Viewing Posts Tagged with     //    taxidermy

Reptiles, oh my!

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March, thus far, has been the month of reptile friends at Sisal & Tow.

We had the pleasure of creating a custom rattlesnake skin belt for a local client here in Charleston. We were given the skin, which we then tanned and hand sewed to our leather before adding the hardware. Looks so good, we were almost tempted to keep it for ourselves!IMG_0996

Our next reptile friends, came in the form of four turtle shells that needed a little help. We cleaned them up, got them looking so fresh and so clean, and then created custom mounts for the client to display them in their home.

turtles before webturtle after turtle mount web

And for good measure:  Turtles

unsolicited advice

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Once and a while, I get emails from people who are interested in starting their own businesses, asking how I knew when to “take the plunge” and how I got to where I am. The truth is, I’m still getting to where I’m going. However, I never refuse the opportunity to recall my path and remember my roots – it’s very revealing.

I figured I might as well post one of my most recent answers, edited a bit for the internet. I hope it does not come across as anything but an offering of unsolicited advice, and a place for me to put my story.

“I would be happy to tell you my story, which hopefully will be inspiring or helpful to you at your crossroads.

I feel lucky that I knew my calling from a young age. I was painting since I was able to hold a paintbrush.
I never liked school- math, science – I was so frustrated by it. I loved art. It’s where I felt most at home. In 10th grade, with my parent’s support, I switched from public to private school in order to take more art classes.

I applied to 4 art schools, and ended up going to the Rhode Island School of Design. I majored in Illustration but did mostly 3-d work. My teachers suggested I learn how to do taxidermy as I was very drawn to natural history, medical illustrations, magical realism, the macabre.
Per their advice, I went to taxidermy school. Took a risk, I guess- 6 weeks in the middle of Missouri, alone, studying this weird art. But I felt it calling so I answered it.

In 2009 after graduating I moved to NYC, worked at a natural history store and interned at the American Museum of Natural History. I worked so hard, and so long, I was the first to arrive and the last to leave. I was probably that annoying girl. You know the one. They hired me, finally, and I quit the retail. I worked there on and off (in the”off” I had other taxing but exciting jobs, like working for a metalsmith) and gave it my all but decided that the lifestyle wasn’t for me… NYC was too hard, too grating and generally intense. I was tired of getting pushed around. As a Gemini I wanted to do the pushing. I was in need of a change, so I took another chance and moved to Charleston.

Charleston has been very nurturing for me, but I can’t say it was easy to get into the scene here at first. I met anyone who would talk to me. I said yes to EVERYTHING. I babysat, taught private art lessons, worked restaurants, silly freelance gigs, and then went around to everywhere that was even “close” to the museum of natural history (i.e. the SC Aquarium) I gave my resume and website and said hello to anyone who would see me. Then I landed a few solid volunteer opportunities and then jobs that were in the realm of what I wanted to do. In the down-time between those neat jobs I thought, why not do this myself? I officially quit my retail job. Oddly enough, around that time, my Grandmother passed away and left me a bit of money, so I felt better about quitting the daily 9-5. It was a double edged sword for sure. I have spoken to a lot of people in this boat who don’t have a grandmother giving them any supplemental funding, and it’s tricky. There’s no “good time” to quit your day job. I am lucky to have had her support.

I love my job so much, but each day is a challenge, and to be completely honest, I’m not totally sure what the future holds for me. I don’t mean to sound negative, it’s quite the opposite. I’m SWAMPED with work and the business is starting to be incredible and overwhelming, but I have to constantly remind myself to look at reports and actually see if I’m being realistic. That being said, I pay my bills andI’m living a decent life… So, I plan on aiming for world domination. Just kidding. I would never want anything that leaves my studio to not be touched by me. I would love to continue to grow, but there is a limit.

So, long story not so short, I said YES a lot, even when I was scared, and I took a lot of chances, I stayed positive (and continue to try to) and tried to remain neutral about the outcome of it all. Nobody is born an expert on anything so I try to give myself time to adjust, learn, and reason. ALSO, I was friendly to EVERYONE. Even if they sucked. You have to be, because you just don’t know who might hire you in the future, or ask you for a favor, or maybe you’ll ask them for a favor… you know. Karma’s a bitch.

Anyway, in terms of a craft, or taxidermy included, any craft is what you make it. It’s about how much work you put into it. My advice there would be to create a brand if you need to, but DON’T OBSESS over it. It’s not about your BRAND, it’s about the WORK you put out. The work should speak for itself. You should be more concerned about the details of your product instead of how many instagram followers you have. All of that social media stuff is fabulous, and important, a great marketing and branding tool – but the actual work… how long you took to make it, how you re-did the parts that lacked finesse… that’s the stuff that’s going to make your work stand out. Anybody can make a zipper pouch, but are you PROUD of YOUR zipper pouch? What makes it worth what you’re charging for it?

I think it’s just about being positive and a dreamer but also being realistic and level-headed. I’m still on the dreamer side of things at the moment, but for example, just took on a huge job renovating the Natural History Gallery at the Charleston Museum, so that’s keeping us going while we take on more and more smaller jobs, getting the brand solid and getting our work in the world.
Be true to yourself, listen to your heart, go with your gut, and you won’t go wrong. Or, at least, that’s how I see it. Sometimes you’re not going to land that big job, and sometimes you’ll land it when you’re not ready for it and you’ll have to make it work.

