Meoooow // my latest skull - The Dainty Squid

Meoooow // my latest skull

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I know I've mentioned I collect skulls and even briefly shared my collection in my cabinet of curiosities post but I've abstained from posting anything in depth about them. I did this out of fear that it would weird some people out but 2014 is the year I quit worrying that posts about my more offbeat interests won't appeal to everyone. It took a lot of time and practice to get my skull cleaning methods perfected (well...they're not absolutely perfect but you know what I mean) and I'm super proud of the work I do.

My latest skull, which I finished cleaning last week, is easily one of my favorites. My dad brought me home a deceased cat from his work. It was a barn cat from 2012 litter who for unknown reasons died.

I work on skulls at my parents house since they live in the middle of nowhere on a nice chunk of property instead of at my house where the smell would most likely cause concern from my neighbors. I started cleaning this beauty back in the fall, got the bulk of the work done and left it to macerate. Freezing weather is the worst time to try and let something macerate because it simply doesn't work so I brought the skull back to my house to work on it. Checking on it every few weeks, I was getting discouraged at how long it was taking but to my surprise the last time I checked on it it was nearly finished I just had to pick off some small pieces of tissue and give her a quick soak in peroxide to whiten the bone. The finished skull is one of my nicest yet. I even managed to not lose any of the tiny teeth! Success!
 
 
Working on a cat wasn't as difficult as I had expected, perhaps because it didn't look like any of mine I was able to separate it from it really was. I'm not really sensitive to these types of things (although I normally can't eat yogurt, or hummus for a few weeks after cleaning a skull. Ick! That's neither here nor there) but I, as crazy as it sounds, don't really see cats as "animals". They're so much more. It's not like I'm morally conflicted on working on certain animals, I just had a feeling working on a cat would be harder for me than any other.
 
Great Dane skull vs. cat skull
Opossum, raccoon + cat. My three favorite animals!

I'm so excited about my new cat skull. Eventually I'd like to own a skull from just about every animal possible but a cat was near the top of my wishlist. It's been a while since I finished a skull (the last one was the pig back in July), I feel like my passion has been reignited.
xoxo

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86 thoughts

  1. Wow! It indeed looks amazing. I can imagine how proud you must feel. Sounds like quite a job to clean a skull. I think it's kinda cool actually. But then again, I once tried to "save" a bird skull (which of course didn't work, because I don't know how to).

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  2. Looks great! I like these kinds of posts because it's about something you enjoy. Always neat to see new things!

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  3. Dang, those opossum teeth are killer! Quite interesting seeing them all to scale. I think it's a neat hobby even if I'm not doing it. I look forward to more posts about your hobbies!

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    1. Right?! Did you know opossums have the most teeth out of any North American mammal. 50 of them!

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  4. Wow...I've never seen a cat skull! The eye sockets are so big!! Cool hobby!

    Ergo-Blog

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  5. I love that you clean the skulls down yourself. Skulls always look super cool but I would never buy them as I'm never 100% where they have come from! I dont want to buy from somewhere unethical and shitty. Doing your own is definitely the way to go.


    chloe
    www.bythelock.com

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  6. I have made it one of my goals to post more about the things that I like rather than what I think people want to see. It is so hard to post what you're really passionate about because I suppose if people criticise it then it feels more like they're criticising you. It is admirable that you're doing this and I for one and very excited to see more posts like this, as that was the reason why I followed in the first place!

    www.thepeppermintpencil.com

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  7. Don't feel bad about the neighbors.
    Once, I bleached the better part of a baby deer skeleton on the back porch. I don't know if the neighbors were weirded out or what, but they didn't say a thing.

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    1. The thing is maceration smells. It's flesh, muscle and all the good stuff rotting. Wanna know the smelliest part? BRAINS. I do all final, non-smelly, cleaning at my house but bringing the stinkiest part of the job home wouldn't be a good idea if you don't want your neighbors to hate you.

      Ps. You shouldn't bleach bones. It makes them brittle. :)

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  8. VERY cool. And I'm pretty sure all us readers know you have quirky hobbies, and that's WHY we follow you :) don't forget that!! we wanna see this kind of cool stuff!

