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:



Waste Not...

Remember that rat I mounted a few months back?  I also preserved her skull, here are some photos, please enjoy!






LAMBAG

This is a little lamb baby that was gifted to me from my 4H enthusiast pal who raises goats. So I guess it's actually a little baby goat.  I still get them mixed up.  Anyway, I had it soft tanned with the intent on making a plush mount that could be cuddled, but once I got it bag I realised it would make an excellent bag. And voila!


I made a carcass cast of the head using a silicone mold, one that I can use again and again.  This is great because I have about 5 other babies tanned and ready to go be future bags.








His little legs are filled, and the torso cavity is left hollow, lined with fabric.










And tassels make everything better, right?



I debuted this bag at a local design event and he made quite a splash.  This piece is definitely a show stopper.  It's also so fun to carry, like a furry little pet you can just keep hugging all night and day.  Better than a purse puppy; you don't need to feed him or take him out to pee!

This is by far one of my favorite creations.  I'm eager to create more, sell them and see how my clients take them out into the world.  My new signature piece!





Bijoux the Sweetie



Meet Bijoux.  She's the much beloved pet Dumbo Rat of a client and she passed away one night after living with a large cancerous tumor in her belly for some time.


 It was my client's wish to have her preserved elegantly and regally, so we opted for a plush pillow to sit her on and some head embellishment.  I would up using a vintage Betsey Jonson charm as a crown of sorts, and couldn't resist a little diamond ring.

Because she had been ill her coat apparently wasn't as lustrous as it had been in healthier days but I think she's still beautiful.



I used silicone rubber to make a mold of her body (sans skin) and made a carcass cast.  This is a pricey technique but completely manageable with smaller specimen, and yields a highly detailed mannequin to then taxi the dermis onto.  In this case that was extremely helpful as Bijoux had a very specific growth on her body that may not have been obvious under her coat, but was significant in how her body was shaped.






 She went home last night to be with her human, and thus closes another little chapter in my taxidermy career.










Bird Bird Bird.

Bird is the word.  Here are some photos of a finished pheasant and a mallard drake I mounted for one of my favorite clients.  I finished these pieces a while ago but am only just now getting around to photographing them.
Unfortunately these pictures aren't so great; I didn't set up my back drop for the duck, and the pheasant was difficult to properly photograph because it's a hanging mount.  Alas:






































Straight from the Catfish'smouth-

Or from Wisameckhan, which is Lenape for "Catfish Stream".
This beast was caught on worm from the Wissahickon Creek here in Philly by my client, and it has been a saga of a commission for this taxidermist.  I'm not crazy about doing fish, but this guy has a happy ending.





He arrived at my shop frozen; once thawed he wasn't looking so great.  I was disappointed to learn that catfish are just too oily to make successful skinmounts with; typically the best bet is to take measurements & reference photos of the actual specimen and order a fiberglass reproduction form that can be assembled and painted (not unlike model airplanes!)



He's kind of sad looking here but I got the information I needed, and comforted myself with the fact that I'd have a good meal of him at the very least.  My client is a man who has pulled over at the sight of a roadkill bear just to cut the cheeks off for meat so we are kindred gastronomical spirits in a sense.
Imagine my disappointment when I learned there was a city-wide warning against consuming catfish due to so much water in the Fairmount Park creeks being contaminated with sewage.  Bummer.


I'm not blessed with having a swell relationship with the airbrush, so I was dreading this project.  Also, after I gave a price and the deposit was paid I realised how profoundly I had underestimated the proper charge for a piece like this.  It turned out to be the least cost effective commission to date; at the end of the day I received about $20 more than I spent on parts/materials. 

I'm comforting myself with the fact that this was a learning experience for me, as it was my first nonskin fish mount.

 I abandoned the airbrush early and worked loosely off the catfish paint schedule I have, incorporating my own reference photos for his distinct markings.  I actually got really into it and it turns out I love painting!  I spend a few days a week working as a painter for a set design company when the taxidermy work is slow, and I guess I've picked up a thing or two.





So this is my first repro fish mount that I toiled over for weeks, and I am very pleased with the result although I refuse to call it taxidermy.  I will call it art, however.  My client was thrilled as well, which is always rewarding.




