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:



Darning Ducks





Yesterday I finally got around to paying the piper in regard to stitching up all the holes I created in my duck skins while degreasing them last week.  The darning process added about an extra hour to the mount time, for the two ducks combined.  Here's some sewn up holes:







One of these Buffleheads was just about shot to bits; there was no leg bone to work with, a shattered wing bone, and buckshot in the beak.  Plus, when I was skinning it I pulled too hard when I reached the neck area and just about tore the entire hood off the damned thing.  Sewing that up yielded no results as the whole creature just looked more pathetic the farther I got.  PLUS I must not have degreased him enough because my fingers kept getting oily as I worked.  I don't mind the finger oil (in fact it feels quite nice on my dry skin) but once I start transferring the oil from my fingers to the feathers on the exterior of the skin, they appear yellowed and dull.  I could always proceed and then clean the feathers  afterwards but that doesn't mean the oil residue on the inside won't bleed out through the skin eventually.



When good ducks go bad. Very, very bad:







I'm not sure how everything went SO WRONG on this one duck but I'm very thankful that all the mishaps were concentrated on him while the other one mounted so easily it was as though I were in a dream-state.



I positioned him on a hat (the 2nd for my Devon Horse Show series) and although he may look slightly unnatural, I wanted the wing to arc around the brim of the hat and frame the wearer's face. I'm trying to achieve just the right balance between whimsy and realism.



Duck Doilies

I've been working on two male Bufflehead ducks the last few days, and shoot are they full of fat.  They're also gorgeous.  Sorry I don't have any pictures of the exterior at this point but they're tanning right now; I'll post images later.  Besides, all the pretty iridescent feathers are covered in fat and blood.  Gender role reversal is a constant thought running through my head while I work on birds; the males are always so pretty and flashy in order to attract the females while the "fairer sex" is usually drab and brown in order to blend in and protect her young.  In humans it seems to be quite the opposite although I suppose with there is a flashy breed of male out there...but for the most part its us gals doing the primping.  I also find worth noting that the male ducks seem to have much more fat on them than the females, at least the ones I've worked with so far.  The two female Buffleheads I worked on took considerably less time to degrease than the males I just finished up with.







I don't have a degreasing machine yet so I've been doing the dirty work by hand.  It's a slow, tedious task but one I enjoy.  As someone who relishes the satisfaction of successfully extracting gunk from clogged pores, the site of a fat-covered pelt waiting to be trimmed excites me.  It's an easy solution; no thinking involved really.  It does take concentration though, since just underneath all that fat is tissue-paper-like skin.







It's common to wind up with little holes in your skins when degreasing by hand, hence the term "duck doilies".  I don't mind so much; it's just more sewing work down the road.



Here's a visual on how fatty these boys are.  The left circle is pre, the right one, post.  It gets tricky cutting just the right amount off without going through the skin.







This is all the fat blobs I got off the last one.  See all the oil in the paper?  I feel like I should be cooking with this stuff.







More holes...







More lipo....







More holes..







Here's the second female I mounted last week.  I'm using her for a hat that I plan to enter into a fancy hat parade of sorts, an event which is part of the Devon Horse Show.  I want to make several head pieces and convince some of my girlfriends to wear them around the fair while handing out cards for me.  This hat is obviously far from finished but I'm very pleased with the positioning.  I think it will most certainly turn some heads.







Stay tuned!



A Good Lay

I dropped my finished hen off at a gallery yesterday for a show that opens on Thursday.  No pictures yet until she's been properly unveiled but here are some progress shots:



I posed her mid egg-lay, with one already out.  I wanted the eggs to be hatching, and unique.  I drilled many, many holes and set tiny little gems all over the shell.  This can be very stressful but I used to decorate hollow eggs quite frequently as a little girl and have kept my fingers nimble so I found the experience rewarding.







Of course, all the muscle memory and dexterity in the world can't save me from my inner klutz and I rested my hand in a paint puddle which I then brushed against the hen and parts of the base.  When I saw this happening I freaked out and dropped the entire thing, egg shells and all.  Miraculously, nothing broke and the paint came off.







Here is a close-up of the hind-section of Mrs. Hen.  It's kind of gross but I consider it a valiant effort to accurately portray the "birth" of an egg.  I'd like to try again, now that I have more experience to build upon.







