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:



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!

BORROWED POST: THE FARMER'S HUSBAND, BABY PARADE

Get ready to gasp and ooh and ahh.  These are the cutest photos you will see all week.  All currently happening at the Farmer's Husband!

 

 

Baby parade 2013

April 24, 2013

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Deloris, the Guernsey x Toggenburg doe kid.
Sorry you haven’t heard from us much lately. We don’t have internet access at our new farm yet, and we’ve had lots of babies to squeeze. Lots and lots of babies. To date, our gals have produced 26 lambs and kids. Here is a photo list of who’s given birth to what on the farm this year. We will update as more kids hit the ground to help us keep them all straight, and to provide some cute babies for you to enjoy.
Goats
March 15, 2013, Gertie the Toggenburg doe gave birth to twin girls, sired by the Guernsey buck, Brady. Dolly, is a flaxen blond color and polled, and Deloris is a dark Sundgau color with gold markings and is disbudded.
Dolly and Deloris, Guernsey x Toggenburg goat kids. Born March 8, 2013.
Dolly and Deloris, Guernsey x Toggenburg goat kids. Born March 8, 2013.
March 24, 2013, Esther the Toggenburg doe had triplet girls. Dottie is a dark Sundgau pattern, with gold marking, and a white spot on her head, and is polled. Daisy is almost white with a bit of blond, and is disbudded. Daphne is almost white as well with a touch of gold, and is disbudded.
Daphne, Daisy, and Dottie Guernsey x Toggenburg triplets
March 31 (Easter day), Trixie the Sable Saanen doe had one boy and one girl. The boy was sold shortly after birth. The girl, Dixie, is very light blond in color, and is polled.
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April 3, 2013, Bramble the Guernsey (well mostly Guernsey) doe produced a boy and a girl, from Brady, the Guernsey buck. Dick is blond at the head, fading to red at the haunches, and is disbudded. Dorcas is solid ginger red from head to tail, and is polled.
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Dorcas and Dick, British Guernsey goat kids
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Dick and Dorcas, offspring of Brady and Bramble.
April 5, Banbury the Guernsey (HB2) doe had twin boys, from Brady, the Guernsey buck. Dudley is an even blond with small white spots on his face, and is disbudded.  Dexter is an even ginger red with white spotting on his face, and is polled.
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Dudley, the British Guernsey buckling
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Dexter, the British Guernsey buckling
April 6, 2013, Vapors, the Sable Saanen doe had twin boys. They were sold a few days later for pets/meat. They were both white.
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Vapors and boys.
April 9, 2013, Aggie, the Toggenburg doe had one boy and one girl. The boy was a flaxen gold color, and was sold for a pet or meat. Dusty, the girl, is a light flaxen color, and is polled.
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Thomas and Dusty.
April 17, 2013, Millie, the Nubian mix doe gave birth to twin boys. One boy is a medium gold color and has gone to live with our friend Meagan, and the other is a black and white cou blanc pattern with floppy ears. He is available for a pet/meat home.
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Calvin, the Guernsey, Nubian, Alpine mix
Sheep
March 27, 2013, Michelle, the East Frisian ewe had two ram lambs by our Katahdin ram, Cranston. They are both white, and are growing rapidly.
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Twin ram lambs. Katahdin x Friesian
March 31 (Easter) 2013, Maggie the Katahdin had triplets, sired by Marvin, the East Friesian ram. One boy and one girl (Wanda) are being raised by Maggie, and the other girl (Wendy) is being bottle fed, as she was rejected by her mom.
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Boy and Wanda, Friesian x Katahdin lambs
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Wendy, the bottle lamb. Friesian x Katahdin
April 3, 2013, Aster the Icelandic ewe had twin boys from Marvin, the Frisian ram. They are very fast growers, and are already looking delicious.
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Aster with her boys. Friesian x Icelandic.
April 13, 2013, Coco, the Icelandic ewe had 2 ram lambs from Cranston, the Katahdin ram. It will be hard to eat them, they’re so cute.
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Katahdin x Icelandic ram lamb.
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Katahdin x Icelandic ram lamb
We have a few more does due to kid in June, and will update this list as babies are born. The pure Guernsey boys are for sale. The ram lambs could also be for sale if they are of interest to anyone, but will most likely be finished in our pastures and sold as meat this autumn. All girls, both lambs and kids, will be kept for breeding purposes. A few older does may be available this autumn.

