Get while the gettin’s good

Whelp, that’s the last of em.


I love the way these bad boys look, and making them is kinda fun. But you’re looking at the last of the barrettes I’m planning on doing. Why? Because barrettes are a hard sell. Most women don’t really like to bother with their hair and most men, sadly, don’t wear hats or if they do, fancy hat bling is too fabulous for them. More’s the pity. The ATS (American Tribal Style, for those of us not familiar with the belly dance scene) crowd goes for wacky hair bling, but it’s a niche market, and I don’t currently do any belly dance conventions. Which is not to say I can’t. But making tribal accessories is really time consuming, you kind of have to devote yourself to it, and there are already plenty of awesome options available. I made clockwork barrettes because I have crafty ADD and thought, “Hey! Here’s something I can do with all this stuff”. And they mostly just sit around my lab not moving. So I’m done. There are plenty more things I can do with clock parts after all. If you’ve been saying to yourself, “Gosh, I just really need one of those crazy hat pins for my very own” but haven’t had the moxie to go for it, you best do it now, cuz once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

Oh, I lie. You can still custom order anything you like. But these very ones will be gone forever. So git you some.


Yes, even I have a life

I know, you totally missed me. I’d have been busy in the lab but for helping friends move, so that’s why my extremely charming self hasn’t been around the net this week.

But I still managed to get a few things done and posted to my Etsy page…

This is what I’ve been working on lately.


They’re mini mobiles. Much more financially rewarding (potentially) than mini nichos, because I can make more of them in less time, and the materials don’t need long stretches to dry. It’s also a good way to use up leftovers. I’m not huge on symmetry. Because I’m more than a little obsessive compulsive, I get insane trying to make things match. Which is, in no small part, why I’m drawn to making folk art and recycled collages. It is nearly impossible to make these things symmetrical, and I get to practice being ok with that. It’s therapeutic, actually. But the nature of recycled materials is such that you can’t hardly ever find matching bits, so the nice thing about these mini mobiles is that I don’t have to try to balance them like I do with the bigger ones.


That is a rib bone. Buffalo, I’m pretty sure. Rib bones don’t have a centrally located balance point. It’s off towards the thicker end, which makes for a pain in da butt when you’re building a parts is parts mobile out of one. Do you know how hard it is to find silverware of equal weight? Well, I guess it’s not hard at all when you’ve got a matching set, but that’s not how we roll here in my lab. Eh, I like the way it came out. It’s a big, impressive mobile, and I’m hoping someone at Art in the Park falls in love with it, because, like Cernnunos, I don’t even want to contemplate trying to ship that sucker.

Got a necklace done too.


Should I be doing leather work? Yes. Is that what my brain is spitting out? Nope. My brain is telling me to use up all these odds and ends of things that should be mobiles and jewelry and barrettes, apparently.


Waddaya want from me? My muse has ADD. I have every good intention to get some leather work done before the show. I do. Just you wait. In the mean time, go get those Santa Muerte nichos you know you want, because I’ve already sold 3 of them since I posted them and I think there’s only one left, and I have no idea if I’ll get more done any time in the next month or two.


Is it just me?

Or does everyone find even the thought of government websites intimidating?

I have applied for and received my EIN number. Which was not actually complicated or confusing but for one little part, which their “help” buttons quickly got me past.

Yesterday I had my appointment with the SCORE mentor. He was extremely informative, and made it clear that as a sole proprietor I didn’t have a whole lot to do. One of the things he said was that I did, in fact, want an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. An EIN is how the IRS (with the acronyms already!) identifies my business. I can use my SSN for this. Many people do. But the mentor pointed out that the EIN gets used for lots of things besides filing taxes, and did I want to hand my SSN over to anyone that needed my EIN. Fair point. The getting of the EIN is free and takes less than five minutes.

The next thing he told me to do is to go open a business account and get a credit card for my business. This is for bookkeeping purposes. He told me about the time his accountant said to him “These guys just hand me huge bags of receipts. If they want to pay me $75 an hour to have my ten year old put them in piles, god bless em.” I’m paraphrasing.