I will decide upon a title for this piece today...the term "Typical Birth" kept running through my head as I was creating it.  This is mostly because I overheard a trifling and pretentious old witch of a gallery owner/NY art scenester exclaim very loudly that my work was "SO TYPICAL"  at the show in Brooklyn. It really stung...and I've thought about it quite a bit.  After so much reflection though, I realise that I'm not insulted by what she said.  I know my work isn't typical.  Yes, taxidermy is on the rise- especially the subgroup that my work falls into but there are many nuances which set my pieces apart from the rest.  I think what bothers me most is the way she announced it so flippantly, surrounded by her little circle of employees who know where their bread is buttered so they smile and nod and humor her while she carries on her one-woman show.  I suppose I could've made a dig at her, like "Those who can't DO,  critique." but I know that's not entirely true and what would that accomplish?  I think when I saw her lapping up the attention of all those around her and mistaking it for genuine respect, I was reminded a little of myself in my more obnoxious, drunken look-at-me moments.  And I was grossed out.  I suppose I should thank this woman for inspiring me to be a better person.



Obviously, I haven't let it go for one reason or another, but it's got me exploring the concept of "typical" and wondering when is it ever a good thing to be refered to as.  Regardless, "Typical Birth" sounds boring.  Perhaps in Italian?



nascita tipica



Not bad.  If all else fails I'll just go with plan B and call her "A Good Lay".

New Stuff.

























Works in Progress

Here are a few pieces I've been working on for a show in Brooklyn opening this week.



This is the bear paw I was administering a manicure to recently.  While making the pice in my mind I was thinking about bears leaving the woods and coming into suburban areas in search of food.  I imagined the bears deciding they like suburban life and getting mani/pedis alongside the soccer moms.  Do soccer moms still exist?  Is that even a relevant term?







I went to the Wagner Institute recently for a lecture on taxidermy.  While there, I took in the massive shell collection.  The notion of combining mammals with shells struck me nad this is the first in a series.







Here is a bufflehead duck; her neck is stretched as an experiment.  I found it extra tricky to get the feathers to lay correctly while stretching the dermis in this fashion but the finished product came out OK.







Finished pieces to be posted shortly.

Manicures for bears and busted skulls

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



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







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



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



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



Speaking of mice:







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



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







Finger condoms!

Hen Party

Back in school, my instructor gifted me a hen of his that had dropped dead one morning after dutifully laying eggs for however long hens typically live.  He mentioned the death that morning in class and of course I asked him what he was doing with the body.  He laughed and said his wife was too attached to do anything aside from bury it.  Wouldn't you know though; after lunch he came back to the work-shop with a bulky, ten pound plastic bag and said "don't say I never did anything for ya."



He suggested mounting it in a little nest and selling it to a stall at the farmers market for a display and I was all YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN.



This baby's gonna be laying some fabrigee eggs if I have anything to say about it.  Which I do, because I'm the one mounting it.  I intend to make her  into the piece I'm submitting for a group show at a local gallery for an upcoming show called "Other Nature."  I'm going to attempt to capture the moment the egg actually exits the body so I've been watching reference videos online and getting my facts straight.  Have you ever watched a chicken lay an egg?  It's pretty gnarly.



It took her two days to thaw out; and I commenced skinning yesterday.  It was going great until I was down near the legs, working on getting the tail disconnected and I felt a stream of cold liquid gush down my arm.  At once my nose told me it was piss.  Chicken piss.  I must've punctured the bladder somewhere or something but the stench had me gagging.  I can pretty much stomach  any odor but urine remains my Achilles heel as far as my iron stomach goes.  I've lived in a city for almost half of my life and I still gag and shudder every time I walk by a patch of wino-piss on a sidewalk or alley.



I wiped off my arm, burnt some sage and kept on truckin'.



I'm no fan of cleaning skulls; it's dirty and laborious.  I do find it very fascinating though.  Here is a chicken tongue:







I drew a sight line from the newspaper image's face indicating where the portion which would be exposed from the beak-view is.  The rest is all in the back of the mouth/throat.  I guess that's  how our tongues lay?  The hole in the back interests me; I wonder what purpose it serves.  If I ever want to compete, I'll need to learn how to pickle tongues.  Prefab plastic parts are a big no-no.



