Freshest Head and Neck Fruits from my Hand Labor

Last week the gorgeous and talented Pearl ( you’ve seen her beauty here, see her creations here: Pearl Bell ) braved the sweltering climes in my third floor studio along with photographer and all around hottie Jim Coughlin (blog here: Snap Bam Splat and follow him on Instagram too @jimsinspace ) to shoot my latest headgear.  I provided the champagne.

Behold!

The Pearl:

I blocked this green felt hat myself, and named it after Ms. Bell for the simple reason that wide brim hats remind me of her.  There’s a taxidermy wing tucked into the brim and some of the feathers trail off on the side, complimenting the downward swoop of the hat.

I also incorporated a sparkly tennis bracelet from my mother’s collection.

The Pomp:

Comprised of the very same chicken from the Pearl hat, this piece is a taxidermied mount dried to mimic the shape of a swooping pompadour.

The mount itself is affixed to a handmade millinery base that I lined with pink satin and blue lace trim, which serves as a point upon which the hat can be secured on the wearer’s head with bobby pins or elastic.  I like to see it paired with a cage veil but it can also be worn alone.

The Frenchie:

A taxidermied wing is enmeshed into the ruffles of a vintage millinery base, a fun jaunty little number.

Secured to the wearer’s head with an elastic band, it can provide hours of worry free dancing, drinking, laughing, etc.  Worn alone here it’s a flirty little number but can be paired with a white cage veil for a stunning wedding piece.

The Carnival:

Named after a wild night in which this hat remained on my head for 8 straight hours of drinking, dancing, being chased by Mexican gangsters, etc,  this hat takes a licking and keeps….on your head.

Secured to the wearer’s head with an elastic band, the focal point of this piece is a pair of deer antlers embellished with genuine Swarosvki set amethyst crystals that point dangerously close to the eye.  The base is an antique millinery piece upon which I have added a raccoon fur poof and some hand twisted crinoline.

The Bobby:

My obsession with visors is still going strong, this example being in a hand blocked blue felt cap with a taxidermy chicken swirled around to create a bird butt poof at the top.  The chicken is, of course, embellished with crystals.

Along with the practical purpose of visors reflecting glare, the not so secondary mystique element of a slightly veiled face cannot be denied.

Le Roth:

As it took shape, this hat started to channel a sort of David Lee Roth ala “California Girls” energy, but en peu more French.  A taxidermied rooster wing sits atop a vintage millinery base with a yellow visor.  The bird head is hollow, while the exterior is just dripping with crystals.  Take from that whatever symbolism you wish,

The Andrea:

My classic visor hat.  Raccoon fur lined with felt and embellished with a sweet little green velvet ribbon.  Perfect for eye sex across the slopes and a toasty tete.

The Duchess:

This hat is a mashup of several species: the base is an antique rabbit fur pillbox, and I added a yellow poof of gosling down along with assorted chicken, guinea hen and pheasant feathers.

Ideal for a post hunt dinner on the estate, or a stroll down the avenue with you best beagle.

The Ladyship:

I think this piece speaks for itself. I just adore it.  It commands respect and gives the wearer an air of dignified authority. The base itself was so stunning to begin with, all I could do was add to it.  So add I did- a patch of assorted feathers, some gold metal charms from my personal collection and a tassel I made from silk fringe.  For women only, no girls please.

 

 

El Gatador:

A super cute felt number, this is a seriously easy to wear piece that stays on the wearer’s head thanks to an elastic band, and it extremely lightweight.  One of my favorites, it’s made especially special with a swirl of black rooster on top and a repurposed (read: my old earcuff from ’84) alligator charm serving as an anchor for a bouquet of turkey beard hairs.

Perfect for any occasion, in my opinion.

 

The Marie:

Inspired by my Maid of Honor, this is a very proper velvet halo with a taxidermy rooster wing and saddle affixed to one side and a generous amount of Swiss dot veiling.  If only I’d had this on my wedding day; she would’ve worn it perfectly.  It conveys class, stoicism and a tremendous amount of fun just below the surface.  For the gal who can conduct herself properly at an exclusive event and then share a cigarette in the alley with the staff five minutes later.