There is a space on the lower right part of the plaque where an engraved brass plate will go, describing the species, with date and location of the catch.
And now that the cattie's out of the bag, I hope to have the opportunity to do more in the future.

A Most Unusual Commission

I recently sent some pieces to Hendricks Gin as environmental decor for one of their many famed Wondrous Affairs.  This one took place in Chicago and while I have yet to find photo documentation of my pieces in action, I trust the entire presentation was nothing short of tremendous.  I've had a friendship with Hendricks for some time, in fact one of my favorite interviews was with their blog back in 2012. Last November a few of their most stylish associates paid me the honor of renting some couture wearables for a Masquerade.
This time around they ordered a few wall mounts and my signature Goat Hoof Candle Holders, but the whopper was a commissioned luminary goat hide rug.  I hustled to get source the parts and get her produced in time, and here's the result:


I scored a hide from Alaska of all places, this specimen was once the beloved pet goat of a local animal control officer.  I'm so touched that she's gone on to live a shiny new jet setting life!


I found the lamp components from Mid Century Furniture, just down the road from my studio, which happened to be open to the public and completely empty of people on the day I needed to find these parts the most.  I didn't like the shade so I made a new one from some leather hide that I also used to line the bottom.  If you look closely you can see the branding:

I was compelled to embellish her, so voila: Pearls (genuine, to boot!), hair extensions and ostrich feathers.




Can't you just picture sitting in a rocking chair with a gin gimlet reading your favorite pen pal letter under the light of this lady?

So that's my latest luminary rug piece; hopefully photos from the event aren't far behind!


Shine on, Belinda.







Jill, the lil Scamp with a Cleft Lip


Jack and Jill lived in a tree, until the tree was cut down and both baby squirrels were rendered homeless.  A kind woman took them in and raised them, and while Jack thrived, Jill had a difficult time as she was born with a cleft palette and eating was tremendously difficult.  As I write this I wonder-if their home hadn't been destroyed, Jill may have perished much sooner than she did.  Perhaps in a parallel universe that's the case.  And in yet another one, she lives on, animated with her brother and adoptive human mother.


In this universe, however, Jill expired.  Her human's wish was to have her as a soft mount, so I had her teeny tiny hide soft tanned and mounted her with cotton and armature wire so she could be plush and pose-able.  The malformed skull had to be reinforced with clay and glue; I found this aspect to be the most difficult part as I've never worked with a harelip before.  I basically had to recreate the fleshy gum and lips of her palette.  Unfortunately I lost some files as I transitioned from my old computer to this new laptop so I don't have any closeup photos of her face but you can get the idea here:

I'm still getting the hang of this soft mount option and while I love love LOVE it I'm working on figuring out a way to strike a balance between touchable/squeezable and anatomic accuracy.  I'm not crazy about how floppy her little squirrel fingers and toes are.
But she sure is fun to pose!  Sat Nam, Jill.  May your path always be illuminated and free of obstacles.



Koko the Guacamayo




Hola Koko!


Koko is the very much beloved 15+ year old pet Gaucamayo of one of the most delightful families I've had the pleasure of meeting through my work as a taxidermist.  It's profoundly touching to meet folks who care for their critters so deeply.  Koko's humans were in tears when they brought him to me; yet were still able to chuckle as they told me of how he would cuss in Spanish to get everyone's attention.  They had even saved every feather he'd ever shed over his entire lifetime!





 This pet preservation project was an absolute honor to work on.  What a lovely specimen, to boot.
 My client was brought to tears when they were reunited; the entire process was extremely rewarding. She even baked me a cake and sent me photos of Koko after he was back home in his little bird abode.

So long, Koko, I will savor the experience of working with you and your family for years to come.