PONY SEASON & LADIES TEA

Right around this time of year I start to get the pony itch, and all I see is equine-themed... 

It's currently steeple chase season, and the Radnor Hunt is coming up this weekend.  Sadly but not so sadly I'll be traipsing about some fun European port towns and unable to go. The Radnor Hunt is an annual tradition I grew up with and can be credited to my innate fascination with ladies in stunning hats always being within a stone's throw of all things horse-related.

 


Fortunately I'll be back in time for Ladies Day at the Devon Horse Show.  Along with Ladies Day is the time honored traditional hat competition.  I've been participating since 2010 when I made a bit of a splash with my duck hat entry, which basically consisted of an entire duck mount on my head.  Clearly I went home with a ribbon. The net year I dressed myself and several friends in assorted bird taxidermy creations, and showed up just in time to see the judging and subsequent ribbons being distributed.  Guess we shouldn't have stopped for all that champagne and snacks en route...

 We still had a blast, and took in some grade A horse jumping, side saddling ad even a brief wrangling demonstration! 

 The Friesians trotting around the course steal my heart every time though.  Hopefully this year I'll get some decent photos.


 
Adding some sweetness to Ladies' Day is the second annual Ladies Tea.  I had the honor of being on the planning committee last year and was privy to the tremendous amount of work put in by Jenn McGowan and her tireless team all to promote this event which turned out to be a very successful fundraiser and all around great opportunity for ladies from an assortment of backgrounds to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

That's Jen, looking completely at ease while juggling 8 or 9 plates at once.  You can't see her hands so there's no proving me wrong.
 Here's a few of my priceless polo friends who were kind enough to play Diamond Tooth hat models for the day, and below you'll find me striking an aggressive pose with another generous model friend.   I opted for the wow factor of an entire Guinea Hen mounted on my head.  I think a few eyebrows were raised.
 The theme was Gatsby in honor of the film that came out an entire year later than anticipated, and we all dressed the part.  Ribbons all around, of course!

After the judging all us ladies made our way to the beautifully decorated tent, inside of which bottomless champagne, finger sandwiches and sweets awaited.




I had a blast meeting and exchanging stories, compliments and general pleasantries with such a diverse group of women, and just looking at these photos has me all revved up for this year's event- on Wednesday May 29th.  Soon!
If you're in the area, I very much hope to see you there.  You can find more event info on their facebook page: Ladies Day Tea & Hat Contest 
and buy tickets here: Devon Horse Show

I've been working on my hat for a week or so now, obviously it will involve taxidermy but that's all I'm giving up!  This year, however, I will not be competing in the hat contest as I will instead be judging.  So, while I don't have to worry about winning any ribbons and prizes, I do have to look sharp.  

And I will.


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.
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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.

Raccoon Mojo Remix

A few months back I wrote about the lore behind raccoon baculum.  Here's a brief excerpt:

Raccoon mojo

Penis bones.  Baculum.  Texas Toothpicks.  Mojo Moneymakers.  Amazing little things, except when you factor in the size of a raccoon they may not seem so little, measuring in at about 5".  Plenty of animals have bones in their penises, although this was news to me two years ago when I stumbled upon the lore of the Raccoon Baculum in Melissa Milgrom's book Still Life in which she mentions passing one onto a friend who was trying to conceive (It worked).  Apparently this bone, when worn as an amulet, is believed to bring baby mojo.  It also just helps folks get laid in general apparently.  I think this may be true of all penis bones but the raccoons have a good deal of lore about them which is actually quite fun to, er, bone up on.  AHHHHHH I couldn't resist sorry. Seriously though, dig this video I found called "Magical Testicle Montage


 

This is another very similar charm I just sent off to my pal Georgia Pellegrini this afternoon.  The bone itself dried out to be a little darker than the other; I did use an oil to give it a sort of ethereal sheen but it was applies after the deep color had already set in so maybe this is just a more potent bone. Wear with care, Ms. Georgia!