 

The Shannah:

Not for the faint of heart!  The centerpiece of this headdress is a mummified bunny corpse coated in clear lacquer and covered in gems.  He’s holding chain reins and resting comfortable among the spider-like fur “arms” of this vintage mink millinery piece.  Can be worn alone or paired with a cage veil.

 

The Mearrah:

I was going for a flapper feel with this hat; again the base is a vintage millinery piece and I added a taxidermied wing plus miscellaneous feathers and gems.  Works great with slicked back hair or a curly mane.

 

 

The Isabella:

I wore the unfinished version of this to my opening at La Luz and it was a hit.  Seeing it finished, and on a model, it feels more like a tribute to the late Isabella Blow, hence the title.  It’s a simple piece consisting of a taxidermied rooster dried in a shape which hugs the crown and points out at such an angle so as to keep simpletons at bay.

 

Foxy Fascinator:

A simple little ditty comprised of chicken feathers fanning out from a taxidermied fox nutsack.  Sorry to be crass but I quite enjoy the juxtaposition of something people tend to shy away from serving such a pretty purpose.  An excellent conversation piece.

 

Guinea Hen Necklace:

Taxidermied leg with fox fur poof, gold chains and an old charm from a church in Philadelphia.

Guinea Hen necklace with pearls:

Freak Mutant Rooster Leg Necklace:

That spur says it all.  Ideal for someone who really wants to thin the herd of idiots who talk to them daily. No canvassers will even try to get your attention when you’re wearing this.

 

Jawbone continuous earrings:

Fun to wear, lightweight nad a nonstop conversation piece.

Jaw bone continuous chain earrings:

Same as above; the chain is aluminium so it’s also very lightweight.

 

So that was an eyeful, right?  And there is still more in the works!  Please think in advance about your Fall pieces and order now, folks.

XOXO Diamond Tooth.

Twenty 4 Twenty #9: Buck Brannaman

For anyone unfamiliar with Buck Brannaman, just check out this trailer for the documentary “Buck”:

 

And then, the first chance you get, watch the entire movie.  It’s so thoughtful and sweet.  My husband introduced me to “Buck” a few weeks ago thinking I’d dig it since I’m so interested in horse people.  I more than dug it, I’m now obsessed with this guy.  Good thing when I embarked on this Twenty 4 Twenty project I didn’t have my complete list of recipients, because I seem to constantly be discovering new heroes.

Perhaps I too am a tortured soul but I relate to so much of what Buck says, his philosophy, and like him and all the scores of people who feel an intimate connection with animals, I’ve had an easier time connecting with four-legged creatures than the bipedal sort.  As an adult, I’ve learned how to better treat myself and others but I cannot stress enough how much Mr. Brannaman’s words ring true when he calls your horse a mirror of yourself.  I think this can translate to just about any domestic animal. As humans we tend to project everything onto other people (which is why one ought to be wary of folks spending so much time preaching about to evils of homosexuality, of sex positivity, etc- we take the things we fear and hate in ourselves and cast them onto someone else.  Understanding this has made me a much more laid back person). Not just our friends/family/coworkers, we project these things onto our pets.

Have a hyperactive nervous dog?  Next time you walk them, check your shoulders and body language are you tightened up, anticipating a transgression? I know I was, when we first got our dog.  It took me months to relax.  I was also a very nervous person in general, terrified of my own thoughts and feelings.  When that transgression happens do you correct it by whacking the pup on the head and yelling?  Is that how you were disciplined by your parents and other authority figures?  Ia that how you treat yourself?  Do yourself and your animal a favor and take a long look within.  You deserve it.  Everyone deserves to be treated with compassion, so start by practicing on yourself!

 

I’ve been holding onto this old cowboy charm for years and years, and finally the time to use it arrived.  I incorporated it into a lapel pin with miscellaneous pheasant and chicken feathers, thinking he could stick it in one of his hats.  Or not.  In my letter to him,  I suggested passing it along to someone he cares about if it doesn’t fit into his wardrobe.  The point was to create something with my hands to express how touched I am by his story.  That’s been the main lesson of this project, is learning not to expect anything in return, not even a thank you. I already have my reward and it’s knowing these people exist.