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  9. I am very excited about this post! Please keep us updated on your cabinet of curiosities!

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  10. We worked on an animal skull for a group of friends, too. They have like a club-house, I don't know how to describe. .It was a lot of work and it took us so much time. But we managed to hang it up on a wood panel and carved our club-names and the date into the wood. It looks really neat over the entrance. :)

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  11. Wow it's beautiful! You did an amazing job at cleaning it up :) I'd love to collect skulls but I still live with my parents and siblings and they find it an odd hobby. Usually I have to justify my appreciation by talking about art, but to be honest I just love them for what they are. So far I have a fox skull which I display on my bookshelf and I can't wait to collect more :)

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  12. Wow, nice work! I currently have a bird in the maceration process. I made the mistake of waiting a few days before cutting it up and man, that was a mistake, the smell was horrible. I did NOT enjoy my spaghetti afterwards... It's my intention to preserve the whole skeleton and put it together again with gorilla glue. Crossing my fingers it'll work, 'cause the bones are TINY. And whereas I tend to get lightheaded when my vet has to take blood from my dog, preparing animal bones is not as awful/gross as it sounds. Except for the smell, then...

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    1. Are you in the US? What you're doing miiiight be illegal. Under the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 (ugh, nearly 100 years old. so dumb) it's illegal to have any part of a bird. There's a hefty list of birds protected and there are even heftier fines and possible jail time if you get caught.

      Just a heads up! ;)

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    2. Wait, I see you're in Europe. Disregard my previous comment. :)

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    3. It is? So if your cat catches a bird and kills it, you cannot keep and clean it for your collection? What a waste!

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    4. I know, here a lot of birds are forbidden too (except chickens, geese and domestic birds, I currently have a domestic parakeet, but again, the bones are soooo tiny, not sure if it'll work). A few weeks ago, a Eurasian woodcock flew against my friend's window and died. I asked a taxidermist if I could have it mounted, but he said it was strictly forbidden, because woodcocks are a protected species in my part of the country. I understand the reasoning behind it, but was sad to let such a beautiful animal go to waste.

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    5. Spiderwebz, yep! It's illegal to have any part of a bird, even a feather, no matter how you acquired it. It really is a ridiculous law.

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    6. Even a feather? That's insane! I wonder if we have anything like that in Canada..

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    7. Yep, there are similar laws in Canada. I don't think it applies to all birds, but certainly to any eagles, hawks, and owls, and any protected/endangered species. You're technically not even allowed to keep a bald eagle feather you find on the ground!

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    8. Are you kidding me? Well, excuse me while I go throw out all the feathers I've brought home to my cats over the years..

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  13. I find this really interesting, but I probably couldn't do it myself, so hats off to you girl :)

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  14. I work at the primate osteology lab at my university and besides primates we get to work on deer, bats, penguins, you name it! We do dissections and degrease bones and stuff like that. It's a place where I finally get to let my dead stuff geek flag fly. I even got to go out to a professor's sheep farm and dig through his compost for bones which I blogged about here: http://noellephant.blogspot.com/2013/11/pie-and-bones.html. Also, have you seen the YouTube channel The Brain Scoop: http://www.youtube.com/user/thebrainscoop?feature=watch. It's hosted by an awesome lady who is a taxidermist at the Chicago Field Museum and she films her processes! I think you'd love her. Thanks for being you. Don't stop posting about bones because some of us are secret bone lovers too.

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    1. Ughhhh! I am so jealous! I'd love to work on all those animals you named!

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    2. The coolest thing I did this year was dissect a pelican that had been dead for 40 years and kept in a freezer at a lab in Alaska before it was sent to our lab. It had 13 perfectly preserved fish in its belly, and one in its beak!

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  15. It looks lovely. I think it's wonderful that you're sharing all of your interests... it's your blog... you shouldn't have to worry about what others think of a hobby (well... unless it's an illegal hobby... then you'll probably have to worry about what the cops think of it XD)... bones and skulls have always fascinated me (and being an art major, I've had to draw enough of them in my time!) so thank you for sharing :)

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  16. You should paint them like mexican skulls Kaylah!