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

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


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


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

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



Bilal

 This is the skull of Bilal the cat, a beloved member of my dear friends' family.  When he passed, they gave him to me to make something with.  I brain tanned his hide and transformed him into a luxurious fur stole, of which I sadly have no photos.
 W & R were instrumental in my early development as a taxidermy artist; I couldn't have made it without their guidance and generosity.  I was reflecting on this last week when I decided to unearth Bilal's head from my freezer, clean it off and gift them with the skull.
 I've been getting into bone cleaning lately, all these heads are in my freezer that I figured I'd do something with someday.  Now I'm really getting into it.  I don't use beetles, as bone cleaning isn't even a significant part of the services I offer (yet) but I'm thoroughly enjoying the catharsis of scraping brains out, yanking cartilage with my bare hands, pulling, plucking and prying all the messy gunk off the bones.  Perhaps it's a metaphor for some deep self exploration I've been engaging in...
 Bilal had some pretty impressive teeth, although he was missing a bottom fang.
 I articulated the mandible to the skull and drilled a hole for his name tag to dangle from.
Another day in Paradise.

Ashley's Wedding



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


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

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


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


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




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


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



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

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


And the second one:

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



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











A Baculum for her and a Talon Charm for her!

 Here's just a couple pictures of a custom Baculum I made for a friend; she wanted something to incorporate with her 3-D printed diamond charm so voila:
 She also commissioned me to make a piece of "junior couture taxidermy" for a friend of hers who was just ready to dip her toe into the wearable taxidermy world.  I thought a shortened starling foot would be ideal, as it's not too explicit.  It's clutching some vintage beads and embellished with a poof of repurposed mink fur.
 I couldn't resist housing it in a ring box that I'd lined with the same fur:
 Have a nice day!



Bits and bobs




























Thumper


 Meet Thumper.  He was the beloved hamster of my friend A, and when he passed she envisioned him curled up in eternal dream state with a pair of blue butterfly wings.  I was truly honored that she would entrust me with the task of preserving her pet, and thankfully when I presented the finished product to her today, she was pleased.
 Anyone who knows me knows that small mammals are not my area of expertise; far from it.  I find it extremely challenging to manipulate the teeny skin without manhandling it too much.  They're so delicate!
 Speaking of delicate, the butterfly wings caused me to hyperventilate a few times as I tried to sink them into the grooves I cut into the mount for them.  It blows my mind that those stunning creatures can flutter about the world so freely when one careless touch can destroy them.






It goes without saying that Thumper will live under the protection of a glass dome.  Sweet dreams, little one!



Deer hooves through the Looking Glass



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


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



 Some jewel accents around the bottom:




 Ta Da!

Foxy Feets

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



Taxidermy Fox Paw Charm with Black Rinestone Bracelet




Taxidermy Fox Paw Charm with Silver & Green Stone Claddagh Pendant





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



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







It'll All Be There When My Dreams Come True.




PRESS PLAY.




While editing these photos, a Doors song drifted out of Pandora and it felt so apropos.  Then, and now, Today by Jefferson Airplane is on and it's stopped me in my tracks.  Well, not so much that I can't write but it's taking me to a very specific place.




Almost 20 summers ago, for my best friend in the whole entire world's birthday, I was able to buy 4 tabs of acid from some jabroni in Swarthmore and Susie, myself and two other dear friends tripped on LSD for the first time together.  From that unreal and inconceivable night, a year long courtship with LSD and psychedelics in general began.  We all hung out in Susie's room because we could basically come and go as we pleased, smoke cigarettes, pot, make out, etc.  Her entire house reeked of cat piss and cigarettes so anything we could possibly do short of setting the house ablaze went unnoticed.
This song takes me right back to that summer.  We listened to her Jefferson Airplane CD on repeat.  I can practically feel the grimy, smoky, vibrating, oily sweat on my shiny face as I hear those first guitar notes. There was no such thing as air conditioning so the windows were open and the dampened sound of the occasional passing car would lazily drift from the quiet suburban street into the room.  I can see the ashtray piled full of chain-smoked cigarettes and Susie, in her uniform of white tee shirt and boot cut blue jeans, impossibly straight long brown hair spilling all over her.  She was so nonchalant about everything, and I wanted to be her so badly it hurt.  The acid had me think so many thoughts at once and I thought my brain would crack trying to decide which one to feel, or address, before realising that I'd let another idea sneak into the overpopulated room and I'd already digressed so far away from what I was originally trying to formulate in my head that being able to utter any kind of sentence was out of the question.  Then there was Susie, laying on her back: long, lean and not a care in the world, luxuriously dragging on a Marlboro.  Someday I'll write more on what became of Susie, but just know that to me, for a solid chunk of my formative life, she was everything I wanted to be.


