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Archive: January 2009
THE LAST DAY
Chip, Dustin, Dave, Jared, Ryan, Julie, Rodney, Greg, Brandon, Angie, James, Brenda, Carrie, Me. (L to R)
Today was the last day. I can’t believe that these four weeks are over. It seems like I started yesterday.
I spent all day boiling out skulls. I had to babysit a fire which wasn’t too fun. Once they had boiled for about six hours, I cleaned them out. They don’t look as good as skulls to when they are eaten by the beetles, but they’re OK. There are two bobcats, a fox, and 1/2 of a duck. There was a possum, but it disintegrated. The duck broke in two pieces. The jaw bones all fell out, but I got a bunch of really amazing teeth out of it.
Carrie took pictures of all of our mounts today against a black back ground. We took a group photo outside, and we got a certificate.
I feel good. I feel like I’m not ready to stop doing taxidermy, so I bought a bear head. All I will need to buy is a form, the eyes, and hide paste. Maybe a few other things, but I know I can do it all from studio. (Awesome.) The cape is dry tanned which means I rehydrate it in salt water for 30 minutes then bag it and refrigerate it overnight.
Saying bye to everybody was weird. A lot of people just kind of said bye, and left, but it was sad because I am really going to miss Chip. We got along really well. As I was leaving, Chip gave me a deer skull and a really nice bobcat skull. He also gave me a fox, and a bobcat…. they aren’t mountable, but they are good for scraps. (YEAY!)
Carrie said he had a sweet spot for me. I thought it was really nice, especially because he really seemed like he was being hard on me the whole time. Turns out, he really liked me.
I’m going to miss the dynamic of the whole classroom. Dave and Greg just shooting jokes back and forth, and Julie messing up on everything all the time. Melvin’s laugh was so incredible.
A graduation page will be up soon.
I’m so excited to own a deer head. My deer head. And my fox. I’m so happy. I can’t wait to do more taxidermy.
These photos are of my cabin and how much these mounts are taking up space.
BUT I LOVE IT!
I want to say thank you to my parents for letting me come here. It’s seriously changed my life and I had such a wonderful month.
I will update one more time when the graduation photos are up, and maybe again when I mount that bear.
This is my antler plaque. It’s usually done for smaller sets of antlers that would be considered unnecessary to mount the whole deer. The white is a leather and the black is just braided ropes. There were a variety of colors to choose from but I stuck to pretty contrasty colors.
Painted, glossed, spotted and finished fish below! The bass will belong to Mom and Dad, and the trout is for Mimi and Papa. Enjoy! (Finished meaning they lack bases. But I think I’ll do those when I get home from school because it would be dumb to ship a piece of driftwood.)
We sat for a long time today and listened to Chip talk about tanning processes and other things that are very important. I took so many notes, I could practically write a short story about the history of tanning. Apparently, you can boil out a deers brain and tan the hide with the brain juice. You can also just pee on the cape and that’s called a urine tan. Both of those methods are not used anymore, but actually work.
Today we watched Chip skin a life sized mount. We got ours already tanned, so we needed to learn how to actually skin. We used Dave’s fox as an example. It was really interesting. I kept the fox’s skull. It is a grey fox and it is beautiful. It was at first a little weird because I kind of fell in love with the fox when it was not skinned, I examined it for about ten minutes, looking at the way it was all put together and feeling how its ears were attached, how its eyes fell around the inner membranes. I looked at the lips and counted the raised spots on the insides and noticed exactly how the teeth fit together. I touched its legs and feet and felt the tendons and how they worked to move the ends of the legs. Seeing it skinned was weird but instantly turned intereststing. It’s actually pretty difficult, especially when it comes to flipping the ears inside out and laying out the skin around the nose, eyes and mouth flat so that when you tan it, you don’t miss any spots.
We painted turkey heads today. I didn’t feel like spending $45 on an artificial head or $75 on a freeze dried head, so I painted an extra one that Chip had in the shop, and I won’t get to keep it. I’m not terribly heartbroken.
I arrived at 8am and left at 7:45pm. LONG DAY
First of all, let me first say that I am sorry for the delay of the following image. This is the fridge where the most recently-being-worked-on deer capes are kept, and where we put our lunches when we come in the morning.
We began today with painting our life-sizes.
To begin with the fish, we had to gloss them outside with an aerosol can of “super fish shine.”
The paint schedules for the fish are similar at first, but then differ as you build up colors with the airbrush. If you get too much on or mess up, you have to start over with white. There are nine colors on each fish. Some of the colors are sprays in general areas, but some are detail work.
