Tryin’ to get a nut to move your butt.

Here’s some photos of a fun piece I was commissioned to do for a friend this Christmas.  Apparently his lady friend has a disdain for squirrels (I’m hearing of this more and more; are squirrels taking over the city?  Do you all have any idea how tasty they are?  No kidding…) and seeing a stuffed one under her tree channeling some devil vibes seemed to be the ultimate gift.

 

 

face

So here’s the little scamp mounted on a piece of garland, stealing a glass ornament.  Devil horns and all.

above

I took some liberty with the eyes; obviously in nature squirrels do not look like this.  But when touched with the evil stick, some artistic interpretation is welcome, I’m sure.  Also, these peepers are antique hand-crafted glass eyes that I’ve been looking to use for ages.

full left

 

Man, he looks pissed.

 

left

Merry Christmas!

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It’s Anne with an E and Dream Catcher with a bit of magic.

 

I’m not sure what possessed me the other day but whilst completely on autopilot I made this dream catcher:

 

It’s not unlike me to make dream-catchers, and I’m posting this on my site as well so potential clients have an idea about the scope of my skill set but this is so unlike the typical Diamond Tooth  style that I’m not afraid to say I was possessed….

by  Anne of Green Gables.

Does anyone else remember that series of books from childhood?  I read them all.  Anne was my hero.  I admired her cool differences that set her apart from the typical prairie crowd, and her boyish toughness and confidence.  I wanted to be like her so badly; I didn’t even see that I already had my own cool differences and was indeed, quite tough.  What I wound up projecting was an unsure and contrived version of a misfit when all I had to do was just be myself.

UGH adolescence.  If you know someone in the throes of this truly bizarre stage of life or are going through it yourself, I would love to hug you and tell you that most adults (and other kids for that matter) are very stupid, brainwashed and insecure so just listen to your heart because it will get better…in 15 years.  It’s a long time to wait but trust me.  You’ve got a long life to live.

 

So maybe I was channeling this longing I had to reconnect with this book series that held such prime real estate in my heart throughout my tweens and early teens and that’s how I can explain the pink floral print fabric making up the bulk of this piece.  The material itself is actually older than I know; it was passed onto me from the collection of my friend’s grandmother when she passed some years ago.  I took it, not ever really imagining myself making something with this…pink stuff…but feeling a soul tug just the same.  My grandmother was a skilled seamstress and I love using her old pins and threads and trying to pick up on her energy from these objects.

Dream-catchers are such great opportunities for me to incorporate pieces from my found-on-the-street collection, like the crystal above (from a real antique chandelier) and this key.  I like to imagine the history of these objects calling out to be combined with one another and I’m just blindly obeying their wishes.  When  a project comes completely out of autopilot like this one, it’s hard for me to believe otherwise.

This skull was gifted to me from a friend who picked it up on a hike.  Who knows how this doe lived and died?  Humbly and anonymously, like most prairie-folk I imagine (OK I know I’m getting really cheesy).

I also incorporated some scraps of squirrel fur from one of my first attempts at taxidermy.  I suppose subconsciously I was really trying to reconnect with my 12-year-old self…

It’s weird, I remember thinking when I was a kid that being an adult would suck so much because all the gown-ups I met told me to “enjoy your childhood!  Before you know it its gone!”

Despite all that heaping unsolicited advice,  I still couldn’t wait to be me, now.  I’m finally the person I wanted to be for so long and it’s like I knew this as a kid and felt nothing but angst for being stuck inside that kid body and mind.  Did any of you feel that way?

I have a bag of vertebrae bones which were also a gift from a friend.  These bones bear a particular significance to me since I had a piece of my back removed years ago to correct an issue with my spine.  It still blows my mind that us humans can be opened up like rag dolls and have bits added and subtracted but that’s a post for another time.  Needless to say though, my back is a very important possession of mine, possibly my favorite one.  Also my parents paid a shit ton of money for it. Thanks Mom and Dad!

