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:



Black Bird Pie!

























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 mae 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.

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.

Post School blues...or blacks.

I've been back from school almost a month now, and have been working on getting my studio in order and practicing  my skills on whatever specimen I can get my paws on.  The racoon hide I tanned is now taxied onto the proper form, climbing up a wall and almost finished.  Pictures to come.



I received a box of 8 starlings in the mail from a fellow taxidermist with a trigger-happy son.  Starlings can be a real pest to anyone occupying vast spreads of land so it's not generally frowned upon to assist in population control, so to speak.



He barely charged me anything for the birds (the shipping cost exceeded the bird quote) so I'm comfortable experimenting with them.  I decided to try dying the skin of one, to eliminate the white/brown spots and create a completely black little bird.



The process was kind of trial and error, but I think I've come up with a successful way to alter the color of the bird without compromising the preservation.  What excited me the most was not only the success in eliminating spots, but the way the iridescence was really brought out.











Oh!  And more good news.  Much to the ease of my conscious, I have discovered that starlings are not only edible but revered as quite delicious.  It's said that black bird pie was actually made with their smaller and spotted relatives.  So far I've ony found one recipe online but it looks good to me:

Starling stew with olives



A recipe from Calvin Schwabe's "Unmentionable Cuisine."



Animals: Love them or hate them, we also eat them. And nothing better illustrates just how many of them we eat (and how thoroughly) than Calvin Schwabe's giant compendium of recipes from every corner of the world, excerpts of which are appearing in Salon this week, Monday through Friday -- one recipe each day on the Life and People sites -- by kind permission of the University Press of Virginia. This one comes from Turkey where it's known as "Karatavuk yahnisi."



"Fry some chopped turnips and carrots. Add a little stock and a glass of red wine. Place some starlings or other small birds in the pan. Add a thin purée of boiled potatoes mashed with beaten eggs, dry mustard, and some stock and a little beer. Cover with stock and cook for about 30 minutes, adding some ripe olives near the end."



Perhaps this will be a dish for Easter.  Stay tuned!

"You think that God likes football?"

Toady was my last day living as a mountain cabin woman.  I pretty much luxuriated in the house all day as I watched the sky dump a foot of snow on the grounds around me.







I spent over an hour ironing sheets, shirts and pillowcases.  I found a pleated little Victorian number belonging to one of the boys and accepted the challenge of pressing it to perfection.  It took about 45 minutes.  Seriously.



I moved onto the reading nook and immersed myself in "Living with Joy", a sort of self-help book from the mid eighties.   I kind of have to groan and roll my eyes to get past the over-the-top hippie parts, but it's really helping me to keep a level head during this transient time in my life.   I will need to have a good sense of my self established for when I explode on the scene and turn the taxidermy world on its head.



In the afternoon I walked to the CVS about a mile and a half down the road and into "town", then caught up on phone conversations with people and tidied up the house for my impending departure.















Later I discovered the DVD box set for a little show called "Friday Night Lights".  Oh.  My. God.  How I have never seen this show ids beyond me; perhaps I wasn't ready for it until now.  I blew through the first five episodes, sobbing the entire time.  The character development is remarkable, the score is tight, it's got power struggles, drama, hot people, and football plus all the pageantry that goes along with it like marching bands and cheerleaders..  What else is there?











I think I have a crush on every single character in this show.







"Your future self is real and only seperated from you by time."

I had a quiet morning spent driving around getting to know the town that I'm about to leave.  I've logged  more driving time in the past two months than I have in years; and perhaps because of this I'm more aware of the slight nuances of locomoting.  One thing I get a kick out of is the inch-up game.  I do this while waiting in line but it works in cars too. When I'm stopped at a red light, I inch forward just a little bit even though the light shows no signs of turning green any time soon.  Inevitably, the person behind me creeps up as well, and everyone behind them follows suite.  I get a little ego stroke knowing that one small move on my part has affected four or five people who I may never meet.



Mr. M is still having issues with keeping his food down and I figured out that it was the antibiotics making him so sick.  The vet told me to come in so he could have an antibiotic shot, so I bundled him up in a blanket and brought him in.  It was a really sweet, down-homey feeling clinic; everyone was smiling and I could tell immediately that this place was run by people who really loved animals.  We passed an orange tabby on the way in and the doc came right up to us and administered Mr. M's shot as I stood there, holding him.  It was over in a matter of seconds, and then she announced that Muffin was next.  "Muffin!", she called into the waiting room which was empty save a middle-aged woman and her pooch.  I guessed that Muffin might've been the Tabby and suggested he might be outside.  The vet simply stepped out and called, "Muffinnnnnnn!  You're next!".  I found it really comical that there were no humans around.  I imagined Muffin walking down the road to the vet himself, some kind of key-latch-kid type of pet.  Maybe he'd pick up a pack of smokes for his human on the way home.