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  17. So awesome. Don't let other people make you think you're strange just for liking things that may creep them out - I am interested in ALL sorts of things that might be considered "odd" but to me, learning is learning and there is so much to see and do in this world I try not to discriminate. It's nice to know there are others out there like me :)

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  18. Very cool! I love seeing all the different skulls put together. My tattoo artist has a few and one of them is a platypus! I think he also has an ostrich skull too. Anyways, its even cooler that you clean them yourself. Sounds like its a lot of work but rewarding. I don't know if I'd be able to do cats or dogs but I am planning on doing that taxidermy class, sometime when it comes to Toronto and when I have money for it.

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  19. Very cool!! I don't think I could do this, I have this weird feeling toward bones. I want to like them but I get freaked out knowing that's all we are underneath. Ha! Anyway, awesome! I like the look of the cat skull and I like that you love your skulls and teeth and bones and cleaning them etc! Something I tell myself all the time "Don't let fear rule you."

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  20. I've been trying to start my own cabinet of curiosities but it's lacking so far. I have a cat skull a friend bought me (it's TINY!) and an octopus tentacle my boyfriend bought me (I got a lot of weird looks when family/coworkers asked when I got for my birthday and those were my answers). I hope to get into this as a hobby once I have a house and not a one bedroom apartment. Anyway, posts like this make me feel less weird, so keep them coming!

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  21. Judging from the previous comments, I think it's safe to say you're free to weird out as much as you want :) We love it! One of my tattoo artists also collects/cleans his own skulls. He often leaves his buried in the backyard for quite while first though. Super interesting hobby! And I'm also a big fan of Opossums :) Adorable!

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  22. This was SO interesting Kaylah. I am a fellow crazy-cat-lady so I was a bit worried this post would freak me out, but I'm so utterly in love with skulls and interested in the process of preparing skulls for visual purposes. I've just never taken the step to actually doing it. I need to work on that.

    Keep up the strange and unusual posts. I like them because I myself and strange and unusual.

    xx A

    Long time reader, working on being a better commenter.

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  23. Wow they're so beautiful! I love skulls. Please never stop posting things that you think might weird people out, they're the most interesting :3

    daisychainsforever.blogspot.co.uk

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  24. That's awesome! I'd love to have some skulls like that, but I don't think I could sort them myself! I got a bit queasy when doing dissections in a Biodiversity module!

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  25. So awesome! The kitty skull looks great. I'm curious as to where you found the information on how to clean the bones? It's something I've always wanted to do but never really pursued.

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    1. I looked around online for information but never really found anything I considered thorough enough for me. I guess I just taught myself, trial and error.

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  26. I'm so happy to get to read about the cleaning process more in-depth! I've never cleaned a skull before, but I would love to learn how. When I had to handle a black bear skull for my drawing project a few months ago, I noticed that it had an interesting organic smell about it. (It also had some loose teeth that kept falling out, hah!)

    It's also interesting to compare the skull of an animal with what it looks like in the flesh. The cat skull looks very alien (then again, most of them do!).

    Also, I sent you something in the mail on Monday, just giving you a heads up! (I also want to make sure it gets to you okay) :)

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  27. VERY cool! I've been wanting to get into cleaning skeletons and skulls, myself, as well as doing taxidermy. I became interested after reading Stiff because Mary Roach makes the important point at the beginning of the book that cadavers are just things. After that, I kind of became obsessed with preserved bodies.

    In short, I'd love to see more of what you do! That cat skull is really beautiful!

    Elyse @ Cuddly as a Cactus

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  28. More offbeat posts please :) This is all really fascinating. I was going to say that it would be good to have before and after/ progress photos but then again that might be too morbid for some people (not me but yknow, those of a nervous disposition!) x

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    1. Hey, you name it and I'll consider it! Let me know what you'd like to read about.
      :)

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  29. A beautiful book by Haruki Murakami- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World- explores skulls maintaining the memories and dreams of their life in the living world. A little different track that the books you post about reading, but I think you would enjoy it!

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  30. the contours of skulls are so exquisite; thanks for sharing!

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  31. That opossum skull is amazing! It looks so prehistoric. Nice job on the cat, it looks so clean!