 

Finally, no piece would be complete without a dose of chicken from my boys on the farm so here’s a little tail feather for ya:

So who is this dream-catcher for?  Do you know them?  It’s not for me, and I want it to find its rightful owner.  This thing has powers and it will protect the right soul from nightmares.  Please help me find them?

And just a FYI: I love making these.  Custom orders would be graciously accepted.

 

Sweet Dreams.

 

Top of the Squirrel to you!

A few months back I was proposed with a fun and clever design for a commission piece.  The liaison between myself and the designer was a friend who I’ve done work for in the past.

And the individual who wanted this item?  A young man slated to start the seventh grade this Fall.  A talented and creative mind, no doubt, this little guy has no idea how much I appreciate getting projects like this.

Here are the sketches I was provided:

I was nervous about sourcing a boy’s top hat at first, until I noticed that this kid is a size 7 & 3/8 which is a full-grown adult sized head. Must be all those big thoughts he’s having.  I ordered the proper topper (I have yet to possess the facilities or training to make a top hat from scratch, which is why I hesitate to call myself a “milliner”) and went about fitting a squirrel form into the proper position.  Here it is, broken into several pieces and pinned into place:

After getting the placement and angles of the bits and bobs all sorted out, I secured with glue, pins, wire, and slim wedges of foam inserted into gaps for reinforcement.  After that comes the clay to smooth things out.  I then had to determine the contact points at which the squirrel would meet the hat and anchor some wires at those spots:

Maneuvering the skin over this form, wires and all, proved a challenge but in the end came  out just peaches.  Here are shots of the finished product:

I recreated the sketch to the best of my ability; due to the squirrel’s size it does occupy a tad more real estate on the hat itself but I think that’s OK.

I’m actually quite proud of this red ribbon- I made that bow myself!

Also, this squirrel was a female!  Almost all the squirrels I have ever skinned were male; I just assumed they were the ones being brazen enough to get hit/killed/shot/etc.  I forget how this one perished; I think it was a fall from a tree or something but I almost wonder if she got shocked on an electric line because a teeny patch of her skin was bare of fur and the area surrounding is was slightly discolored.

And that’s hat!

My most conventinal fox

Here’s a few shots of a commercial mount I created recently for a new client, and I foolishly scheduled to shoot this piece the same day as pick up, which of course is like a glowing invitation for Murphy’s Law to come and tap my on the shoulder.  What went wrong?  I forgot to pack the camera battery with the camera.  I didn’t have enough time to go home and retrieve it, and I also didn’t want to push this pickup back because, to be honest, I needed the payment to get some bills paid.  So, camera phone pictures it is, and I’m quite cranky with myself since this is a mount I’m very proud of.

Paul brought me the fox, and wanted it in this exact pose with a squirrel in its mouth.  I provided the squirrell.  It was a fun and challenging mount, and then I kind of went bananas putting details like moss and embellishments on the trunk.

 

 

What a mouth full!

All boxed up and ready to go.  And that’s fox mount.

Twenty for Twenty #7: Cherie Lily

Behold the goddess known as Cherie Lily.  I have been an admirer of hers since I first met her, briefly, in the ladies room of some bar in Austin during South by Southwest, 2010.  (Which, technically should make her ineligible for this project since it’s about folks I’ve never met but nobody cares so there).  She was wearing a spandex get-up not unlike the one you see pictured below, and washing her hands. I walked in with my friend and exclaimed, “Great outfit!  You look awesome!”, to which she replied, “Hey thanks, I’m performing upstairs if you’re interested!”, and I was too embarrassed to tell her I had no money to see any ticketed shows; I was only there to catch the free performances on the outskirts of the SXSW event…so I just peed and left it at that.

Cut to two days later when my friends and I went to see the free GWAR show, and among the day long line-up of performers, there she was!  Cherie Lily, onstage with Andrew WK, aerobic dancing and looking like a neon spandex glamour queen.  In between songs, the audience was treated to multiple aural doses of positivity, feeling good, loving yourself, and being beautiful no matter what anyone says.

Does that sound hokey?

Well then go fuck yourself.