 This dream catcher captures that memory, even though I fashioned it many years after that acidic summer.  The skull was found by a friend, third eye mysteriously burned into its surface.
 Someone had cut the antlers off, so I gave him a toupee of feathers.

There are also chicken wings, and horse ribs I found on a trip to Assateague.  Plus a cross made from dogwood which I got from my Presbyterian Confirmation "Sponsor" when I was 14.  I have fond memories infused into this cross as it represents a time when church was innocent and fun for me.    Before it became a disturbing ritual of self righteousness and brain washing.

 
 So.  Anybody want it?  Trippy times ahead...



Just the Skull, Please

Meet Z the Pitbull.  His humans had planned ahead as he was sick for some time, and brought him straight to me from the vet after euthanizing.  They just wanted the skull cleaned and articulated, the rest was up to me. 
Aside from burying skulls to let nature do the job, my experience in this department is limited to smaller creatures like rabbits and pheasants.  This was a more labor intensive job than I'd anticipated but nothing too difficult.  It really doesn't take any specific skill set to clean a skull, just a willingness to scoop brains out and get your fingernails really dirty underneath.


 After cleaning off as much muscle tissue and flesh as I could with a scalpel and my bare hands, I scooped the brain out with a fondue fork (also doubles as a rabbit ear splitter and cocktail stirrer when I'm in a pinch) and then boiled it for an hour to get the rest of the little bits to loosen up out of their crevices.


Round 2: Getting the rest of the little bits of (now boiled) brain out of the skull cavity,  You can see the bits and bobs in the photos above.  Everything must come out or, come Summertime, the client will have a very unpleasant surprise when flies start dropping their larva off at Camp Doggie Skull.



 There was still some stubborn matter hiding deep in the brain cavity so I reboiled, carefully (too much boiling can crack the bones, and if there is still oil and flesh on the bones it will soak into it, making it greasy.
 After the second boil I cleaned him off with a wire brush and used a needle to pick any little bits of anything hiding between those very serious looking teeth.

 After the last picking and poking, I soaked it in a bleach bath.  Bleach is not recommended for skulls, typically, unless its hair bleach.  I find that a very light mixture (1pt bleach to 10 or 12 pts water) works just fine for a finish and sanitation purposes.  Just keep your eye on it, take the skull out every 15 minutes or so to check progress. 





 Lastly, I drilled holes where the lower jaw met with the skull and articulated it with steel wire.  I left it long enough so that some movement would be possible.
 




Z's human came to get his skull last night and she was quite pleased.  I think this is a thoughtful and palatable option for pet preservation when having your whole buddy mounted just isn't a good fit.



Some New SHeep Hoof Candle Holders



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


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

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




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


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


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




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


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





I can practically see them shimmying.  Can you?











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








Wendy the Woodcock


Hi!

 

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

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

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

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



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


Ciao Ciao

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





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



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




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







 Listing on etsy now!

Kika



Hi!
 

 Kika was the 18 year old beloved parrot who brightened the days of my client, Berta.  She was in tears the day she brought her in to me.


 When she came in today to pick her up, there were more tears- thankfully the sweet happy kind.


 Berta brought her son (who is just one year older than Kika, btw) and he told me that my studio smelled "like sadness and dreams" which I thought was very poetic.



Berta;s wish was to have Kika perched how she was in life, so I opted for a cocked, close wing mount and made a wall perch from a wooden dowel and disc.




And that's all!



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

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

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

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

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




Mrs. Friendly

Oh, hello there:


 Meet Mrs. Friendly, the much loved pet chicken of a client who wished to have her immortalized.


 Apparently, Mrs. Friendly was an ornery, no nonsense hen with an intense glare.  She suffered no fools.


 She also had asymmetrical hips, with a pronounced hump above her right hip bone/back area.  I'm guessing this may have caused a limp which must have only added to her cranky old lady aura.