There was a plumber working on the downstairs bathroom for the majority of the day so I set up camp in the dining room and worked on my taxes.



Later on I watched "Hush hush, Sweet Charlotte"











I'm still not sure what to make of it.  It may be the most bizarre movie I've ever seen.  It did inspire me to do a little reading up on Bette Davis though, and I now feel inspired to be glamorous 27-7.  This means working out while wearing lipstick and ditching sweats for house gowns.

"Philadelphia will never be the same."

Today was my last day of class; I did all the finishing touches on my mounts like airbrushing and epoxying noses, eyes, tear ducts, etc.  Mr. B went over all the rules and regulations with me as far as getting the right licenses and permits to be a professional taxidermist.



Here is my coyote, mouth painted and fabulous.







I think he needs a diamond in his tongue.



This isn't a sex toy.  But it is one of those odd little tools with a very specific function for deer mounts.  What for, you might wonder?







Trade secret, baby.  Mum's the word.



Here I am stapling the deer hide to the form.  This actually happened a few days ago but I forgot to include this picture back then.  We used staple guns that ran on compressed air and now that I have experienced such power, such FORCE, I have nothing but utter disdain for the manual gun that sits waiting for me in my studio at home.







Since she finished a little early, my classmate brought in a mink to skin, that her neighbor had caught near his creek.  Apparently minks are quite common in the wild (if you can call the Poconos that), but have basically no value as far as trappers are concerned because they are farmed en masse.







Fatty little buggers though.  I'll bet she had a blast with this sucker on the fleshing wheel!

"It's late at night but something's brewing."

I took a personal day today; I wanted to stay in and recover from the madness of the weekend.  My husband and two other couples came up to experience the bliss of the Pokes and it was a memorable night.  The house has a new coat of laughter on it which still resonates after everyone has gone back to Philly and I'm still here, with the cats.  Mr. M has been having some frightful (for me) moments of touch and go; I honestly thought we were going to lose him a couple times yesterday.   He's not eating and acting somewhat erratic, laying down in the shower and howling at the door.  It's very upsetting.



Aside from the cat drama, we were able to enjoy some late night sledding, board games (SORRY!!!), and Jenga.







Today I took a long walk down the country roads and did some thinking about my experience up here and how it's changed me.  As I've pursued my dream, I've made some compromises and sacrifices and asked my loved ones to do the same.  Funds have been exceptionally tight and I've had to rely on someone other than myself, which has been quite humbling.



I'm wiggling my way into an industry that, for the most part has been dominated by men.  There is definitely a "type" when it comes to taxidermy nad I've done a decent job of playing chameleon to get as much as I can out of this experience.  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore and respect Mr. B, but sometimes I try so hard to be "one of the guys" (in my regular life as well as my mountain life) that I get what I wish for, so to speak, and am told things that I wish I could unhear.







I almost feel like I sold a little piece of my soul along the way but I take comfort in the fact that it only creates room for what remains to grow.



"Counting the days 'til archery season."

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



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







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







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







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







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







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







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







Hey lookit: the sexy people like me.

ELLE REX is into my foxy flesh. Check her out if you haven't already.







"Want me to mount him with his eyes shut so it looks like how he did when you shot him?"

This is a playful jab I hear often in the studio between Mr. B and his clients, insinuating that they must have gone sneaking up on a buck while it slept.  This is poaching and it's obviously illegal, but the more people I talk to up here, the more I hear about it happening.  It comes to mind now because as I sit here in bed at 9pm, reading, I was just startled by a loud rifle shot just outside the cabin. I jumped out of bed and paced around a bit, feeling jarred.  There's a decent amount of undeveloped acreage surrounding me and I'd be lying if I said the thought of some psycho perv armed to the teeth and lurking around watching me never crossed my mind.  I'm fairly certain though that the shot I just heard was...well, I can't be sure but I'll hazard a guess that the neighbor saw a coyote creeping too close to his house.  Regardless, hearing a shot pierce through such a quiet evening-I mean, the sound conjured a mental image of a train hurtling through the forest-leaves me somewhat unsettled and mill undoubtedly keep me up past my usual 9:30 sleep time.



Today I finished my second buck; I experimented with positioning the ears in an alert, listening fashion as though he were hearing something slightly behind him.  Here he is, with carded ears and stuffy nose.







I'm getting pretty good at the eyes, as far as the lid creases and positioning.







I cleaned up my coyote's mouth a bit; not much interesting going on here but I was amused at how dentist-like this looks.  My mouth started watering just looking at him, imagining the saliva building up in my mouth during a cleaning and just dying to spit.







