Every critter has enough brains to tan its own hide.

Or so my friend of American Indian descent used to say.  It sounds cool but once the image of a giraffe pushes ts way to the front of your mind you start to wonder.

But I’m not tanning giraffes, so for all intents and purposes this adage sticks.  Here is the story of my dip into the practice of tanning hides with a paste made from the brain of whatever specimen I HAVE skinned.  I used rabbit, raccoon and possum, to varying degrees of success.  There are plenty of references available online; I used this one from Lifesong Adventures.

The first step is extracting the brain from the skull, which isn’t for the well-manicured or easy-to-queasy set.  If you’ve ever blown your nose, and tried to coax out that mammoth yet elusive mucus orb hiding in your nasal passages, then you have a decent idea of what it’s like to charm the brains out of a dead rabbit.

The brain matter is then mixed with water (preferably rain water according to experts which was funny because back when I was embarking on this journey I had rain water tricking into my studio on a daily basis through the roof and walls.  I just used spring water though), heated to a near boil and then cooled.  The resulting paste is what will be brushed on the raw hides of whatever it so be tanned.

It is recommended to brush any excess onto a towel, which is then laid onto the hide and rolled up within it for maximum soakage.  The little bundles are then stashed somewhere cool and safe overnight while the tan penetrates.

Here’s mine the next day.  The smell was surprisingly light. Perhaps this is because it was October and there was a cold snap in Philadelphia- but actually, as I look closely at this photo above  I can see my two of my five little piggies that weren’t cropped out of this shot meaning I was wearing sandals on this day.  So….I’m full of shit.  Brain tanning just isn’t as odorous as one might think.

But I digress.  Once the skin is unrolled, the staking begins.  This means gripping the hide and rubbing it over a hard, blunt surface until it is completely dry.  This stretches and breaks down the fibers in the epidermis.

 

Behold a staked rabbit skin. It starts to have that store-bought garment-leather look, and feels just as luxurious.

Home brain tanners, however, be warned: staking is no joke.  I consider myself a rather fit human being and this activity left my arms and abs sore for two days.  It took me almost five hours to do three small pelt (as a beginner I maybe ought to have started with just one, but if should’ves and buts were candy and nuts…).  The thing about staking is, you can’t stop once you start or else the hide dries hard and the entire process must be started all over again.

There are machines that do this nowadays for tanning at an industrial level, (I believe Mike Rowe attempted to use one in one of his Dirty Jobs episodes) and other brain tanners use frames and various tools to make the process easier but being as I was just working with such small specimen I didn’t think it necessary.

My work chair is a lovely old trash picked work of art with a back just riddled with nooks and crannies.  I found this to be an ideal surface for staking. As you can see I rubbed the stain right off the darned thing. But just look at those yummy pelts!

After the hide is completely dry, it is smoked.  Again, there are various ways to do this but I opted for the super low maintenance method of laying them out over a screen strategically placed outside a wood burning stove.  The important thing is to use punky, wet wood- this will produce maximum smoke and that’s what’s needed to bond the oils of the tan into the skin and seal it up.  This makes the tan permanent in that should the hide get wet in the future, it will stay soft and not revert back to its original hard, rawhide state.

I left these on for an hour, rotating every ten minutes.

Now for the sewing!  I was commissioned by a contractor friend to create a fur jacket liner that would keep him warm and toasty during his cold weather work.  Side note: we wound up trading and I was treated to some MUCH NEEDED plumbing work in my bathroom.  I am now a convert of the barter system; it feels like I’m really sticking it to the man when I’ve momentarily suspended the need for stupid dollars while providing goods and receiving services.

I made a pattern from his denim jacket and used it to machine  sew a shell out of high-end padded wool.

side flip

inside denim full

with denim flip out

The fur, since it was in scrappy unusual shapes and I didn’t want to waste any, was all completely hand sewn onto the shell.  Thankfiully my friend enjoys the little imperfections that make life interesting and doesn’t mind the spots where my stitching is evident or the three little patches where I rubbed the hair off the pelts.  I took the liberty, ha, of covering one such spot with a patch.

fur side out

 

patch detail

The process took much longer than anticipated and left my fingers raw, but I actually love the meditative nature of hand-stitching.  I think spending quality time with my hands on a piece really transfers good vibrations into it and ensures that I’m passing along a product saturated in positive energy.

Case in point: look how toasty and pleased this guy is with his new vest!  (he opted to wear it inside out for this shot I took with my very state of the art heat-sensory camera; I suppose it is reversible).

whoa vest

So that was my first experience braining.  I am excited to employ this method more in the coming months; I have mittens, scarves and hats to produce!

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CHARMED, I’M SURE.

 

Charmed, you’ll be.

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

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

 

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

 

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

Front view-

duck with silver ball 1 front

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

Side view-

 

duck with silver ball 1 right

 

 

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

 

duck with silver ball 2  right

 

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

View 1-

 

 

duck with silver ball 3 back

 

View 2-

duck with silver ball 3 front

 

 

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

Rear View-

 

 

electroformed tube back

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

Front view-

 

 

electroformed tube front

 

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

View 1-

givenchy perfume bottle back

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

View 2-

 

 

 

givenchy perfume bottle front

 

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

View 1-

 

 

gold ball 1 left

View 2-

 

gold ball 1 right

 

 

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

leaf brooch full

leaf brooch detail

 

 

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

View 1-

 

lovers clasp empty 1 back

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

lovers clasp empty 1 front

 

 

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

lovers clasp empty 2 front

 

 

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

View 1-

lovers clasp mini pink ball 1 front

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

lovers clasp mini pink ball 1  back

 

 

 

 

 

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

View 1-

lovers quartz back

 

 

 

View 2-

lovers quartz front

 

Just for fun, a quartz-enhancing backlit shot-

lovers quartz backlit

 

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

View 1-

mini pink glass 1 right

 

View 2-

mini pink glass 2 left

 

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

View 1-

mini pink glass ball 2 left

View 2-

 

mini pink glassball 2 right

 

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

View 1-

mini pink glass ball 3 back

View 2-

mini pink glass ball 3 front

 

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

View1-

mutant mini pink ball 2 right

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

View 2-

 

 

 

 

mutant mini pink balll 2 left

And because most gnarly rough neck chickens have TWO feet,

 

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

View 1-

mutant mini pink glass 1 left

View 2-

mutant mini pink glass 1 right

 

 

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

View 1-

plastic rings left

 

Psst- the blue ring glows in the dark

View 2-

 

 

plastic rings right

 

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

View 1-

roadrunner charm full

 

Detail-

roadrunner charm detail

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

View 1-

texas ranger badge full

 

Detail-

texas ranger badge detail

 

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

duck ball

 

Chicken with genuine “MOM’S” token, trimmed in white fox fur: $46

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

 

Tmoms

 

 

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

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

 

wooden plug

 

Happy Holidays!

xoxo, BB

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.