 I altered a manufactured bird form by adding foam to the back section and carving it to match the size and shape of the hump as seen on the carcass, and posed the body to recreate her gimpy stance as exactly as possible, using photographs from life as reference.


 Hump:



 Don't mess with this chick lady hen.







So long, Mrs. Friendly.  Enjoy the afterlife.



Speechless





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


































Vetabrae Necklace

I've been in possession of a bag of fox vertebrae for some time now; about a year ago I articulated a few with the intention of making a cool neck piece.  I finally finished it today.

Once I'd decided the exact design, I needed to source the beads and hardware.  The beads are glass and I wore them all around my wrists for a week to infuse them with my own energy and also because glass beads around my wrists feel so good.


 This necklace is meant for a long dainty neck, as you can see in these photos its a wee snug on me.  Perhaps there is a young elfin lass who this piece is calling out to?





 The clasp is a no frills, magnetic slide:
 Magic.

C'est Tout!

Hawk Eye


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



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

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


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


Chichi

Meet chichi, a pet preservation project I recently completed after about 7 painstaking months.  I believe she is a Pyrrhura Conure breed, but will gladly accept corrections.  Her human was quite distraught when she brought her to me, and spoke very little English to boot.  What I could tell is that this bird wasn't in great shape.  I know very little about the world of keeping birds as pets other than it's a high maintenance labor of love.  These little bundles of love can develop all sorts of ailments, and it seemed this one had plucked out just about every feather within beak's reach.  She was also in her early thirties so perhaps feathers fall out with age as well, I can't say.  I am not even a novice, let alone an expert.

bald tail area

What I am is a passionate people and animal lover with an unparalleled work ethic.  A shrewd business person would have turned this project away because the profit margin is basically nil after all the hours spent bringing the animal back to a presentable state, but once my heart takes over, my emptypockets are left to flap in the wind. 
I mounted the bird and put her aside for a few months while I worked on other pieces.  All the while, she playfully glared at me, bald and pathetic.  I scoured etsy, ebay and online taxidermy forums for feathers to no avail.  The large colorful primary wing feathers seem easy to come by but what I really needed were the tiny green neck and belly feathers, among others.
Then the universe does what it always does when I am patient with it, and while a client was dropping off her coyote recently she glanced over at Chichi and said, "oh, my parents have that same bird.  It's always shedding.  I'll see if they can hook you up".  A week later a ziplock baggie full of all the feathers I need arrives in the mail.  Perfection.

Here is her filled in belly and armpit, which were previously bald.



(before)
 



another bald tail shot:


Her one wing was very crudely clipped so I positioned her with that one tucked and the other outstretched, head cocked to the side in a playful way.

I realise that she isn't perfect, there is still some thinness of feathers on her head, but I poured all I had into this little girl who is so close in age to me, and this is what I got.  I know how if feels to be a little rough around the edges but loved regardless.


Now she just needs to go home! Take flight, sweet Chichi!

Windsor

Meet Windsor, a 120 pound Akita who was the apple of a couple (probably more but I only met the two) humans' eyes.  When his time came to pass into the next dimension, they wanted to do something with the absolutely stunning coat he left behind, and that's where I come in.

Thia is actually my second pet preservation dog-hide-turned-rug commission, but my first employing the services of an industrial tannery.  My workload has reached the point that I can no longer tan everything in-house, and hand staking a hide to reach the level of suppleness you see in these photos is beyond cost-ineffective and insanely time consuming. 
So I ceded a portion of the workload (a significant step for anyone who knows me and my history of control issues) to a professional tanner and I couldn't be happier with the results.  I also got some rabbit hides done that I'll post about later.  For now though, just look at this magnificent beauty:


 That's a size 12 Men's cowboy boot to scale:
 



 He drapes like a dream!

 I think this is a fantastic alternative to getting a full life size mount in terms of pet preservation, and am happy to offer it on the regular starting now.  I know my client is happy; she looked perfectly natural with him draped around her as we spoke outside on this freezing, bitter night.  Her darling Windsor keeping her warm even in his afterlife.

 
Bye!
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