As the nose skin dries out it tends to shrivel so it gets a little coat of epoxy which will be painted later.







I got home to find Mr. M had invented his own cozy little kitty den.  I'd piled up the duvet on the guest bed while the cover was being laundered....and can you find the cat in this image?







Tada!







Poor little guy is getting as much rest as possible and barely eating.



I spent my evening watching more Honey West.  I discovered the "vintage commercial" feature on the discs and found some of the adverts amusing.



My favorite is the Mennan shaving lotion ad which starts at 2:53 in the video below.  I don't see anything refreshing about the way those paws are manhandling that guy's face.







"Want me to mount him with his eyes shut so it look slike how he did when you shot him?"

This is a joke I hear tossed around often between Mr. B and his friends













"Have a donut."

Today is Fasnacht Day, a Dutch tradition in which everyone eats donuts.  I have never heard of this but my instructor brought a box in and insisted we eat.  The origins of this tradition have something to do with emptying the pantries of  all things dough-related before Lent begins (while in Philly and everywhere else it's Mardis Gras and we're busy boozing it up) but these days it's kind of a fund-raiser thing for the local schools.  Regardless, I was happy to contribute to my  expanding waist line with some delicious fried dough.



I got started on my second buck trophy mount; this one is in an aggressive pose whereas the first one was a semi-sneak.  I found the aggressive to be a little bit more tricky in terms of claying up the face but all in all I'd say I did a fair job.



Before getting the hide on the form, I had to sew up some holes.  In Pennsylvania, hunters are required to tag their deer on the ear and many of them cut through quite haphazardly which results in more work for the taxidermists.  I'm learning more about the love-hate and obviously symbiotic relationship between the killers and the stuffers.







Another thing common in deer is ticks.  I found several while fleshing out the initial "green" (raw) hide, but was quite surprised to still find more even after it had been tanned!  They were dead, of course, but are often still quite alive when on a green-hide.  Lyme disease is something taxidermists have to be on the lookout for, but Mr. B tells me that no one he knows has ever gotten it.  Oddly enough, I know at least three people with it and all of them live in the city.







Here's the hide on the form.  I think they all look like Eeyore the sad donkey at this point, before the face is set.







One of the details in setting the face is the tear ducts.  They must be opened up and then properly set into a groove which the taxidermist has carved into the form.







I went home that afternoon and took a nice walk around the hills behind the cabin.  One of the boys stuck around to watch over Mr. M, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner together.  We had a fantastic conversation about allowing oneself to deserve good things in life.  "Eliminate that which does not serve you," were his closing words.

"We're gonna jazz it around a bit."

Today I finished my first buck trophy mount; I'm ultimately pleased with my work.   The ears are carded and need a few days to dry, and then I'll detail the face with a little air brushing.







I got home from school to find Mr. M, the house cat, resting up after an emergency trip to the vet.  Apparently some feral cat (or coyote?)  had sunk its teeth into Mr. M's back and the bite had created an abscess which got infected.  I recalled feeling a small lump on his back but by the time Sunday had rolled around the boys told me it had opened and was leaking puss.



Ew.



So the vet had to stitch up the one bite mark and insert a drainage tube in the other.  When I walked in that afternoon, after sewing up deer hide all day, I looked at Mr. M for a moment, admiring the stitches and not mentally registering what had happened to the poor little guy.  "Frankenkitty", the boys called him.  Following over the next few days were the inevitable comments about what happens when one leaves their pet in the care of a taxidermist.







Mr. M is schweepy.

If you aren't a cat person, don't bother reading any further.



I was going over my notes from class the other night and this noise get too distracting to ignore.  I could watch this guy for hours.  I adore this cat.  When I had to leave him today I wept.







Two Country songs:

I know this has nothing to do with taxidermy but my entire scholastic experience has been infused with country music so there.



This one song I recall from the early 00's; it's so over the top depressing  that it might make you laugh.  If you can get through it.  When searching for a video I came across this Simms version that someone made, which is way better than the original:











And here's a new one I only heard this past week.  It's kind of dumb and cliché but I like alright, yet.











ps-This song I think, really does capture the attitude up here.  It may not be the South, but it's working class and these people actually drink Folgers.  Willingly. Plus there's the trucks, scratch-tickets, and beer.

I'm Baaaaaaack.

I never made it home last weekend so I'm a tad behind on the posts.  Stay tuned; I got some juicy bombs.  In the meantime, here are my favorite songs from the mountain radio:











http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyXz6eMCj2k



Sigh....I left my heart in the Pokes.  I feel like driving a Chevy with an American flag decal and cuttin' some shit up, yet.

