Some of you may not be comfortable with the topic of this post. It is a humorous post about the use of real animal parts from a taxidermist. If you aren’t interested, please click away to a different post! 🙂
This all started over a year ago, when I walked into a quirky Portland shop and saw mounted squirrel and mouse heads on the wall. They were stuffed and displayed just like a trophy animal. You’ve got your deer head, your mountain goat head, your mouse head… I thought it was totally hilarious. I laughed out loud right there in the shop. I would have purchased one of them, except that they had crazy high price tags of $150-$250 apiece!
My new brother, Tanner, and his family, are all hunters. They take antelope, bear, fish, deer, elk, ducks, geese – they hunt it all and eat it. I get lucky sometimes and they bring me some of the wild meat, which I love. If they kill an animal with a particularly nice look, they will have it professionally mounted by a taxidermist, and then it goes up on a wall in their home. I thought one of those tiny, hilarious mounted squirrel heads would be the perfect gift for any of them, but I was not willing to spend hundreds of dollars.
One day, during what-to-give-for-Christmas thoughts, I typed some search words into Etsy (the DIY marketplace) and found somebody selling honest to goodness stuffed squirrel heads. A pack of four for $25. I couldn’t believe it. I ordered them. I typically only get gifts for their kids, my niece and nephew, but since there would be 4 heads I might as well make one for each of them. Then I went to the local craft store and bought some small wooden plaques that I thought would be a good size, and used stain and finishes I already had on hand to make them look nice. (It’s not a coincidence that they ended up being the same finish as my kitchen cabinets…)
The squirrel heads arrived in the mail, and I was tickled beyond reason. I giggled for hours while I got ready to make them into gifts. Racecar became very interested.
When I held up a squirrel head to a mounting board, I decided it would not do. The plaque seemed too empty. I wanted to add things, like decoration. My first idea was hats. I went back to Etsy, looking for tiny hats. My idea was to find themed hats to match the personalities of my family members.
Etsy has everything. There were tiny hats. I thought I’d get a black top hat for my niece Bruce, and decorate it like a steampunk hat. I found a top hat with a skull, and tiny clocks and gears for steampunk stuff. And I found a gardening sun hat for my sister-in-law Laurie, and some tiny flowers. And a watering can. And suddenly I was in an Etsy shopping frenzy, buying tiny burgers and a tiny spatula to go with the tiny chef hat, and a tiny fishing pole to go with the tiny fishing hat.
As the Etsy orders began arriving in the mail, from crafters of teeny tiny things all over the country, I began collecting the items and imagining how it would all fit together.
I glued inside the chef’s hat and the gardening hat, to give them the shape that I liked. The hats are made of felt, so I needed a thick glue. But for the tiny items glued right to the board, I wanted a clear and tough glue, and used superglue for that. I also glued my fingers together while trying to stick teeny tiny items to a small wooden plaque. That was inevitable.
The Etsy vendor who sold me the heads sold them as “wonky squirrel heads,” because each one is slightly distorted and missing a nose and mouth. I think this makes them especially funny.
For the Steampunk Squirrel, I found some neat metal pieces at a bead vendor. That vendor was also selling some cool creepy bird skulls and some bats, so naturally I had to get those. They also sold some fire extinguishers that I thought might be needed for the Barbecue Squirrel. I found some fish beads and chicken beads as well. Ah, if only that innocent bead vendor knew what I was doing with her beads.
The BBQ Squirrel was the hardest because of the lack of cool tiny things for sale. I really really wanted to add a tiny grill, and I found one. I found two actually, but they were expensive, and also I was afraid they would stick out farther than the head itself, which would ruin the look of the whole plaque. I also found an excellent-looking fat raw steak, all ready to be cooked, for $20, which was outside my budget, though it would have been perfect. Etsy vendors often throw in extras for free, just because that is what they do, and I was delighted with all the special extras. In this one, the candy canes and the Fritos were extra freebies. Remember the earrings from Steampunk Squirrel? I had lots of extra rings, so I built a chain to hold the fire extinguishers, and those will swing around on their chain here.
I wish I could show you all the fishing rod, which is a mastery of tiny craft work. It actually telescopes. It has real fishing line that really winds around the reel when you turn the crank. I glued a tiny bead fish to the hook at the end of the line, which in this photo is lying across the top of the net.
Those are all the photos I have. I think these turned out marvelous. I admit I was chuckling to myself the entire time I worked on these gifts. I still have a spare squirrel head that I don’t know what to do with. I also have lots of extra metal beads because it’s hard to buy a single tiny bead, so several of the things I bought came in a packet of ten or twenty. Also, I have extra beads that were gifted to me by the Etsy vendors. I have enough stuff to start my own Etsy shop maybe, haha.
Tanner sent me a message when they opened their Christmas gifts. “Laurie was the first to open hers,” he said. “She laughed for quite a while before she showed us.” He says they are thinking about hanging them in the hallway. He also said their dogs agree that they are real squirrel heads.