 

Thank you Buck!  Keep spreading the good word!

 

 

 

 

For a more in-depth interview with Buck, check out this video:

buck-describes-abuse-finding-peace-15426113

 

“Gospel of Buck”!  Swoon.

The Great White Pheasant

A local hunter brought a gorgeous white pheasant over a couple of months ago which he’d harvested on a hunt in Pennsylvania.  Until I held it in my hands I’d never even seen a white pheasant but I didn’t let him in on that.  Not just yet, anyway.

It’s a reminder to me how majestic this species of bird is though, and to think I’d never even seen one of these creatures until embarking on my journey into the world of taxidermy!  Pheasants might just be the world’s most underrated birds.  A fun little anecdote:

In a land rich in symbolism and imagery, the Chinese pheasant represented light, virtue, prosperity and good fortune. Good fortune indeed came upon one hunter in Burma who noticed a precious stone in the gizzard of his recent kill. The discovery inspired him to search for the origin of this stone, and after visiting the rooster’s old stomping ground, sure enough, he found an emerald mine!

 

My cursory online research tells me that white pheasants are quite uncommon in America and now I don’t feel so green for not having seen one before.  To mount it was an honor; and the meat it provided my little felines nourished them quite well.

 

I set up a hanging environment of white birch and some Spanish moss, neither of which I’m guessing coexist with this breed of bird but I don’t care because it compliments the pheasant, who is the star of the show.

Along with the possibly inaccurate setting, I made another executive decision to mount it with an open mouth,  as though it were calling.

There’s a little rearview shot for you, to show the feet.

My client came by yesterday to pick up this piece, and I’m fairly certain he was pleased.  In my experience, hunters don’t tend to emote the way my other clients do (squealing, crying, flowery heartfelt emails the next day, etc) so I just have to take their word for it when they say they like their mount.  I know I would be happy with this beauty hanging in my home.

DIRTY BIRDS

I searched for a song about “dirty birds” prior to writing this and I discovered that there is not only a song by that name, but a dance to go with it!  OH, Atlanta, you slay me.  I got a kick out of the video; there are some hilarious background folk featured throughout.

Anyway, the video and that brief preamble are to serve as a slight buffer between you and the visual content of this post, as it’s a little dirty.  I figured I’ve got enough street cred as a taxidermist to have earned your trust, so I feel OK writing about the less glamorous aspects of this craft that make so many people queasy.  If you cannot stand the site of flesh or bone, then please abort now.  But if you’re feeling brave, take my hand baby birds, I’ll feed your head for a minute.

I had two hunters drop off birds last week.  One was what I  initially identified as a female Bufflehead but upon closer inspection actually turned out to be a female Blue Wing Teal.  The other bird was a white pheasant.

Two gorgeous specimen, although you wouldn’t know that from the insides of them.

Let’s start with the duck.  Ducks are notoriously fatty.  There is an odor to them that tends to hang on for a few weeks even after they’re tanned, dried and mounted.  I have no qualms with the odor, but the fattyness can get quite tiresome.  You see, I don’t yet possess a fleshing wheel, so I have to cut all the fat off by hand.  Being someone who actually finds solace in mundane repetitive tasks, I usually don’t mind this but I’ve been pushing my poor paws to the limit lately and there is a soreness creeping in that only people who work with their hands could begin to understand.

Whining aside, I do like trimming fat.  I marvel at it.  I mean, this is what flavor comes from.  But my first instinct is to recoil in disgust if it gets all over my hands or my face.  Why is it gross to touch this substance that is so completely universal-I have it, you have it, all your dogs and cats have it, trust me they do– and it’s the common denominator of all things delicious?  This fat is the real deal.  It’s not oleo or some bogus hydro corn science project, its bona fide, warmth providing, lifesaving fat. I am getting better at embracing the stuff however; it doesn’t hurt that after handling it I’ve got smooth Palmolive hands for hours, even after scrubbing with soap!