"This guy's a real duck nut."

The main road to school was still pretty snowed up so I was about thirty minutes late to class this morning.  The other student didn't even make it, so I had a chance to catch up to her in terms of progress.



I began sewing the felt around my stretched skin.  I insisted on pinning it all which Mr. B found quite amusing, and offered some criticism in regards to time consumption.  I'm beginning to get exasperated with this "all commercial all the time" philosophy; I prefer to take as much time as I need with my work so it's perfect.  I would not feel comfortable turning in sub-par work just because it's faster.







Here he is, with the felt skirting.  I named him Bruce, after Honey West's pet Ocelot.







Bruce has a freak double hang-nail (thumb claw) which my teacher claimed to have never seen before.  Pretty neat.







GRRRRR.  Almost finished product.







At the end of the day we gave my squirrel another bath and used some degreasing solution to puff his coat up a bit.  Major improvements.







After school I went sledding and unlike yesterday, the conditions were ideal for some stellar runs.  I came across these coyote tracks on my way up to the hill.







Me, myself, and my board.







Her's me sledding.  I had to listen to music the entire time or the sheer loneliness would've swallowed me whole.  Walking up that hill takes some tunes to get me through it, as well.  It's a pretty big hike.  I was amused at how different each run felt depending on what  piped into my ears.  I had a slow mournful run to "The Wall" soundtrack", and amped up flying session when Andrew WK came on, and a kind of mysterious  and comical ride to the "James Bond" soundtrack:











I am about a week behind on the news so it wasn't until today that I learned about the emergency small aircraft landing on the NJ turnpike.  I was listening to the exchange between the pilot and the air traffic controller and found it charming that they use the term "souls" as in, "How many souls on board"?  It seems kind of contradictory that such a high-tech arena would rely on a term so...non-concrete.  It's charming.

"Depends on your will to live."

Snow day!  School was cancelled and I had an entire day to lounge about, watch movies, play arts&crafts, cuddle with the cats, and stuff my face with Bailys & coffee.  And cheese.  And pistachios.



I attempted to go out sledding but the snow was falling so heavy that the work to fun ratio wasn't anywhere near being in my favor so I gave up and hung inside by the fire.







The loneliness feels overwhelming sometimes, being so completely isolated.



I was getting my yoga on in front of the wood-burning stove though and looking around, and I noticed how much of the art on display at this cabin was created by people I know and care about.  I took comfort in that, and hunkered down to about 8 more episodes of "Honey West".  I took a break at one point and watched "Powder Blue" which my friend had lent to me mainly for this scene (My apologies in advance for the poor vid with dumb commentary; it's hard to find a decent one of this part):











It's really beautiful, and I'd never heard the song (the first one) before but now I need it in my collection (the second one is an old fave though).  Despite all the hate I read on Jessica Biel, I think she's a good actress. And she has a face that I could look at for days.  I think she's one of the most gorgeous people I've ever seen.  Honestly, though, she could be a little more graceful.  Dare I say, I think with the right training I could do better.



Yes, I dare.

"You Betcha."

Today we began prepping our deer forms and capes for a trophy mount.  These are the capes we skinned out back in January, and they were sent to the tannery as a rush job so as to get them back in time.  Usually hides can take around three months to return from being shipped out for tanning, which has me tempted to try it myself.  It's not recommended, though, as it's easy to ruin the skin.  I went ahead though and bought my own solution and intend to tan some of my own stuff in a couple weeks.  Wish me luck!



Anyway, these hides were "wet-tanned" which means they have to go into the freezer immediately upon return, until they are to be mounted. At this point there is usually a little bit of excess flesh that may have escaped the initial round of skinning so we went in and split the ears a little more, opened up the nostrils, thinned out the skin, etc:







Here is the bullet hole, which needs to be sewn up in a specific, top-secret-taxidermist-fashion.  The hair around the point of entry is scorched so you can't just leave it. Plus it'll get stretched over the mount and look terrible.



Those little holes to the right are actually Xs punched in a formation to mark your cape for the tannery so when multiple skins are sent in they won't get mixed up.







Here is my deer form, with the rack screwed in and the eyes clayed up.  This is just practice clay though, we had to set and reset multiple times until we felt confident in our mastery of the shape, size, symmetry, alignment, etc.







All of this under the watchful eye of my fox, sitting behind me on his table.  I hope when I take his ear cards off and finish up his face he appears more serene.  A day-dream face is what I was going for but that isn't translating quite well at this point in the process.







I was feeling particularly cranky because when I stopped for gas on the way home the little snot behind the counter called me "ma'am", and not in a respectful way.  Seriously, what woman likes being called "ma'am"?



