Well, it wasn’t technically a gift as it was for a client and she paid for it, but the amount of love and time I poured into this piece could warrant usage of the term “gift”.
This rug was a dream project, as I think rugs are beautiful and functional, as well as a joy to make. I was instructed to “make a bear skin rug with lots of diamonds and flash”.
Ideal Diamond Tooth project, yes?
I found the hide already skinned and tanned from a hunter in Maine who had harvested it with a bow and arrow. Knowing that this specimen had been sourced ethically and the meat was sustaining a family, I proceeded with confidence.
Diamond tooth, check. Sparkling eyes, check. Diamond nose stud, chain from nose to diamond stud earring, check and check.
Oh! And tongue ring!
Diamond manicured paws, but of course.
After hand stitching the entire lining onto the hide I attached the fringe along with my tag along the bottom. Finis!
I could hardly BEAR to see it go. The fur was so soft and warm; I know it will feel just divine on a cold winter night.
Would this piece win any ribbons at a taxidermy competition? Probably not. It’s not perfect. But I’m proud of it, I think it’s beautiful, and I hope she brings my client many a smile.
I finally got around to working on a bear-skin rug for a client; she is another really fun individual to work with who basically said, “make it as glitzy and shiny as possible.”
Words to live by.
So I set out to source materials and make the sparkliest, most pizazzified bear-skin rug the world has seen.
I bought the skin frmo a hunter who shot the bear with a bow and arrow, harvesting the animal for food. The cape arrived tanned and fairly soft but I had to rehydrate some parts to soften them up more in order to work with the facial areas.
Opal the cat approves of this fur.
Here is the head form. I altered it slightly to express a nice Elvis-like lip curl, and proceeded to plaster the top left fang with crystals.
Diamond Tooth, indeed! And this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for an update on this hunka hunka burning work 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.
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.
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.