So here are a bunch of not so great photos I took of this one before send-off:






Happy Texas Toothpickin'!

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.



Wednesday's Child is a stolen post from The Farmer's Husband

Good day!
 Please enjoy my (attempted) weekly spoon feeding of the best farmer blog in the entire world, The Farmer's Husband.  This post is pork related; I met Meat (pictured below) last year and had the honor of nourishing my tired body with his back in February.  I've always found bacon disappointing and therefore have eaten it only a handful of times.  The smell trumps the taste experience, in my book.
Apparently I'd been eating sub-par bacon. Even the organic labeled stuff at high end grocers was lackluster to me, until I ate Meat.  Raising the pig with love and wholesome meals, treating him with respect and slaughtering humanely makes all the difference in the world.  When I get a craving for meat, I go get a quality burger from the local folks I trust down the way.  As I take that first bite and my mouth begins to absorb all the juices, I get a tingling in my frontal lobe, almost like a high.  I know I'm eating good stuff.  I have yet to hear anyone else describe a similar experience from cuisine but I know what I'm feeling, and believe me when I say that my head felt like a glittering snowglobe the afternoon I took a bite of Meat:

 

This year, give the promise of pork.

December 4, 2012 , , ,

Winston is ready to make you some babies.
Winston is ready to make you some babies.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. It’s time we start selling stuff. And by stuff we mean pork.
We are planning our 2013 growing season, and after the smashing success of our first pig raising and slaughter, we are offering a limited number of porks for sale. We are taking deposits for whole and half pigs to be harvested in the autumn of 2013. We have had great interest locally from people who want to buy cuts of our pork. Sadly, we are unable to sell individual cuts, as they were not killed in a USDA approved slaughterhouse. We think our slaughter process and the resulting meat are superior to that which comes from commercial slaughterhouses. Our pig was killed humanely, quickly and quietly on our farm, in his own pen. There was no stress inducing capture. No transportation. No time spent in strange facilities that certainly smell of death. Our pig had a perfect, calm, stress-free life, which ended in an instant. We prefer this for the sake of the animal, and all experts agree that the meat from a stressed animal is inferior to that of a calm animal.
We want you to be able to experience pork like this. In order to do that, we need to sell you the animal before it is killed. We can orchestrate the killing for you right on our farm in surroundings familiar to your pig. We have an excellent processor/butcher who can even cut and process the pig to your exact specifications, down to the thickness of your pork chops and the type of sausage you prefer. In order to stay within the limits of the law we have to sell whole or half pigs. This pork will be the finest quality you can buy, but is not for resale. It is to be used by you and your family, however you may define it. If several people go in on a whole or a half, one person needs to make the arrangements and cut the check. What you do with it upon delivery is your choice.
Your pigs will be born on our farm. They will be a cross between our Gloucestershire Old Spots boar, and our Tamworth Sow. Old Spots have been bred for more than a century for their lard and rich, moist flavor. Tamworths are a lean, heritage bacon breed. Crossing these two breeds produces premium pork with the excellent meat quality of the Tamworth with the moist rich qualities of the Old Spots. Both breeds are excellent foragers, and instinctively graze rather than await prepared rations. If orders exceed our own piglet supply, we will buy in some pure Tamworth piglets to fill our orders. We will cut off orders when we have reached 20 pigs. Your pork will be deep pink to ruby red, not pale and white like confinement pork.
Mature Tamworth and young Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs.
Mature Tamworth and young Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs.
Your pig will be raised outside in rotating spacious pens, on a mixture of pasture and forest. It will forage for most of its diet, eating grass, leaves, twigs, nuts and roots. It will be fed goat milk from our ever-growing herd of dairy goats. It will be supplemented with a locally produced, grain based feed.
The actual price will be determined by the “hanging weight” of the pig. The hanging weight is the weight of the pig, with the blood drained and the insides removed. The hanging weight should be between 160-180 pounds per pig (80-90pound for a half). You can expect to receive about 75-80% of this weight in actual cuts, as a portion of bone, skin, and fat are lost in the cutting up of the hog. Your pig will yield an assortment of pork chops, spare ribs, shoulder roasts or steaks, hocks, sausage, ham, and pork belly or bacon.
Barring a sharp increase in feed prices, whole hogs will be $4.80 per pound, based on actual hanging weight, and half hogs will be $4.95 per pound. The smoking of bacon and hams is included in the pricing. If you prefer fresh hams and pork belly, we can arrange a reduced price, as the curing and smoking do add to the processing fee. Half hogs will include one type of sausage, of the buyers choosing, and whole hogs will include up to 2 types of sausage. Similarly, if someone wants a whole dressed carcass so they can do their own butchering, this can also be arranged at a reduced price.
Your pig will be available in late October or early November of 2013. You can pick up your pork on our farm in Cobleskill, NY, or delivery can be arranged in the greater Albany, NY area. For our Philadelphia friends, we will offer free delivery, assuming all parties can agree on one delivery date (a weekend day in early November). You will need to be prepared with freezer space, so those with apartment-sized freezers are forewarned. As slaughter day approaches, you will be sent a lengthy list of options for just how you want your pork custom cut and processed.
Why, you may ask, are we taking orders now for next autumn’s pork? There are three reasons. Firstly, breeding season is about to begin. The number of orders we receive will determine the number of piglets we need to either produce ourselves or reserve from other area farmers. There are only so many heritage pork producers around, and we want to reserve ours early. Secondly, it’s Christmas time, and who wouldn’t love to receive the promise of pork as a present? And lastly, WE’RE MOVING! We found an amazing new farm (more on that soon) and we need some cash to invest into the new fencing and housing for the animals so they will continue to thrive. By reserving your pork now, you will help us make the step from hobby farmers to actual career farmers.
We are asking for non refundable deposits of $100 for half hogs, and $200 for whole hogs.
To place a deposit on your whole or half pig, please submit the form below, and we will be in touch shortly to work out the details.