I cheered myself up with more of my new favorite show, "Honey West".  I love that womens' bodies looked authentic, and their faces made expressions.  Plus, one punch could knock someone out for minutes and then they'd be right back on the horse again.  Hardly any guns, but they found ways for a fight scene to use everything in a room:











And the dialogue!  Nonstop wit!

"We call 'em slut bugs."

Today we began working on our coyote rugs, using hides purchased from a distributer already fleshed and tanned.  My fellow student also brought in a huge skin from an Alberta Buck her friend had gifted her, and I helped her flesh it out a little.  I've got a knack for getting my little fingers on a hunk of flesh and ripping it from the skin which is more economical, time-wise, than knifing it out.  My nick-name for the day is "The Ripper."



Here is my head form for the coyote, with artificial jaws set in.  Original skulls are rarely used these days because over time the teeth crack and break.  I think when I'm doing this on my own, however, I will use original skulls, simply because I have a disdain for all things plastic.  Maybe I'll cast metal ones, who knows.







I wanted to challenge myself so I studied some reference pictures and carved a snarling shape into the form.  Creating this expression also involves various sculpting techniques with clay but I'll keep that info to myself.  I'm trying really hard to keep my inner-brat from emerging as my patience grows thin with all this conventional, commercial mounting.  I think when I'm getting paid to do it, I'll have no issue, but I long to be putting jewels on paws, false lashes on eyes, pheasants on stilts, etc.







Pinning the face.  Mine had a scar just inside his eye, and since a typical client wouldn't want to feature that in his prize rug, I learned how to obscure it.  Top secret!!!!







When Mr. B came back from lunch he had a present for me- one of his hens had died over the weekend and when he'd mentioned it to me in passing this morning, of course I asked him what they did with it.  "Well, we usually bury 'em..." ...but surprise!  He brought it in for me!  She's a real looker, too, and she's all mine to mount however I wish.  Stay tuned.



After we finished mounting the head portion of our rugs, the hides were soaked and stretched on a table.  I am not so adept with hammering; I whacked my thumb several times.  What's even more tantrum-inducing than smashing a digit repeatedly with a hammer and staying silent about it so as not to draw attention, is your instructor catching it every time and reminding you  "not hit your thumb with that hammer.  It really smarts."







I noticed several lady bugs on the table; the other student and Mr. B were eager to destroy them.  Apparently there is a huge LB infestation in the area and they are not viewed as the luck-spreading, charming little guys we here in the city know them as.   In fact, they are a different breed.  The LBs up in the Poconos are an Asian beetle which look exactly like Ladybugs, and were brought to the US to aid in pest control.  I guess they then became the pest themselves.  I'm told they reproduce like crazy and clog up vents, eat through stuff, and bite.



Not so cute:











I took the scenic way home, via back roads, and stopped for coffee at a little shop in White Haven.  I'd wanted to stay and enjoy it there while I soaked in the environment, maybe get some networking practice, but it was just myself and the "barista" I doubt he'd call himself that) there and I felt him eyeing my every move so I stepped out.  I hate feeling watched when I haven't made it clear I'm looking to be the center of attention.  I start to second guess my every move and can't think straight.



When I got home, I took a walk around the hilly fields behind the cabin and then took a nap with the dogs in front of the fire while the boys made dinner.  They ate and headed out, and I went to bed.

"Tell ya what-your husband is one lucky man."





Today I finished my fox mount.  Here he is, face still unset.  My classmate's mount is in the background.  You can see the carded ears, which keep them from moving while it dries.  I'll take more pictures this week.



It was a short day; I drove home the long way, on back-roads, and lazed about, reading "The Glass Castle".  Great story.



More next week!

"You're bein' too feminine with it."

Today I finished skinning my fox, and de-greased/fleshed the pelt.  Here's a pile of some of the scraped out residue:







That oblong red object in the center would be a fox penis.



I chose a mount in a supine position with one leg curled under its body. This made sewing up the legs a little tricky, but I was up for the challenge.  Unfortunately I was taking too much time and my instructor was getting on me about it, reminding me of the perils of lolly-gagging with skin.







I managed to get him sewn up almost all the way, and had to store him in a cool spot overnight.  I really need to pick up the pace.