Point being, if I have a credit card I use for only business related things, my monthly statement is my bookkeeping. Makes doing the taxes infinitely simpler. Also, the business account keeps everything separate and square. Again, for bookkeeping purposes. And it looks less shady if the IRS, FSM forbid, ever wants to take a look at what I’m doing if my business and personal accounts are separate. Will they ever? Probably not. But it’s best to be above board from the get go anyway.

Then I gotta give a holler to the Secretary of State. While I’m busy googling things and not finding squat that’s useful, he says I could just call and ask for their tax kit, which is a couple of forms and envelopes and I’m done. I’m all, “I can call?”. There are people that answer the phone? Are you kidding me? In this day of automated customer service, (remind me to tell you about the 15 FREAKIN MINUTES I spent with an automated system trying to get a credit report one time, when it would have taken less than five for me to tell a human what I needed) it didn’t even occur to me that there would be some helpful person actually waiting to talk to me and tell me what to do. I don’t know this for a fact yet, as I haven’t called. That’s later today, or possibly tomorrow. But Sir Mentor was pretty convinced there would be humans to talk to that would help me out.

Ok, so…That’s County Clerk informed, newspaper paid and notice running, EIN acquired. Need to…open bank account and call Secretary of State. Say, that’s not too bad. Well, talk to me again when all this quarterly filing business starts. I can easily comprehend quantum theory, but don’t ask me to do basic math. I went through 3 semesters in college and not only couldn’t tell you how I managed to pass, but also couldn’t tell you what I learned. I don’t remember a bit of it. Well, I remember the word “asymptote”, but don’t ask me what one is.

So this is the nitty gritty of being a legitimate business, huh. Well, tedious for sure, but so far not horribly complicated. Again, talk to me when I have to remember to file taxes every three months. I wonder if I can set an alarm on my phone…?

Where magpies shop

If you’re gonna work in biological material, you’ve got to know where to shop. Now, if you’ve got money, you can look on line. There are gazillions of fine taxidermists and museum supply houses out there with all the bones and claws and such you could ever want. Problem is, they have to pay their bills too. Even small skulls of fairly common animals can be on the pricey side.

Now, I absolutely buy on line if I have needs not met through the usual channels. You’d be amazed what you can find on Ebay and Etsy. No really… And when I have the bucks, or need something specific, I’ll go that route if possible. But in general, you can find tons of great biologicals for free or very cheap by just knowing where and how to look.

Junk shops, estate sales, and church rummage sales for example. Everyone had a grampaw who had a rack of antlers or a stuffed fish in his house. Maybe even some nice mounted pieces. Those things generally end up donated or thrown out when grampaw passes because most people find stuff like that creepy. Hah, foolish mortals. I should have a bumper sticker that says “I break for taxidermy!”. I’ve never been to a rummage sale or a junk shop that didn’t have at least one pelt somewhere, and usually an antler or two. Never pay asking price either. Rummage sales are fine because not much is over a couple of dollars. But elsewhere you might want to haggle a bit. They’ll usually take it down some because they didn’t pay much for it unless it’s unusual.

If you want to go 100% free, you’ll have to do some walk about, keep your eyes peeled, be extremely patient, and be willing to work with what you find.

You want deer antlers? Wander around woods populated by deer anywhere from mid December to late April. That’s when most deer shed their antlers. You’ve got to be vigilant though, because they’re true bone (not keratin like horns are) they’re rich in calcium and little critters will chew on them. Getting a matched set will be a trick though. Most deer don’t drop them at the same time, so unless you’re going to track that sucker, you’ll have to be content with just one. Unless it’s a small patch of woods with a small deer population and you go wandering frequently. Important note though. Antlers and horns are different things. Antlers are bone outgrowths that are shed every season. Horns are made of a substance similar to our fingernails and while they grow every season the animal wearing them is alive, they’re never shed. So if you live in goat or sheep country, don’t bother. Those suckers aren’t going to fall off.