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!




BONE ZONE

Please enjoy these shadowy and spooky pictures I took with my untrained eye and hand of this dog baculum necklace.  It was a rainy day and I was too depressed to turn on any lights, really.  I do think the occulty vibe really translates though. 



This is a dog penis bone that I embellished with a swarovski crystal and matched with assorted vintage necklace parts to make a new piece.  A client purchased it; I have yet to hear any reviews.  I hope its bringing her beaucoup bon juju.
There's really not much else to say about dog dick charms.  I love them, maybe you do to.

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.









































PEACOCKS!!!

 This post is directly copied and pasted from my favorite blog The Farmers HusbandPlease enjoy, and keep them on your roster of good reads.  These guys are where I get most of my specimen and I love them to bits.  

Up next: Full break down and photos of my Self Portrait piece from my most recent episode of Immortalized

 

 

Unless it’s a peacock

March 12, 2013

“Um. Ok don’t be mad. So, I may have put a deposit down on a couple of goats.”
Almost two years ago, Bailey sheepishly broke this news to me. At that point, we were living in a row home in downtown Philadelphia and I had just accepted an exciting job offer. We had been discussing a mutual desire to someday move out of the city and try our hands at farming, but that was about it.
Bramble and Banbury. Our first babies are all grown up, soon to be having babies of their own.
Bramble and Banbury. Our first babies are all grown up, soon to be having babies of their own.
But after the initial shock and anxiety faded away, I was just as excited about our new goats as he was, and it was all the motivation that we needed to really get the ball rolling on our initial farm hunt.
Over the next few months, though, I began to notice a pattern: Bailey and I would chat about a particular breed of goat or sheep, and a few days later he would tell me that he had found a too-good-to-be-true opportunity and had committed to the purchase of another animal. It was cute at first, and his enthusiasm was contagious- we made the majority of our livestock decisions and purchases together. But I’m a worrier and he’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy, so we often have different definitions of “practical”.
A year later, I finally asked Bailey to stop buying animals without first discussing it with me. A perfectly valid request, I’d say. But then he would pick up a few ducks on his way from work. Some fertile chicken eggs would arrive in the mail. A couple of new goats, some rabbits, and then finally, Cordelia. You may recall that for my birthday last year, Bailey got me a surprise spotted Nubian goat. It was so thoughtful and I love her. But I wasn’t very happy at first. In fact, I was furious. After a long, silent, passive-aggressive drive home, I made him promise me that he would no longer, under any circumstances (even birthdays) buy any livestock (including poultry) without running it by me first. “Well,” I said, “unless it’s a peacock. I mean, if you find a really good deal that you just can’t pass up, then it’s OK.”
Well, you better believe that he took full advantage of that little loophole. And when he came home from a recent trip to Philadelphia to once again take part in the Philadelphia International Flower Show, he had two pair of India Blue peafowl in tow.
photo-4
But how could I be upset? They are quite possibly the most beautiful creatures in the world. Plus, I gave him full permission.
photo-2
These beauties are only a year old; the peacocks’ tails won’t be fully grown for another two years or so. And after that, they will live for up to 50 years!
photo-3
We have already been discussing other colors of peafowl that we would like to someday own. I’m just counting the days until I come home to find some in the coop.