Sorry, harsh.  What I mean is, if that sounds hokey it’s probably because self-acception/celebration is an unfamilliar concept to you.  And that is sad.  Forget what your family/acquaintances tell you and embrace your body, your dreams, all of it.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

This attitude in mind, I started with a felt hat from a vintage collection I received as a gift from a friend (more about that in the future), a bright kelly green one because of the strength represented in that hue.  It had some wear and tear; I re-pressed it ad gave it a new shape, but some of the small pock marks couldn’t be erased.  That’s ok, I thought, they’re the small imperfections which document a full life lived.

I placed the taxidermy accent pieces under a studded flap on the side of the hat; chicken feathers, red squirrel tail, dyed deer tail, and some blue dyed feathers which I acquired with another vintage hat. When worn, this would be the straight-on view:

It’s on the small side, meaning that it’s more like a fascinator since it won’t fit snugly on the head; it will need to be set in place with combs or a hair pin.  I sewed two combs on the inside, envisioning her pulling it back over her thick hair and it resting in place.  But, this is an unsolicited gift for a woman I can’t even say I know, so all I can do is touch wood and hope it works out on her head.  I did get a thank you email from her this morning, all full of kind and gracious words, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe it didn’t fit well enough.  Alas, she said she can’t wait to wear it so I’ll eagerly await any possible sighting of her in this little ditty.

Finally, as a detail, I incorporated an old wrestling pin I rescued from the trash heap in my brother’s room.  The ten year old in me can’t help but chuckle at the homoerotic-ness of these two spandex clad men in such an embrace, and I thought, as a gay icon, she would appreciate it.

As a gay man with lady parts, I know I can.

Let me know if you see her wearing it, New Yorkers!

And thanks Cherie Lily, for inspiring self-confidence in little freaks like me who never felt they could possibly fit into any of the factory modeled forms provided.

“We make good trade, John Dunbar”

 

That’s what my dear old friend Erin was expressing to me last night when I presented her with her custom piece of fine taxidermic millinery.

Erin is a very talented stylist over at JuJu Salon in Philadelphia and fortunately for me, also one of my best friends.  Several months back we agreed to swap a hair coloring & a couple blowouts ( my ultimate indulgence!  Someday soon I’ll be able to afford my weekly vice…) for a Diamond Tooth hat.  I was given instructions not to rush; she wanted me to take my time so her piece would be just right.

I held out just long enough for this green vintage hat to walk into my life which I knew immediately would suit her perfect.  Silly me; I didn’t get any before pics but this hat in particular had significant crumple-age; after pressing and blocking it looked like an entirely new piece!  Once the millinery issues were straightened out  I added the squirrel portion.  From there its just a perfect storm of found objects and me being in the zone and loving what I’m doing….and trying not to get too carried away.

 

I brought the hat over to Erin last night and she was pleased as punch!  It fit her like  a dream too, I shall get some pictures of her wearing it shortly. I even got a surprise blow-out!

OK, that;s all the flexing my vocabulary has the energy for.  It’s so hot in here and I just can’t seem to find any more words. Take it away, Tom Tom Club:

Special Delivery

I’ve been crafting a custom hairpiece for a very special gal the last couple weeks, in my spare time. I should’ve had it done by Sunday but I was given a unique specimen which was too large and too precious to keep in the freezer so I chose to put all other activities on hold so I could skin this…wonderful creature.  Full story to come shortly.  In the meantime, I was told by my client that she wanted a hairpiece for a gal pal of hers who enjoys wearing, of all things,ducks on her head.

What I want to know is, how have I not met this woman and if/when we do, will we both implode from the sheer weight of our shared sense of high fashion?

Her friend gave me a time and price range and we worked out this little ditty right here:

Sorry for the shadowy picture but I’ll beg her to let me borrow it later to get a professional shot for my website.  I mounted a squirrel head onto the kind barette which is held into place with a stick driven through the hair.  Technically it’s a bun holder but they work just fine for ponys and half ponys.  The squirrel was embellished with some jewelry and feathers, while his feet wound up dangling from the stick part.

 

 

Creating wearables seems to be more and more the direction which makes most sense for me.  Art is so much more accessible when you have it on your head!