You want feathers? Eyes on the ground around mid summer. Particularly under good roosting trees. Molting, that is, the shedding of old feathers and growing of new, takes a lot of energy from a bird. So they tend to do it after nesting and before migration.  When they’re not expending a lot of energy feeding chicks or flying thousands of miles. Times vary by species and region, but in general, June through August is a good time to scout for dropped feathers. Be forewarned, many birds are protected and you will get into serious shit if you’re caught with their plumage. Even if all you did was pick it up off the ground. I stay away from raptors for this reason. I can’t tell you how much it pains me to pass by a road killed hawk or owl feathers under a tree where one’s been nesting. But I do. All raptors are big time protected. You know you’re not doing them any harm, just recycling things they don’t need anymore, but Johnny Law doesn’t, and will slap you with a fine and possibly jail time.

And my favorite, bones. Ah…this is where things get messy. Stuff dies all the time. Often in small, protected places if it has a choice. If you don’t mind crawling under houses, you may find quite a bit of dead stuff. When I was living in New Orleans it was great. There is almost sure to be a skeletonized cat under any given house. Houses on piers plus huge feral cat population equals dead cats under houses. But also live ones, sometimes with kittens, what will get very cranky with you if you disturb their chi, so watch it. That is, if you’ve got the wherewithal to go crawling under houses in the Big Sleazy to begin with. An activity not for the faint of heart, I assure you. And of course, there’s the old standby, roadkill.

In a perfect world, it will be a skeleton when you find it and your work is done. That doesn’t always happen though. More often than not what you find will be in some stage of decomposition. When you find something that’s dead and you want its skeleton, there are a couple of ways to go about acquiring it, but all require patience, a strong stomach, and the ability to suffer through strangers giving you the stink eye. Remind me to tell you about the guy who caught me by the side of a highway in Oklahoma poking a dead antelope with a stick (I was trying to see how juicy it was) sometime.

Firstly, you can go the lazy route. Shallow grave. Bury your corpse deep enough to discourage scavengers, but shallow enough to allow blowflies to lay their eggs. A foot or so for small animals is usually fine unless you’ve got a coyote population to contend with. I haven’t found anything short of a cairn that will keep coyotes away from stinky meat though, so go forth and build your pile of rocks if you’re that motivated. The advantage to burial is twofold; the bones stay tidily in one place, and no need for degreasing after they’ve been defleshed. You wait long enough, the critters and microbes in the soil will peel every last molecule of fat and juice from that corpse and all you have to do is give it a thorough scrub with some Dawn and you’re ready to rock. The down side is figuring out what “long enough” is. In high summer, I give it three weeks before I check on it. You heard me. I said check on it. The colder it is, the longer it takes. You may have to dig ‘er up a few times to see what’s cookin’. If you’re squeamish, I don’t recommend this method. Though come to think of it, if you’re squeamish you probably shouldn’t be playing around with decomp in the first place. Just sayin’.

Then there’s the above ground method. Much faster than a burial, because it gives all carrion feeding insects full access and you can see how things are going. The down side is that the bones can get scattered by scavenger activity, and it tends to have a noticeable…aroma. You can put a milk crate weighed down with a big rock or cinder block over it, but there might still be some loss of smaller bones. Sometimes, as in the case with a large animal, above ground is really your only option. Unless you own a backhoe and want to go digging a shallow grave for a horse or deer or what have you. If you’re in to that, be my guest. The rest of us will just have to try and locate this decomp as far from our living situations as possible, and try to get a milk crate over any part you want to protect from being carried off. Heads and extremities disappear fastest, because they’re the easiest to detach. Icky as this sounds, if you really, really want that large mammal (or gator, I don’t know where you’re at after all) skull, I suggest you take a machete and lop that sucker off so you can either bury it or protect it by milk crating it or hanging it from a tree branch.