Official degreasing diagram

As you can see from my very official chart above, duck skin is tricky. It’s simple to see where trimming needs to be done, but the actual skin is like a thin film of tissue paper underneath all that fat.  It’s extremely easy to cut too far and make “duck doilies”.  Needless to say, I’ll have quite a bit of sewing to do on this skin before I mount it.

The spoils of duck lipo:

Foster THIS

After that, its into the tanning solution and a quick rinse.  Whenever I pull birds out of the water, I’m just a tad dubious that I’ll be able to turn such a sad looking rag into something as beautiful as its original form, but it always works out.

Onto the pheasant.  As is often the case with game foul, this guy was just riddled with bird shot. Both legs were all but shattered.

.

Lots of holes:

B, B, B, B, BULLET HOLES!

It’s not just a matter of holes but picking the shot out of the flesh, since I feed these birds to my animals and I don’t want my little babies choking on lead.  The feathers kind of clump together around the shot, some still with quills in the skin, some buried in the meat.  It’s not unlike pulling weeds:

one...

two...

three...

four...

and PULL!

Here’s one leg.  The bone was totally broken, which can be hazardous for little taxidermist fingers working flesh off of them.  I have the scrapes to prove it.  The other leg was completely obliterated.  This means more work down the line when it comes time to mount, but this all comes with the territory.

Post bath, also looking like a wet rag, albeit one covered in beautiful feathers.

Like I said, I use this meat to feed my cats.  If a hunter just wants a trophy mount and doesn’t care to eat what he catches, I will gladly play vulture and use whatever meat I can for my four-legged brood at home.  Obviously this applies to game and not roadkill.  In this case, I cut off what I could and placed it all in the crock pot with some chicken stock.  A few hours in there and presto!  Warm cozy Sunday dinner was served to my little ones:

And that’s the word, Bird.

Stick it.

 

Recently one of my favorite clients commissioned me to create several custom pieces for her, one of which being two pairs of talon hair sticks: one for her and the second pair as a birthday gift for one of my other favorite clients.  These two gals are so fun to design for because they just tell me what they want and let me go.  They trust me, and enjoy what I create.  It inspires confidence when people have faith in me.

One set is crafted from a pair of feet formerly belonging to the black rooster I skinned a while back to make a hat out of.  I just remembered I need to photograph the hat; it’s really quite smashing.  Anyway, the spurs on this cock’s legs are a force to be reckoned with and I got such a good energy from this specimen that I really wanted to use it for this project.

The foot itself is mounted on a stick I sharpened and textured myself, and accentuated with rabbit fur and feathers of peacock and rooster.  The talons themselves are treated to a glossy pearlescent coat of color.

The second pair is slightly larger in size; I used pheasant feet and from there it’s basically la meme chose as the first pair.

I used repurposed mink fur with pheasant feathers this time around.

And that’s that.  I’m eager to see how they look on the ladies as they both are quite striking women with full heads of thick black hair.

As usual, thanks to Jim Coughlin for taking such consistently awesome photos of my work.

Philly confidential: Happy Birthday, Shannah!

20 for 20, # 3: Put a Zoe on it.

I just finished making a hat box which is housing the halo fascinator I just finished custom making for Rachel Zoe.  I doubt she’s aware of myself or this blog so I feel like the risk of ruining the surprise by posting this before she receives it is minimal. While this is technically the third piece I’ve created for my 20for20 project, #2’s gift is still traveling through the postalverse and I know she reads this so I don’t want to spoil it for her.  So there’s that.

In a few hours, this piece will be en route to Madame Zoe, by means of which I don’t care to bore you with.   The box is somewhat hastily made and it shows, but what’s inside was made with plenty of love and thought.

 

I used a vintage halo-shaped fascinator base and built on it with feathers from a variety of foul, along with some salvaged antique mink tails.  My impression of Rachel Zoe is romantic hollywood gypsy, and while I know very little about her personally, I selected her for this project because I love her style, I admire her tenacious drive, and am inspired by the better-to-apologise-later-than-ask-first attitude I imagine her to have.