My thoughts drifted a lot today as I wrestled with my moral boundaries, and where I'm comfortable setting them.  I hate that fur-bearing animals, like fox, mink, racoon and possum, are typically caught in traps.  It breaks my heart to imagine  this creature snagged by the neck or paw, waiting for the trapper to come finish it off.  I see so much roadkill everyday and am repeatedly thankful for the millions of happy accidents that placed me in the life I have today, as a human, on top of the food  chain, living my dream and doing it quite comfortably.  I silently apologise and thank each animal I skin, imagining a different scenario in which I as a human would be out for a stroll and then snap-my foot is caught in a trap and I wait around for two, four, maybe ten hours before something comes along with a giant rock to break my back.  Or if I was sitting in my living room one day and some mammoth space craft landed right on top of my home, crushing it and my family. The thing is, I love taxidermy.  And I am really, really, good at it.  I don't want to stop.  And I am okay with they fact that death is part of the circle of life.  I just have to figure out where to set my moral boundaries in terms of justifying killing.  I think as long as I face it head-on, and am honest with myself about the fact that this isn't a pretty craft, and as long as I remain thankful and appreciate the fact that what I do costs lives, I'll be on the right track.



When I got home I finished watching "This is it."  It was decent, as far s the dancing and how involved a production the whole thing was, but I found it creepy watching MJ dance suggestively with women.







"You're gettin' all NCIS forensics on me now."

I finished mounting my squirrel today, here is the skin stretched over the form, sewn shut, but not tucked and pinned in the face:







BOO!







I think the blow-drying is one of my favorite parts.  I imagine clipping barrettes and bows on furry heads and tails.  Unfortunately my skin had some oily spots...possibly the grease had transferred from the inside to the outside via the many beebee holes in the pelt.  This will be remedied later after the mount has dried.







Finished mount, hanging in dead pose.  I took particular care when pinning the eyes to give it that "deathly downward gaze" appearance.







A guest taxidermist was in the shop today, skinning a porcupine.  Amazingly, he didn't prick himself once.  I had the bright idea of using a porcupine pelt as a bike helmet cover, and as usual was greeted with blank stares when I voiced this thought.







When Porcupine Guy learned about my penchant for wasting no part of the animal, he gave me a tooth from his specimen.  I was amazed to see how much marrow is stored inside those fangs.







I began skinning my fox, which had been shot by my classmate's husband and generously gifted to me. I spent about twenty minutes combing briars out of the fur with a metal comb before I could begin.







Briar pile:







For lunch, Mr. B treated us to lunch at the local diner.  He said we absolutely had to try the burger; it was an experience. When our meals arrived, I damn near crapped my pants.  The pattie was the diameter of the plate, with a regular sized bun sitting atop it, looking like some kind of joke.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera at the diner, but I took a picture of my leftovers.   This is the half of the burger I didn't eat.







After lunch we got a brief tour of the area, and Mr. B showed us around his property.  There was a duck pond, a skating pond, barns, tractors, a horse corral, a chicken coup, and acres of woods and fields.  I was a little overwhelmed.  Country life is so different.  It seems just as busy and crowded as city life but in a more autonomous way.



Back at the shop, I finished skinning my fox. The stench of a fox is mind-blowing.  Their diet consists mostly of skunk,  and the odor they emit can best be described as a combination of halitosis and burnt rubber.  I think I lost a little of my tough chick street cred with everyone when I started gagging.



I've always marveled over the colors found inside a skin and assumed it was bruising.  Apparently this greenish hue is actually oxidization on the pelt, which is one of the reasons taxidermists must work quickly.  Taking too much time to skin a specimen allows bacteria to set in, and then once you get the rot, you've got a spook.







We tossed the carcasses outside because they were so stinky.  Because the cold, they will remain undetected by other creatures until they can be properly disposed of.  I took it upon myself to saw the heads off, which had Mr. B in fits.







I guess I gained my street cred back.  It may seem disturbing, but I have a plan for these heads:











On the way back to the cabin, I dropped off "Little Ashes" at the rental joint and picked up Michael Jackson's "This is it".  It was too cold to play on my hoop so I watched a bit of the movie and went to bed at 7:30pm.

"Beth Beverly, the diamond-toothed acrobatic taxidermist"

Today was my birthday and I was greeted by a thawed out dead squirrel holding a card for me at my work station.  Also, Mr. B gifted me some paint brushes.  Pretty neat. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so I have no images of today's activities.  My squirrel mount will be in a dead pose, kind of draped over a tree limb.



I skinned my squirrel, which was absolutely filled with beebees-I stopped counting at ten- and managed to get the skin stretched over the form but that's as far as I got.  I enjoy the process too much, I think, and tend to move very slowly.  The other student had her mount almost completely finished by the day's end.



I'm getting antsy to break out a little and incorporate some artistic flare into my mounts,; these conventional ones are really boring me.  I keep reminding myself that I'm here to build a solid foundation of skills which I can then apply to the most fantastic and unbelievable mounts the world has ever seen.  For now I just need to keep towing the line.



