst free-spirited individuals who appreciate a good quirk much more than the proverbial next guy.



That said, it only seems logical to take my love over state lines and partake in "the most exciting two minutes in sports", AKA the Kentucky Derby.  I must confess, the thought hadn't even occurred to me until my sister in law, Danielle, (who dreams big and accomplishes bigger, see here) suggested it over Thanksgiving dinner.  I set my sights on Churchhill Downs for 2011 and since then have worked tirelessly with my miracle worker/facilitator of dreams Meredith Lindemon of Meredith Communications to make it so.  She dove headfirst into the task of getting me not just into the Derby but fully immersed in the entire event.  Contacts were made, sponsorships were proposed.  We worked out this and that, revised the product, toiled and troubled until about a month ago when the pace began to pick up.  Before I knew it I was presented with a ten day deadline to create 4 custom hats for a silent auction and 75 (seventy five!) hand-crafted brooches, hair pins nad combs for gift bags at the Julep Ball.



Remember Barbaro?











I was searching for a Derby related video to include in this post and I fell down the rabbit hole of Barbaro tributes.  I am stunned at just how many of these videos exist (also at how graphic and injury-focused most of them are) and overwhelmed with emotion recalling how the love that so many of us felt for this heroic creature united us that Summer.



And now it's all done and my little army is en route to Kentucky.  I will be following suite next month to attend the Ball as well as Kentucky Oaks and the Derby. Of course I'll need to create something to wear to these events but for the moment I'm going to get a full nights rest and come up for air.  I just wanted to share photos of the newly minted Diamond Tooth Millenary 2011  Derby Line and take a moment to thank these people:



Jim my husband, who never complained while his home turned into a feather filled factory and graciously relieved me of most domestic duties.  Oh, and he happens to be an awesome photographer who shoots all my work for me.



My folks, who have proven to me time and time again that if you ask, you shall receive.  Not just because they're kind, but because they believe in me.



Danielle, my aforementioned sister-in-law who gave me the idea in the first place.



Daniel Wilbur, proprietor of Wilbur Vintage who would open up his shop early for me and patiently allow me to paw through his trinkets in my attempts to amass enough charms with which to adorn all of my creations.



Bailey  (and all my chicken friends!), aka chicken master; without his donations I wouldn't have had any medium to work with.



Gregory Andrew Powell, millenatrix extraordinaire and my arch nemesis who was kind enough to momentarily bury the poison-tipped hat pins and  share some of his wisdom.



And of course Meredith, who wasn't afraid to push me to reach higher even while I was being a brat.



Sun Hat:







This a Panama hat embellished with fancy chicken and peacock feathers, swiss dot horse hair and antique veil.



.







Summer Beret:







This little beret is composed of fancy chicken and ostrich feathers, swiss dot horse hair and a vintage brooch.



Oh and look!  Leather tags!







Fascinator:







A little something to enhance your up-do; made of fancy chicken wing and peacock feathers, antique ceiling and vintage pearl beads.







Comb:







That is the back of the comb; it's  a tricky shot since there's so much going on.  I used an antique comb from 1920 and embellished it with the tail feathers of a fancy chicken, some peacock, and a vintage crystal necklace.  I added a poof of antique French veil.



Below is the front.  This one is a real doozy.







Brooches:







These are a few examples from the gift bag items.  I used 24K plated stick pins as the bases and each one is one of a kind and infused with my heart.















Combs:







The bases for these are silver plated combs; each one is lovingly hand crafted.











Hairpin:







Only 5 of these; silver plated base with vintage jewelry embellishments.



If we all had our druthers, our pets would live forever!

I understand that my medium of choice when it comes to artistic expression is somewhat provocative, if not downright controversial.



I certainly don't expect everyone to like it, nor do I expect the world at large to share the same carefully laid out map of moral boundaries and ethics I've arrived at myself through a never-ending process of trial and error.  If we all thought the same thing, the world would be a tragically dull place, not to mention nothing would ever get done.



While working so closely with death, I've given much thought to the value of life and how it is appreciated so differently by different people and cultures.  Some people raise poultry for a living; those birds are food to them and nothing else.  Birds are kept in cages, living on top of one another and stepping in a pile of one another's feces until the time comes for harvest.  It's easy to think of these creatures (or even look at them if you've ever been to a live poultry market), and feel heartbroken.  For some, that is.  For others, it's just as easy to look into a cage and see what ranks a few links down on the food chain.  Dinner.  Sustenance, and nothing else.  After years of careful thought and consideration, I fall somewhere in the middle.  My work in the field of taxidermy has brought me in touch with hunters and butchers alike, and through my interactions with these folks I have gained an appreciation for the food that winds up on my plate, an appreciation I never had as a child.  When I've met the animal whose life was extinguished to feed myself (or my cats), I appreciate the meat so much more.  The responsibility of using each part to its fullest weighs so much heavier on me than if I'd bought some prepackaged beef from the market.



My point is this: I understand and appreciate the fact that my sheer existence/lifestyle comes at a price, and sometimes that price is the lives of other living creatures.  For this, I am thankful and move throughout my day with an awareness I wouldn't trade for all the blissful ignorance in the world.  Plus, I love animals, I really do.  I wouldn't have gotten into taxidermy if that wasn't the case.  For those of you who haven't heard this worn-out old story, I decided to get a book and teach myself the craft after seeing so many freshly perished birds on the city sidewalks post-skyscrapers-crash.  The thought of these beautiful creatures just rotting on the sidewalk or being swept into a gutter made me sick.  I wanted to preserve them, celebrate their beauty.  And so I learned the art of taxidermy.



Ten years later, and I still hold the same philosophy.  Of course, these amazing creatures are best when they're living, moving, flying, running, barking, etc.  But everything dies, whether by the hand of man or nature, and why let such beauty go to waste?  This is why I'm happy to take a dead pet off of a friend's hands, and also to use the skin of a chicken, pheasant, or even squirrel before making a delicious meal with the meat.  I do the best I can to be sure my specimen are sourced ethically and humanely, but I hold no judgement for others who have a different set of values when it comes to the food chain.  All I know is what's right for me, and if I've learned anything in my 33 years on this earth it's that the no two people should be expected to share the exact same moral compass.



I've received messages from individuals who are less than pleased about what I do. It would be terribly naive of me not to expect this, and to these people I want to say this:  I hear you.  I recognise what you're saying (even if it's not in the most polite wording) and I respect your point of view.  I want you to know that I'm not thoughtlessly slaughtering animals just so I can wear one on my head.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  This is in no way an attempt to convince you that I'm right, or that you should agree with me, it's just a clear explanation of my philosophy because from the tone of your emails/messages/comments I feel you may not have had all the facts before reaching out to me.

Peace be with yall.
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