Unfortunately I don’t have a blonde wig but I anticipate the brown velvet and feathers popping quite nicely against her light hair.  The charms make a nice tinkly noise and their translucency in the sunlight gives this piece a very gypsy feel.

I just hope it fits her!  That’s the tricky part about designing unsolicited gifts for people-how to predict sizing.  I have very thick hair though, and that’s underneath the wig (ha!  I wish this luxurious mane were my real hair!), so there should be a small amount of wiggle room.

Fancy chickens, pheasants, grouse, and vintage trinkets.  Let Madame Zoe look into your future…..

 

A Sharp Dressed Man

Every girl is crazy about ’em.  Well, every girl ought to be, in my book.

This ZZtop video is actually really awful.  This is the first time I’ve seen it but I wanted you, dear reader, to listen to the song whilst reading this post.  This has long been my favorite ZZTop song (well, next to La Grange, of course) simply because of the lyrics.  It’s like this song was written for me.  I’ve always been enamoured with men’s accessories, and any guy who opts to incorporate these little extras into his daily ensemble earns high marks with me.  I used to buy gaudy, bejeweled vintage cufflinks at flea markets knowing that someday I’d meet a man to give them to.

To some it may appear a little fey, but I think it speaks volumes when a man takes time getting dressed, thinks about the way his clothes fit his form, and is thoughtful about embellishments, etc.  It makes me sick to see how the vast majority of the opposite sex has given up on fashion, wearing a uniform of cargo shorts, flip flops and baseball caps.  Men: do you take no pleasure in the art of “getting ready”?  Whatever happened to putting your best face forward?  Take one look outside my house and I should consider myself lucky guys are able to get their jeans up to the bottom of their asses nowadays. It really turns my stomach, especially when I see these offensive creatures walking around with women who clearly invested some serious time in their appearance/ensemble.

Ladies!  Put your stilleto-clad foot down!  Send your beau back inside to change and don’t let yourself be seen with him until he is dressed to match your caliber.  Do not lower your worth by letting yourself be paraded around by a slob!

Men!  Stop letting yourselves go!  Some of you complain about not having as many options as women in the shopping/clothing arena but really, you can personalize your look with any or all of the following:

cufflinks (easy)

ties (duh)

bow ties (not for the faint of heart)

belts (very easy)

tie tacks (easy/moderate)

a monocle (difficult, not for amateurs)

watches (easy)

rings (takes panache)

pockets squares (fun and endless ways to fold!)

stick pins.  So easy, so elegant, and speaking of:

I apologise for the poor quality photos; my in-house photographer was not available at the moment and I clearly  am not skilled with a camera.

This is a custom lapel pin I just dropped off  for a dear friend and fellow sharp-dressing enthusiast, Adrian Hardy.  He is also a talented purveyor of music, I believe the term is DeeJay although I cringe when I hear myself say that because for some reason (perhaps due to my complete lack of a night life) I feel like an out-of-touch poseur when I use that word.  Irregardless, Mr. Hardy and one of his partners-in-crime over at LOTis Media had a fairly significant event last night in Philadelphia to tend to and Adrian requested I whip up something fancy for him.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love doing custom work.  Pieces are so much more special to me when I’ve got a specific client in mind.  That said, it also makes for a much more harrowing experience as I hand it over, wringing my hands and praying they like it.  I’m pretty sure this one went over well; I’ll have to troll for pictures online to see.

The parameters given to me for this lapel-pin were Arian’s personality and what I know of it, and the fact that this particular event was a “white party”.  I used a bed of Polish Hen  plumage and added feathers of pheasant, peacock, and mourning dove.  I also embellished it with some rabbit fur and a dazzling vintage charm.  All of this atop a 24K gold-plated stick-pin!

And there’s more where that came from, folks!  Just check out my Etsy shop!

Say it with me, ladies and gentlemen: men’s return to fashion starts RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, with ME and team Diamond Tooth.

xoxo,

Beth Beverly

 

***update: Here is a photo of Senor Hardy last night Courtesy of Philly Chit Chat: Not too shabby, eh?