Fall Update

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IMG_9795My apologies for the radio silence, we have been so busy here at Sisal & Tow, including organizing the studio with Heather Powers!

Our latest news is our newest addition, Courtney! She moved here from Texas to work with me and so far we have had two very productive months.

We finished articulating a bulldog skeleton and we created a custom wall hanging for Sea Change PR in Mount Pleasant. We are also working on a unique installation for The Ordinary, as well as the 3-d model for the Charleston Museum’s Natural History Gallery renovation.

We finished up some cool stuff for the Miccosukee Tribe in Florida as well.

On Halloween we had a popup at The Beacon hair salon, and we want to thank everyone for coming out to look at insect boxes, temporary tattoos and prints of drawings!





Thanks for reading, and more updates soon!

Rufous, The Stuff of Life

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Rufous: the Stuff of Life was a huge success- a huge, heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out to support us!


Things that are exciting, and happening now are:

-Custom Cloches and Taxidermy for the Spectator Hotel


-Set design and fabrication for a local film company… another collaboration with Finkelstein’s Center!

-Custom Wallpaper for a new hotel (more info later!)


-Custom wedding invitations… the beginning!


-And perhaps a major renovation for a local museum (more info later, too!)

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

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The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Florida (Seminole Tribe!) has commissioned a snapping turtle, longnose garfish, white catfish, deer meat pile, and fire pit.

Here are some photos of the snapping turtle – ready to ship to the museum.

turtle model, turtle, sisal and tow, becca barnet, model making, animal model IMG_2487 IMG_2489

One of Many, Charleston by Wesley Verhoeve

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Please read this beautiful compilation of Charleston Creatives by the hard-working and talented Wesley Verhoeve. He’s amazing!

I am honored to be included in this list. 




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I’m teaching at Redux this week and the kids are already making beautiful work.

This class is called “Patterns in Nature” and next week is affectionately referred to as “All About Bugs!”

I have taken July as a little lighter of a work-month, but there are still exciting things happening at Sisal & Tow.

For example, Rick Rhodes Photography is going to be making nice prints of my mechanical pencil drawings, so keep an eye out for those, coming soon to the bigcartel shop.

photo 1 photo 2

Refreshed/50 Most Progressive

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I just got back from a short but inspiring trip to NYC, and I am back in the studio. I got to hang out with friends, eat a lot of food, meet the talented and sweet Ariele Alasko and Amelie Mancini. And of course, Mazie. It was a good birthday, and a nice break from work.

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 11.08.47 AMBUT NOW WE’RE BACK!

This week includes finishing touches for Indigo & Cotton work, making four MORE antler plaques for Garden & Gun, a few more insect boxes, finally installing the custom chandelier for Xiao Bao Biscuit, and beginning the life-sized goat mount for Tara and Leighton.

I also want to shout from the rooftops that I have been featured as one of Charlie Magazine’s 50 Most Progressive. 

Thanks to Sully Sullivan for a fun photo shoot! 50MP_2014_BeccaBarnett_A_fixed 50MP_2014_BeccaBarnett_B_fixed 50MP_2014_BeccaBarnett_C_fixed 50MP_2014_BeccaBarnett_D_fixed

Roosters for Belcampo Meat Co.

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Last month, I was approached by The Belcampo Meat Co. to taxidermy 60 roosters for their new restaurants in California. We’ve lowered the number a bit since then, but there are now 10 roosters completed and 10 more on the way… for now! All 10 are ready to ship, they just aren’t drying that quickly because it’s so humid here in Charleston.

I have really enjoyed pumping out these good looking birds. They were sourced from a nice man named Jason from the Midwest, who would have had to kill them eventually. I try to be as ethical as possible in my animal sourcing. Apparently with roosters, they stop being good to have around and they stop being good to eat (who knew?) the older they get. This way, they get to be young and beautiful forever! (Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.)

The cock jokes around here are totally endless.

Some progress photos below, and more final photos to come later. Hopefully I can take a trip out to Oakland to see them in their final places sometime this year!

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Sisal & Tow for Indigo & Cotton

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I am thrilled to announce that I have created a new series of work to be sold and displayed exclusively at Indigo & Cotton.

When I moved here I remember thinking that I&C was the coolest local store around. Well curated, beautiful yet modest inside and out… so I’m very honored to have been asked to do this!

Prices of these works will range from $150-$400 and include taxidermy, preserved insects, large glass domes of wonder, and detailed drawings in beautiful vintage frames. (Some of the frames were collected and created by Brett Carron, the owner of Indigo & Cotton.)

I’ve enjoyed working on these pieces because they are things I’ve been wanting to make for a long time, and are on a smaller scale than I’ve been working with lately. It’s been refreshing to make work that is from my brain, specifically for a client with a beautiful space and a great aesthetic.

The opening is scheduled for later in July, and I will share more info about that on Instagram. (@beccabarnet)

Below are some progress photos.

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