The trout is almost done – it needs a darker line on the top, plus its black spots. You can do those with sharpie or a paintbrush. Airbrush spotting is hard because of those “freak drops” and other accidents.
In this photo, the bass is completely painted. This eye protect is still on so his nice glass eyes are covered underneath. The trout has some spots but will have much more by tomorrow. In fact, I am painting them for homework. Tomorrow, we will put a high gloss on them that will make them look wet.
Tomorrow and Friday are going to be absolutely crazy. We have to build bases for our mounts, finish our antler plaques, and I have to sew some leather to the under side of my deer mount.
WOW! Jonas sent me a link to Kate Clark‘s work … totally inspiring and delightfully disturbing.
So, I’m sure it sounded like yesterday may have been the last tedious day … BUT IT WASN’T.
Painting began this morning after we set out bass eyes in place, only, painting didn’t start with fish.
We began with our pheasant’s waddle. It was so frightening to take an airbrush to the pheasant. An airbrush is amazing if you know how to hold it, to operate it, and if you’re comfortable. I knew none of the above. The airbrush is a dual action, which means that you push down for air and back for paint. If you want a sharper line, you move closer. If you want a mist, you move back. Well, it sounds easy enough, but if you’re close and you pull back for more paint without moving the brush away at the same time, you get what Chip calls a “freak drop.” You do NOT, by ANY MEANS, want a “freak drop” to happen. It’s a mini-explosion of paint.
Chip put himself through college airbrushing shirts and other novelty items down at “the strip” which is where Osage Beach gets touristy in the summertime. He painted my name on a board as an example today. I can’t keep it because it’s a 2×4 but it’s pretty cool. Note the palm tree and shiny star type things. And the waves. And the seagulls.
We also had to paint the legs on our ducks. With airbrushes, you work in color layers. We hit the legs with a “mallard orange,” then a “vivid orange” then a dust of “gill red.” We had to build what Chip called hazmat suits for our ducks out of paper so the paint wouldn’t get on their feathers. In most cases in taxidermy, you can fix stuff if you make a mistake. Even if you have a terrible hole, or missing fur, or feathers, you can fix something. Well, you absolutely CANNOT fix orange across the breast of a gray mallard.
Then we moved on to deer. We had to use “bass belly white” then “natural flesh” (which is pink, practically the color of nobody’s flesh, and is politically incorrect,) then “deer brown” (which Chip made up out of rich brown and dark brown,) then “jet black.”
Today ended short because of the bad weather. Tomorrow we are going to paint our fish (maybe … that’s been the plan for a while but it keeps getting changed) and airbrush our life-sized mounts the way we did our deer. I will make my fox’s blacks blacker and whites whiter. The fish will be frustrating. Thursday we finish our antler plaques, and then build bases for our other things. Friday is the last day! I can’t believe how fast this month went.
I came with the idea that this month would help my 3D skills and introduce me to working with new materials and techniques. I figured I’d apply them to whatever I was doing at school (and beyond) and I can’t wait to go home and try some new things.
I think I want to open a taxidermy shop after school. Not right away, but at some point.
I was sent this interview with a woman in Brooklyn and I was really inspired by her. She gets to mount beautiful animals for people who want them … it’s less about going on a hunt and mounting your kill. I like that a lot. Plus, I like the idea of owning a real business, and doing art and taxidermy all in the same studio.
Aside from spilling a thing of toothpicks, having a leaking bottle of denatured alcohol, dropping stuff, hearing multiple instances of racist jokes aimed at our new (and wonderful) President … today turned out to be alright.
We took every mount we had done so far and perfected it so that we can start painting tomorrow.
We made the eyes, nose, and lips of the deer ready to paint black.
We did the same for the life-sized mounts.
We filled holes on our fish.
The main tools of the day were toothpicks, Q-tips, a dental tool, denatured alcohol, and this stuff called “magic sculpt” which is really just a resin and a hardener that you mix and it becomes extremely hard in ten minutes. It’s basically a two part epoxy that is clay-like.
The eyes had to be sealed off, and though it is pink around the edges now, we are going to airbrush it. It’s really cool, actually. The pink around the deer’s eye will be black, but the inner membrane will be wet-looking and the outer one will look dry. It gives the deer a real-ish look. The lips and nose will also look wet and black. We will even put spit on the whiskers if we want to.
The fox’s nose is white now but when we paint it, it will be black and glossy. His pink lips (which I had to sculpt on) will be airbrushed with a bit of dark brown.
We have to build new noses because the old ones (the real ones) look like raisins. This photo was taken before I was finished sculpting, so don’t worry , I know it’s bad! It looks better now, and it’s drying overnight.
Tomorrow we paint our fish! Ewwwwww.