If you have the room and inclination, there’s the defleshing option that taxidermists and museum preparers like. Beetles. Dermestidae, commonly known as carpet or hide beetles, in their larval stage, feed on, well, hide. They prefer it dried, but will eat it fresh too. They’ll eat everything, leaving you with a fairly clean skeleton. Clean of gooey bits, that is. You’ve got to do some work after the beetles are done. This involves a solution of hydrogen peroxide and a lot of soapy water. It’s quite a process, but leaves you with beautiful specimens that are suitable for display or as teaching tools. The down side is the post beetle fest degreasing, which can be somewhat gross and time consuming. And the beetle colony stinks. I know some folks with colonies, and they locate them in barns and sheds. Outdoors, away from the living quarters. It’s not just their food that stinks, which it does. The cleaning doesn’t happen overnight after all, and meat left lying around gets wiffy. But the beetles themselves are smelly creatures. Many insect colonies are, in fact. Get near the cricket tank at your local pet store and you’ll see what I mean.

Bone scavenging sounds like a lotta gross, and it is I guess. But you’d be surprised how quickly it ceases to be. Pretty soon you’ll be blithely troweling dirt away from a shallow grave to check on your roadkill like a pro. The reward is in all the critter skulls you’ll have for your art projects that you didn’t have to pay for, and the knowledge that you saved some under appreciated streets and sanitation worker the onerous task of clearing that raccoon off the street. Craft supplies and altruism. Win.


I’ve decided to call it…It Caaaame from the Attic. With spooky voice. Just think Vincent Price.


I have also decided, that if Martha Stewart can have a home decor collection, so can I. It’s my What is Wrong With These People? home decor collection. This…


is also in it. Along with the next mobile I make, which will involve a prehistoric buffalo rib bone, and what I do with the rest of little baby Pubert. Of course I have plans for his body. I just need a goat skull. Workin’ on it.

I’m having a ball making mobiles. I’d never made one before the baby arm one. But I’m hooked now, y’all. There will be more where these came from. That might not be good news to the average Joe, I recognize. I’m just catering to the folks out there who like their tchotchkes to scare the neighborhood kids off their lawns. I know I’m not the only one out there. Otherwise there wouldn’t be such a market for wet specimens like eels in jars. It’s criminal what they want for a set of those.

Anyway, there will be another nicho up either tomorrow, or as soon as I get enough sun to photograph, along with another barrette/hat pin or two. I haven’t made head gear in a minute, but I’m finding all the half finished projects in my lab and finishing them so I can take everything to Art in the Park in May. Which if you’re in the neighborhood of Elmhurst, IL you should attend. I’ll post full details as time gets closer.

Happy Friday y’all!

Inch by inch

Now the truly tedious process of becoming an honest to FSM bidness begins.

I have sent away to the county clerk’s office my intent to do business under an assumed name. Which, for those of you not savvy to these things (like I wasn’t, oh, maybe three weeks ago) , means you will officially exist as an entity other than yourself. You have to do this if you want your business name to be anything other than your actual name. Not, Your Name plus Art, or Your Name plus Carpentry. Because your last name isn’t Carpentry. It may be Carpenter, in which case consider not bothering if that’s your name and you work in the trades. But the rest of us need to tell our local government that we’re gonna be doing this.

So I did. Now that I have my intent recognized, the next step is to post notice in a local paper for three weeks. I assume this is to give anyone who cares a chance to make a stink. Maybe someone else is already using my business name, for example. Though you’d think the county clerk would have that sort of thing written down. Eh, beats me how the wheels of industry turn.

When that’s run for the allotted time, I get a paper from the paper saying I did what I was supposed to, which I send back to the county clerk, whereupon they send me yet another paper saying, “Ok, go forth and join the bourgeoisie”.

Next week I have a meeting with a mentor to discuss what exactly I need to do for the IRS and local tax agencies in order to not be hassled. Because I have no earthly idea what sorts of permits I need to apply for. Googling the information leads to a great deal more confusion than it’s worth, if you ask me. I found sites saying I needed a FEIN, and ones that said I didn’t. I found sites saying I needed a local sales tax permit and ones that said because I do one off craft shows rather than regularly collecting IL state sales tax like you would in a brick and mortar shop, I don’t need an IL tax license, but a temporary permit. I know I will have to file more often than your wage slave has to, but I don’t know how much more. Practical stuff that’s on the internet somewhere, but not in any cohesive or comprehensible format that I’ve found.