VINTAGE POST: "I like that Sheryl Crow, man. She can sing. Madonna though, she's a pig."

 Please enjoy this post from my early days in taxidermy school:


Today we finished our Mallard mounts; I'm pleased with what a nice specimen I was able to work with but not entirely stoked about the mount itself. I found the skinning  a challenge and spent extra time sewing up my holes:







I think the eyes are a little wonky and I realised too late that I secured the tail into place a bit crooked.  Mistakes like this can be remedied by corrective positioning, but I'd prefer not to make the mistake in the first place.  Here is the rear-view; tail feathers are taped in place for drying.







We then began skinning our hooded Mergansers, which I was very much looking forward to.  My heart sunk just a tad though when I made my first cut and saw that this duck was even fattier than the last one!







Speaking of grease, water fowl such as these two species have built-in  glands from which they can extract oil with their beaks to distribute all over their feathers and aid in flotation.  I cut them out of my Merganser and discreetly packed them away in my bag, hoping to discover a use for what surely must be nutrient-rich oil.  It seems like such a waste to me to keep tossing body parts in a garbage can.







Once home, I did a little research and found this product in which one of the main ingredients is duck preening oil.  I've read mixed reviews of the cream online, but I figure using the oil straight from the source with no chemicals can't hurt.  Besides, I've put stranger things on my face.  I'll keep you posted.



For these specimen, the original skull is used which means it remains attached to the head.  It can be tricky to invert without ripping the skin, especially when the head is on the larger side.  Also, it takes some finesse to cut away from the delicate ear/eye area. Here is mine, worked down to the beak.  After this the skull gets cleaned, which just might be my least favorite part.  Sorry, no pictures for that one.







My fellow student gave me some Venison steaks from a deer her husband had bagged.  She can't stand gamey-type meat so it was a relief to get it out of her fridge.  I was quite thankful and promised to give her a full report on the resulting meal.



When I got home I felt unusually tired so I skipped my hoop workout and drew a long hot bath instead while Sarah made dinner (leftover pork chops and salad). 



The tub is enormous and displayed exquisitely, as is everything else in the house.  Just to be silly, I scattered some flower petals over the water before easing in with my People magazine.







And yes, I was so blissed out that I took a moment to document it by taking a picture of my feet.  The tub was almost too big; it was difficult for me to stay upright since I couldn't reach the end.  I eventually just gave into it and sank down until just my nose poked out of the water.  I think I must have zoned out because the next thing I knew if was completely dark.  I got my cozy clothes on and went downstairs, built a fire and ate dinner with Sarah while we watched more "Flight of the Conchords".  Afterward we enjoyed some White Russians while I painted my nails.

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.

When Rabbits Fly

Techinically this little guy did not take to the air.  He was ground shipped to one of my favorite clients recently but he probably could've flown if he wanted to.



Full slight left



Meet Regasus, or Jayne, the flying Lionhead rabbit.  All animal parts for this piece were sourced from my friends up on the (now new!) farm at The Farmer's Husband.



left wing



 



This was my first experience with a Lionhead rabbit; it's still unbelievable to me that nature makes these creatures; just knowing they exist is like a year round birthday present.  Look at that face!



face left



 



 



In my mind this rabbit was a sweet dandy; the type who wouldn't be caught dead in public without a pocket square.  Or a gem and pearl encrusted neck piece.



underside



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



I threw in the Monroe piercing just for fun.    Wouldn't yo love to hang out with this little dude?  I'm sure he knows where to get eh best Manhattans in town.



perched



 



 



He's also punctual.  Here he will perch eternally, on this antique clock house minding the time....



full front



 



Many thanks to my beloved and loyal client who dreamed up this commission in the first place!