I got home to an empty cabin, and felt a little lonely.  I haven't spent a birthday all by myself since I turned 21.  I took a nap and then ate dinner while watching "Little Ashes".  It's the most touching movie I've seen in ages.  What really impressed me was the wardrobe.  Men dressed so well back then and the clothes were all tailored impeccably. So much attention to detail; a time when people didn't rush.  Time was taken to do things right.







-



My favorite ensembles are featured in this scene, which is too charming for words:







Country Music Picks ofthe Week

I have taken to listening to the country station even when I'm not in school.  There are a couple songs that I genuinely like, and occasionally they play the classics.  Some that I find quite shocking though, and worthy of review, are those following:



Randy Houser- "Boots On".  This one is another example of a song proving just how COUNTRY this guy is, but I guess the only reason it really sticks out to me is that it took me about two weeks to realise what he was talking about when he says "Copenhagen Ring" in his "dirty old jeans".  My husband has recently enlightened me to the plethora of dipping videos on Youtube, and honestly dipping is something I kind of forgot about after 11th grade when all the WT kids from Garden City would spend period after period with their faces attached to a soda can, nursing their habit.  My teeth ache just thinking about it.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSfiFuVoR_E



Tim Mcgraw-"Down on the Farm": I like how at the end of the video a simple farm party has turned into an event larger in scale and production than any evening out at a bar in NYC.  And by "like" I mean, I think it's dumb.  Also, the beginning, where you see a bunch of tanned, strapping young folks joyfully tossing party supplies out of the back of a truck and riding together on a plow? I tensed up just watching it.  If there is a Hell for me, that would be it.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9e96T8dFyo



Jake Owen: "8 Second Ride": I actually like the sound of this song-but once the lyrics come it, it's all downhill.  A shame really, because Jake Owens has a pleasant voice, rich and deep, and is a good-looking guy to boot.   Then I watched the video just now while looking it up.  Christ, WHO is making these second-rate videos?  I mean, let me get this straight.  A teenager is wearing a child-sized pleather jacket in the middle of a humid summer day in some god forsaken swamp area and pants that scream yeast infection, yet she manages to strut into a bar like it's totally natural?  And the "ride" that they take doesn't, in fact, look the least bit wild to me.  In fact, aside from the seizure-inducing strobe light, it looks like a very tame love-making session.  If I were directing this video, they'd be riding that truck over mud piles and into ditches while she shotguns beer out of a PBR can. Topless.  Plus I would've recruited a model older than...twelve.  Just sayin'.  Also, my favorite part is where he tells her to climb on up but mind the cup where he'll be spittin' his dip tonight.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVxt-Qr8ml0



Miranda Lambert: "White Liar"-I actually really, really like this song.  I guess my favorite country is when a female vocalist is involved, judging by my love for Dolly, Dixie Chicks, and Holly Go Lightly.   I listen to this song on my school commute several times/day, and I adore her accent.  I imagine her lips and teeth forming all the words around a glass marble in her mouth.  A cursory search online tells me she's from Texas.  Too bad, AGAIN, the video is crap, but I really like the song.







"Sometimes it's nice to hunt for it."

I woke up to some heavy snowfall today; it took over an hour to get to school.  I drove like a granny behind a tractor-trailer who speeding along despite skidding twice.



This is the crossing guard I pass daily.  I have an obsession with school busses and crossing guards up here; it's such serious business.  Each day he gets out there, sets up his road flares, dons his reflective vest and LED light strands, and waves us on with his glow-stick.  It's like driving through a rave every morning.







We worked on our Buffleheads; here is mine with the inverted skull. I'm getting really good at cleaning them out.  The little bits of stuff you see is sawdust, from the tumbler.







Here's the completed mount; I put her in a grooming pose to add a little variety to my repertoire.







I look at this sticker on the fridge every day when I go to retrieve my lunch and only just realised that it's a joke.







I had a quiet evening of reading and was in bed by 8pm.

"Hard to be humble."

Today we finished airbrushing our fish, and it was probably the most challenging day for me.  What's really touching though, is how the instructor and the other student could sense how frustrated I was and made repeated attempts to cheer me up.  The were genuinely upset that I was upset.  I mean, these people really care about me, someone they've only known for four weeks.  I care about them as well; it occurred to em the other day that Mr. B and Ms. R are the only two people I interact with  mondays-thursdays.



Since we're blowing through the curriculum at such an accelerated pace, we decided to mount an extra water-fowl.  I used one of the Buffleheads gifted to me from a fellow taxidermist; a hen.  She was riddled with beebees, and I have to perform surgery on her broken leg and wing:











Delicately fusing bones beats airbrushing fish any day, if you ask me.



