Thursday, May 17, 2012

Memento Mori, a look at death and my obsessions

I am currently sitting at the deathbed of my grandmother down in Southern California. Death is such a peculiar thing. Despite the fact that I work with death on a daily basis as a taxidermist, it's tough to deal with when it's happening to someone of my own species, and a close relative at that. My grandmother is in hospice care here in the home of my parents, which is nice for all of us because she's comfortable and we're comfortable and there are no beeping machines or sterile white walls. She's been unresponsive for days now but still holding on for some reason unbeknownst to the rest of us.
When I got the call that this was the end for her, I panicked for days before making the 14 hour journey south to be with her and family. I'm really good with death, I used to obsess over it, even romanticize about it in my gothy high school days, but no one had died in my life at that point. Death I can handle, it's the dying part that's hard. Watching a creature of any species struggle for breath reminds us of our own suffering, of the moment we will be in the same position, possibly alone and probably in pain.
I've been sitting by her side for two days now, watching her face change into someone I don't know. She's been unresponsive since I got here, but hearing is the last to go so we talk to her still and reminisce about old memories. Sometimes her hand twitches or her jaw moves and I like to think it's her responding as much as she can with a body that's non-functional and shutting down.
Every day she looks more sallow and corpse-like. She breathes shallowly with her mouth gaping open. She now breathes with the telltale "death rattle" marking that the end is very close. While some of my family have a hard time being in the room to hear the noise, I have become more comfortable with the idea of her death and find it incredibly fascinating. I am done crying for her and realize now that she is on the verge of an epic adventure none of us can possibly imagine. I am not a religious person, I don't know what is waiting for her, but I believe there is something beyond this life.
The nurse that comes to help at midnight comes from a small village in India, and it has been interesting hearing her experiences with helping the dying move on. She says the dying get restless at night. One night she felt a presence in the room when watching over my grandmother and my grandmother lifted her arm into the air and said "I'm deciding," then went comatose again. The house feels very spiritual and peaceful right now, even the family pets sense the transition and are silent, keeping vigil for her.
This experience has been a positive one, and when she takes her last breath we're going to open the door for her and let her spirit out. This may be superstition, but I like the idea of it.

Please stay tuned for more series of writings about my rekindled interest in death, including Victorian mourning culture and funerary practices. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cut Throat Freak Show

Showing off my balloon penis to some patrons

I had a great time working with the Cut Throat Freak Show at Humbrews recently. I sold baby octopi in jars, as well as pickled fetal piglets. The show was great and included juggling, daring acts of danger, a working Tesla coil, and of course erotic balloon animals. I highly recommend checking out the show in a town near you. For more information, please visit

Want a baby octopus of fetal piglet of your own? Check my Etsy shop, I usually have them in stock.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Several Exciting Things

I'm pleased to be busier than ever and have a few exciting updates to announce.

I'm now an official working member of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists. I'm very honored and excited to be a part of this group of creative geniuses. I recommend clicking on the link and checking out their website and other members of the group including founding members Scott Bibus and Sarina Brewer. What is Rogue Taxidermy, you ask? Check out this informative article from Asylum posted to the MART site:

In other news, I met the wonderful people at the Circus Emporium Roadshow and have been helping out with their amazing sideshow collection of oddities. I highly recommend checking out one of their shows. Not only do they have sword swallowing, a blockhead, and a burlesque act, but one of the best collections of oddities I've seen, and all with the authentic feel of a true sideshow.

I've also joined a local paranormal society, but more on that later.

Other than that I've got several other projects in the mix, including these (now available for sale HERE):

This coastal winter weather makes me want to stay inside and hibernate, I'm very much looking forward to some sort of spring weather to wake me up and get me moving faster.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Octo Mom

For February Arts Alive here in Eureka I got out my pearls and white gloves and dusted off the baby buggy to become Octo Mom for the night. It was a blast walking around with the lit up carriage full of preserved baby octopi.

The mix of responses was interesting, some people were fascinated and some disgusted and shocked. One woman almost threw up when she realized there were dead sea creatures in the buggy and not an adorable baby. Here are some passersby investigating the mysterious bottles:

I met up with fellow artist Lauren Elizabeth Miller of the Artful Alias and we had a great time peddling our goods and trying to stay warm.

I plan to make this a regular monthly event when I'm not doing a show so look for me and the buggy each Arts Alive.
I also regularly sell baby octopi in my Etsy shop so check back often.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Show Recap

So at the December 2011 Arts Alive in Old Town Eureka I had the reception for my solo show "Half Embalmed," which was a blast.

The lovely Courtney Jaxon at Little Shop of Hers was kind enough to let me show my dead things in her vintage shop, which I highly recommend to anyone looking for great deals on good quality vintage clothing and accessories. Here's my obligatory "posing with my work" photo:

The pieces that really stole the show were Grandpa Squirrel and The Funeral Parlor. Grandpa Squirrel immediately sold and is now living a happy retirement with the lead singer of the band Drifter Killer.

It was a great experience and I think the show really got the community thinking more about taxidermy as a creative art form.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rat Doll

I've started making dolls with animal parts. Here is "Loleta":

Parakeet Project Part 2

The owner of the parakeets wanted tail feather hair fascinators to remember her birds by, but she wanted to bury the rest of the remains. I made her custom coffins for the tiny birds and wrapped the remains in lace.

The fascinators next to the open coffins:

We had a funeral for the Parakeets and buried them in a friend's personal pet cemetery, full of fish, birds, and Pugs.
Here is Chloey, the parakeet owner, at the graves, along with some other photos of the graves.