 

Cool Hunting: "Other Nature Show at Bahdeebahdu"

by Tisha Leung, 06/14/10

"Taxidermy mixes with jewelry in "Nascita Typica" by Beth Beverly, a registered taxidermist." Read the entire article here: Other Nature Show at Bahdeebahdu

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!

Raccoon mojo

Penis bones.  Baculum.  Texas Toothpicks.  Mojo Moneymakers.  Amazing little things, except when you factor in the size of a raccoon they may not seem so little, measuring in at about 5".  Plenty of animals have bones in their penises, although this was news to me two years ago when I stumbled upon the lore of the Racoon Baculum in Melissa Milgrom's book Still Life in which she mentions passing one onto a friend who was trying to conceive (It worked).  Apparently this bone, when worn as an amulet, is believed to bring baby mojo.  It also just helps folks get laid in general apparently.  I think this may be true of all penis bones but the raccoons have a good deal of lore about them which is actually quite fun to, er, bone up on.  AHHHHHH I couldn't resist sorry. Seriously though, dig this video I found called "Magical Testicle Montage



For more background on the myth of a raccoon's unparalleled reproductive organs, check out this blog post on The Palmetto Bug blog:



RACCOONTANG AND THE TEXAS TOOTHPICK



 



Aside from hyper-sensitive paw pads and the penchant for oral sex, raccoons are notable for their beautiful penis bones.  They're elegantly shaped with a slight barb at the end, which I have covered in filigree and topped with a genuine swarovski-set Amethyst.



full



This particular piece is already sold but I have more bones coming.  If you're familiar with me or my writing, you know I dig on the magic vibes so this new line of baculum art is way fun for me.  I'll let you know if the recipient to this item gets preggo too, in case that's something you're interested in.  According to that Palmetto article, they're good for gambling luck when wrapped in a ten-dollar bill. I'll try that with a fox boner and report back to you.



filigre detail

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

CHARMED, I'M SURE.

 



Charmed, you'll be.



Allow me to present you with the latest batch of taxidermy talon charms- just in time to decorate your tree, wreath, rearview mirror, mistletoe, what have you.  As you'll soon see I have no idea how to shoot a reflective surface without getting myself in it so enjoy the self portraits of your truly as well.



I'm listing these on this site with prices for anyone who would like to buy immediately and directly from me. This weekend I'll post what remains unclaimed on my etsy page.  All of these duck and chicken feet came from the boys up at the Farmer's Husband and are the byproducts of delicious, humanely sourced meat. While size varies slightly, each piece falls into the 5" to 7" range. Due to the bulk of specimen this large, prices are slightly increased as the process of preservation is more involved, timely, and labor intensive.  Also, bear in mind that most of the charms clutched in these little claws are one of a kind or antiques that cannot be reproduced.  You and your loved ones will be the only ones on the entire planet to possess the ornament of your choosing.



 



Do please peruse at your leisure, should any of these strike your fancy, send an email to diamondtoothtaxidermist@gmail.com.  All pieces can be shipped or picked up from my studio in Kensington.



 



Duck Foot with antique silver glass ball, trimmed with white fox fur: $38



Front view-



duck with silver ball 1 front



This glass ball is uncapped- perfect for slipping a rolled up love note into for your favorite elf.



Side view-



 



duck with silver ball 1 right



 



 



Duck foot with antique silver glass ball, trimmed in raccoon fur: $38



 



duck with silver ball 2  right



 



Duck foot with antique silver glass ball, trimmed in white fox fur: $38



View 1-



 



 



duck with silver ball 3 back



 



View 2-



duck with silver ball 3 front



 



 



Chicken clutching electroformed & oxidized cone charm with feathers, trimmed with fur: $46



Rear View-



 



 



electroformed tube back



This was the first piece I produced in my electroforming class back in jewelry school.  The fur is reclaimed from an old fur coat I rescued from a landfill destiny.