So I made use of a fantastic resource that a lot of people might not know about. I certainly didn’t, till a wonderful friend who is a librarian, business owner, professor, and all around knowledgeable guy told me about it.

It’s called SCORE. It used to stand for Service Corps of Retired Executives, but they don’t really use that anymore. It’s just called Score now. It’s through the SBA, and it provides free mentoring for small business owners from retired professionals in all sorts of fields. I just filled out their email request for mentoring with a brief description of what sort of business I had, and they set me up with an appointment at a local library to talk to this person and get all the advice I need. FREE, y’all. Just folks helping folks. Which is pretty bloody awesome in this day and age.

Once that’s done, I have to go to whatever various agencies I have to go to (by “go” I mean their websites) and apply for whatever various permits I have to apply for. Though this should actually be relatively quick and free. I can apply on line and have the application processed either immediately or within a day or two, and it’s usually free. Presumably because they’ll get their pound of flesh from you later. Damn the man.

Convoluted, innit. Which is why it’s taken me this long to get legit. That and nobody is gonna audit you for the paltry sums I’ve been making. And by paltry, I mean pathetic. But real art shows means real art show money (fingers crossed), and while it may still not cross the need to file/ don’t need to file line, I’ll still be working in my home state, and they’ll want their sales tax. So far it’s all been on line with out of state customers, or in a neighboring state.

Ooof, so that’s my week. What’r y’all doin’?

It’s in the details

It’s my birthday today. I don’t make a big deal out of my birthday. In fact, until two or three days ago I’d forgotten it was even this week. I mean, I was aware I turned another year older this month, but beyond that hadn’t given it any real space in my brain.

So the mellowness of an evening at the best burger joint in these parts, Hamburger Mary’s on Clark street, with my bestie and my sweetie sucking down a half pound of grass fed Angus and sweet potato fries was absolutely perfect.

Also perfect, were my gifties. Only people who know you really well know what kind of weird stuff will rock your world.  These are the same guys who got me an Israeli gas mask and a stunningly realistic (came from one of the best movie prop houses out there, Dapper Cadaver, go there… fetus in a specimen jar.

This came from my sweetie.


It’s from West Africa. The mask describes a coming of age ritual. I have a long standing fascination with masks and the rituals in which masking is used. I’m drawn both to the things hidden by them, and the deeper truths they reveal when concealment of the identity allows a greater freedom of expression. In some cultures, masks are representative of living gods. They’re bathed and fed. They’re kept in sacred huts and no one but those initiated into the ritual society is allowed to touch, or sometimes even see them. Masks are used to drive away evil, draw down the spirits, or call the ancestors. Practically every culture has a masking tradition. Look far enough back at Mardi Gras, and you find it deeply rooted in ancient belief systems. Catholicism is just it’s current wardrobe.

And my bestie found this for me.


That. Is a crocheted squid purse. Yep. How awesome?? It’s awesome because I have this pet theory that my brain…not the squishy, silly putty colored thing in my head, but the electrical part…that it’s a polydimensional cephalopod. So I’m kind of obsessed with squids, octopi, and cuttlefish. Not because of Lovecraft like every other self respecting goth. Nope. I think my brain is a quantum squid. It would make tons more sense if you knew me in person. Maybe years from now, when you’ve read a gazillion posts, you will suddenly go, “Ah! Now I get it.” If this lasts for years. I should be so lucky. In my perfect world, I’m the Bloggess ( of crafty things. How great would that be? Well, maybe you wouldn’t think it’s great, but I sure would. That woman is hilarious, and my hero, and if I could be a crafty, arty Bloggess that would be rad. She would probably get the quantum squid brain theory straight away, because she’s that cool. Anyone who gets why creepy taxidermy is worth collecting simply must instinctively grasp the quantum squid brain theory. You guys are cool too, but there can be only one Bloggess. Someday I may even learn to make links, so I don’t have to put the web addresses in parentheses when I talk about awesome stuff you should check out.

I’m off track here. My point is, the two guys who know me best got me totally relevant art for my birthday, and that it’s great to have friends that know you. The you you, not the you they think you are because they’re not really paying attention to you. Ya know what I mean?