Here she is, skinned.  Her feathers are so beautiful and soft; I very much look forward to taxi-ing the skin on a form.







I'm debating on leaving her ID band on her ankle, in honor of where she came from.



Another view of feathers:



Sitting Pretty

On a positive note, I successfully finished mounting one of two Starlings for a custom order today.  It gives me great satisfaction to emerge on the successful side of a challenge like this.  Dying them was an adventure unto itself and getting the feathers to lay correctly while mounting (post-coloring) was tricky.  I had to make my own forms because mannekins simply aren't available in this size; but any purist in the industry chooses to make their own bodies anyway.







This is number one, carded and setting.  It's hard to see the eyes but I'll get a better picture after I remove the plastic and touch up the face.







This is my first custom order as a licensed taxidermist.  I feel like I should frame the cash that I'll receive as payment and hang it on my wall.  Maybe I'll photocopy it.

Heyyyyyyyyyyyy.

Some horse "legs" arrived in the mail the other day and I thawed one out the other night to see if I could turn it into a human shoe.  I've had an obsession with pretending to be a horse for years; and although I am aware the wearable horse shoe has been done, I will not be at rest until I get a crack at it myself.  Plus, I want to try working with every kind of creature.



Here is the leg, thawed out.







The odor of barn filled my studio immediately and I rather enjoyed it.  Unfortunately I may have bit off more than I could chew...







It took me about thirty minutes to realise that I really had no plan and wasn't entirely sure of what I was doing at all.  I managed to skin the leg down to the hoof, but then had to cut the hide away as it would not invert around said hoof.  That's fine; it shouldn't be much of an issue to reattach, but once I managed to sever the hoof from the rest of the leg, I wasn't quite sure what to do with it.  A crash course in horse anatomy is basically what this project has turned into.



Here's the hoof, with spongy tissue and miscellaneous cartilage/bones still inside:







I've managed to cut out all the flesh I can with a knife, but it's not enough space to work a partial shoe into.  I got frustrated and had to leave it for a couple days; tomorrow I will tackle it with a drill.  That will smell totally awesome, I'm sure of it.

My fingers smell like horse shit.

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



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







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







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







Here it is, fleshed out:







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

Black birrrrd, FLY.

I have starlings to skin/play with/practice on so I skinned and dyed a bunch of them assembly style.  There was an alumni event at school from my previous life which I attended Friday night and I thought it would be wise for me to wear something of my own creation and come armed with business cards.  Here's some of the prep:



It fakes me out every time when I see how pathetic the skin looks past-rinsing when I can't imagine if coming together and looking like a bird again.







All the starlings, laying out.







I used one for my head piece, here it is mounted and posed.







After that I added eyes, and some accents.  Pictures of it actually in someone's hair to come...



Black Bird Pie!

























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



Sing a song of sixpence

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

Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,

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

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

The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey

The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,

When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!




Apparently:



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


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







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























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



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

Adventures in Home Tanning

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



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







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







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







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







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

Post School blues...or blacks.

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



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



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



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











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

Starling stew with olives



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



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



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



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

"You think that God likes football?"

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







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



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



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















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











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







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

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



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



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



Later on I watched "Hush hush, Sweet Charlotte"











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

"Philadelphia will never be the same."

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



Here is my coyote, mouth painted and fabulous.







I think he needs a diamond in his tongue.



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







Trade secret, baby.  Mum's the word.



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







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







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

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

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



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







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



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







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



"Counting the days 'til archery season."

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



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







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







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







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







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







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







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







Hey lookit: the sexy people like me.

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







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

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



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







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







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







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







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







Tada!







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



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



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







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

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













"Have a donut."

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



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



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







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







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







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







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

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

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







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



Ew.



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







Mr. M is schweepy.

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



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







Two Country songs:

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



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











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











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

I'm Baaaaaaack.

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











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



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

"This guy's a real duck nut."

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



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







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







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







GRRRRR.  Almost finished product.







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







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







Me, myself, and my board.







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











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

"Depends on your will to live."

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



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







The loneliness feels overwhelming sometimes, being so completely isolated.



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











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



Yes, I dare.

"You Betcha."

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



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







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



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







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







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







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



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











And the dialogue!  Nonstop wit!
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