Front view-



 



 



electroformed tube front



 



Chicken clutching Givenchy perfume bottle, trimmed in white fox fur: $38



View 1-



givenchy perfume bottle back



Suggestion: Fill the bottle with colored water for enhanced decor effect!



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givenchy perfume bottle front



 



Chicken clutching antique gold glass ball. trimmed with white fox fur: $38



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gold ball 1 left



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gold ball 1 right



 



 



Chicken clutching vintage gold-plated leaf brooch, trimmed in white fox fur: $42



leaf brooch full



leaf brooch detail



 



 



Double Chicken Talon Charm, trimmed in white fox fur: $48





View 1-



 



lovers clasp empty 1 back



The pictures of this ornament didn't come out well at all; my apologies.  It's essentially the same as the other doubles charms you'll see posted below, the hands holding each-other with an empty space within.  Leave as is or stick a chocolate heart in there!



lovers clasp empty 1 front



 



 



Double Chicken Talon Charm, trimmed in white fox fur: $48



lovers clasp empty 2 front



 



 



Double Chicken Talons cradling antique miniature pink glass ball, trimmed in fur: $56



View 1-



lovers clasp mini pink ball 1 front



View 2- This specimen had the not-as-common trait of feathers reaching down to his toes.  It creates a sweet cocoon effect from the rear view.



lovers clasp mini pink ball 1  back



 



 



 



 



 



Double Chicken Talons cradling slice of genuine quartz, trimmed in raccoon fur: $56



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lovers quartz back



 



 



 



View 2-



lovers quartz front



 



Just for fun, a quartz-enhancing backlit shot-



lovers quartz backlit



 



Chicken foot with antique miniature light pink glass ball, trimmed in white fox fur: $38



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mini pink glass 1 right



 



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mini pink glass 2 left



 



Chicken foot with antique miniature pink glass ball, trimmed in white fox fur: $38



View 1-



mini pink glass ball 2 left



View 2-



 



mini pink glassball 2 right



 



Chicken foot with antique miniature light pink glass ball, trimmed in white fox fur: $38



View 1-



mini pink glass ball 3 back



View 2-



mini pink glass ball 3 front



 



Mutant Cock Talon with antique miniature pink glass ball, trimmed in rabbit fur: $48



View1-



mutant mini pink ball 2 right



This is not a pretty piece, but a rare one nonetheless. This foot belonged to a large rooster who lived a full life, as evidenced from his gnarled skin and toes.  The fur capping off the ornament is from a rabbit I dispatched myself and brain-tanned.  Can you say provenance?



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mutant mini pink balll 2 left



And because most gnarly rough neck chickens have TWO feet,



 



Mutant Cock Talon with antique miniature pink glass ball, trimmed in raccoon fur: $48



View 1-



mutant mini pink glass 1 left



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mutant mini pink glass 1 right



 



 



Chicken with 3 plastic rings, trimmed in fox fur: $42



View 1-



plastic rings left



 



Psst- the blue ring glows in the dark



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plastic rings right



 



Chicken with vintage road runner bolo charm, trimmed in raccoon fur: $42



View 1-



roadrunner charm full



 



Detail-



roadrunner charm detail



Chicken with Texas Ranger charm, trimmed in fox fur: $38



View 1-



texas ranger badge full



 



Detail-



texas ranger badge detail



 



Duck with antique glass "globe" ball,trimmed in white fox fur: $46



duck ball



 



Chicken with genuine "MOM'S" token, trimmed in white fox fur: $46



Philly Dwellers take note: I earned this token through many nights ,(ok let's be honest...afternoons) spent in the dark hazy cave known as Sugar Mom's while living with the Reverend Michael Alan in a magnificent loft on 3rd street circa. 2000.  For some reason I never cashed it in. Hello, PROVENANCE.



 



Tmoms



 



 



Chicken talon with large spur holding mystery wooden ear plug, trimmed in raccoon fur: $46



I found this ear plug on the ground during an outside concert at XSXW in 2010.  It was the Gwar show and Andrew WK had just taken the stage to bring the heat with his amazing party-mate Cherie Lilly.



 



wooden plug



 



Happy Holidays!



xoxo, BB

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
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