When I got home that afternoon I took a stroll back into the woods to see if the deer carcass was still there.  Nope.  Completely gone.  I decided to venture farther back though, and here's what I saw:







For my husband:







Although there wasn't a beaver in sight; clearly they've been active back here.







Behind the house is a hill that opens up into a large  expanse of land.







The view is glorious.







Farther up, there are more woods.  I walked down the trail a bit, but it started to get dark and the leaves were slippery so I headed back.











I went back to the cabin, took a bath and read "Good in Bed" (which I really didn't want to like but wound up loving.  Any female who has struggled with body image issues should read this book.) with a glass of wine.

Music

I listen to the radio a great deal these days; I'm spending so much time in a car and I actually prefer the radio over CDs.



There seems to be a lot of classic rock, which happens to be my FAVORITE genre of music.  I think I was born about twenty-five years too late; as my heart is right at home with all things seventies.  A few songs I  hear almost once a day:



Midnight Rider: UGH this song is so good it makes me scream. (it could be that the Allman Brothers Band is SO FREAKING HOT)  I'm surprised Jay-Z hasn't has remixed the guitar hook in anything yet.  It's begging for it.











Hot Child in the City.  I had no idea a man sung this.











The first two weeks of school, the radio we listen to all day was tuned to a soft rock station.  I love soft rock, and had no problem humming along with Kelly Clarkson and Celine Dion and Mike McDonald.  No. Problem.



Then the weather changed and Magic 93 wouldn't come in clearly so now its Cat Country 96FM all day, every day.  And guess what?  I actually enjoy country music.  There was a brief period in my early twenties when I listened to contemporary (radio) country on the regular while recovering from a particularly nasty break-up.  One of my favorite songs at that time:











I still love it.



The thing that annoys me about so many country songs though is how many of them are solely about  "being country".  It's not unlike the old trend in hip-hop of devoting entire songs to how much shit they buy and how many bitches they have, etc.  The country songs about being country all seem to squeeze in at least one dig at "big cities" like New York and LA, and are almost pathetic in their thinly veiled attempt to convince you that they are more genuine than city folk  and are proud to be called white trash.  It's exhausting. Example:











Some of its good though, and my favorite song du jour is "I Need you Now".  Possibly the dumbest video ever made unfortunately:







"A pice of ass that'll make you cry."

More airbrushing today.



Groan.  Here I am, working my magic:







Side note- living a basically solitary life has rendered my wardrobe choices unchecked.  I wear whatever I want every day without considering who will see me, and I really feel that I'm tapping into my inner free fashion spirit that died a bit when I was a kid and realised people say things that make you want keep your true colors tucked away.  I'm having a wardrobe revolution!



Here is my Blue Gill, all finished.  Not terrible, but I was getting super frustrated with my airbrush and made several mistakes.  I really don't like airbrushing.







I do like fish teeth though.







Finished Perch.  This one turned out better than the rest.







And here is my finished Rainbow Trout:







There's some amusing graffiti about a mile from the cabin.  Oh, kids.  I wonder what they do out here?  Smoke weed and spray paint abandoned buildings I guess.







I'd like to think that if I ever had children, I would raise them out in the country...but judging from the ever-present meth problem out here, and lack of teen-oriented activities, I wonder if it's really any better than the city.  I take that back, actually.  I'll bet there are teen-oriented activities but I just don't know any teens.







I went home and worked out, then reconnected with an old friend on the phone.   Movie du jour was "Whatever Works" which was surprisingly delightful, and I have to admit that Evan Rachel Skank is actually great in it.  So good in fact, that I forgot it was her.

"You ain't never used a chainsaw before? Country virgin!"

Today we began airbrushing our fish.  I quickly realised that this is NOT my forte.  I actually prefer the way the fish look dried and pre-painted, no eyes.  Just shells of themselves.  Here's my Blue Gill:







Same fish, now with eyes and some coloring:







Her's my Perch, dried and pre-paint:







All fish have anal vents.  For a competition mount, omitting that feature would probably ruin any chances of placing.  Poop shoots are recreacted with sculpting epoxy.







Here is one of my Trouts with his artificial head and eyes:







Here is another Trout with original head and epoxy coating:







This Trout had a gimp fin; it was just a little nub.  Apparently this is a common defect in fish raised in hatcheries who are then released into lakes.  The hatcheries are cramped and they don't have room to properly mature.  Sometimes I think living in a city does that to people.



I replaced the offending part with a spare fin from another fish.







It was a bitter cold day, and windy to boot.  I took the scenic route home in an attempt to familiarize myself with the area.  I found a post office and a really intriguing property near the cabin where I'm staying called "tequila-ville".  I intend to walk by later and get a closer look, as well as photos.
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