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  32. Wow. That looks amazing! I was going to mention The Brain Scoop channel, but it looks like someone beat me to it! I'll agree by saying it is an awesome channel on YouTube.
    And I hope you never feel discouraged to share your interests! There's no telling who all will gush over it just like you. I mean, I don't collect and care for skulls, but that doesn't mean I don't think it's pretty darn cool!!

    ~~BE YOU,
    Shelby
    is Acquiring the Taste

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  33. What a pretty skull! I'd love a skull or two to add to my stuffed dead animal collection ;)

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  34. This is great! I have always wanted to get into this. I would think a cat skull would be difficult for me too but it looks to be worth it in the end!

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  35. When I was in Grade 5 I did a speech on Beavers for my class. My uncle gave me a beaver skull to use as a prop. My parents still have it and it's on display in their china/crystal cabinet!

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  36. I am SO SO excited about this post and I can't wait to see more like it! You did an amazing job Kaylah and it's so beautiful! I love the other two as well :) I have a rat in the freezer that I want to start my first taxidermy project with, and am wanting to also clean the skull for display. I no longer live in the middle of nowhere so I was considering investing in a Dermastid Beetle colony for regular projects once I move into my boyfriends house in April...do you have any experience with Dermastids? If so any advice? My biggest concern I guess is the possibility of losing all of those tiny teeth!

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    1. I don't have any experience with dermastids. I've been interested in getting a colony but you need to have a constant flow of animals for them to feed on to keep them alive. I don't have a constant enough flow so it's easier for me just to clean them myself.

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    2. I've heard a colony can be sustained on a combination of dog food/butcher scraps between cleanings, but I'd have to look further into it. I would be really upset with myself for losing a colony for my own selfish reasons. I'll start reading up more on the maceration process and try that out first!

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    3. Ahhh!

      Perhaps I should do a bit more research, I'd love to try using dermastids. Although I really do enjoy the cleaning process. Maceration isn't so bad at all!

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  37. that is so cool! collecting skulls and especially cleaning them yourself sounds so fascinating:-) i don't ken if this's a weird question, but where do you get all the animals? xx

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    1. All over the place. Friends+family save dead things they find for me because they know I collect, and sometimes I find things myself in the woods or wherever.

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  38. I love it! ♥ And I adore your blog, keep on writing and posting beautiful pictures c: + greetings from Finland~

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  39. This is really cool, and I think it's a really lovely way to honor the animals that the skull belonged to. Good work!

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  40. That skull looks beautiful! And so do your other ones. Your pictures, as always, are fab!

    I had to laugh when you said that you hesitated because people might fnd it weird. Cause gal, weird is your middle name! And your readers know that and love that. Your haircolors, your tats, your whole personality: there's not much standard or average about you. You pair that with a style, taste and professionality that brings it to a higher level. I love your uniqueness and originality and I am sure all your readers do too.

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  41. Great job, it looks excellent! I too collect bones/skulls. Usually cleaned by nature by the time I come across them, but cleaning is something I need to learn how to do on my own. Driving from Nevada to Oregon coming back from Burning Man is torture for me, passing whole spinal columns and skulls every five feet, but not really any places to pull off safely to collect them. That and while my partner is totally cool with me collecting such things, after a week in the desert he's not so keen on pulling over every time I yell "Ooooh! Look at THAT!" :)

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  42. I love your posts that are slightly outside of the mainstream. The skulls are beautiful (that opposum has some real chompers)!

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  43. This is really cool! I imagine that it's almost in the same vein as taxidermy, in a way. A more detailed post on this would be fascinating!

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  44. The skull turned out absolutely beautiful! I also have a cat skull (the poor thing died of a tooth infection, part of the maxilla is eaten away) and yours looks so much more pristine than mine does! And the colour of it is stunning. I'm so envious of your collection~

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  45. Are there any websites or tips you have for cleaning skulls (future post?) I was given a pig skull from a friend who is a chef and still do not know how to clean it. It has been just sitting on my porch for a few months. It still has a good deal of tissue on the inside. I thought I would let nature deal with it, however that seems like it could take too long.

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    1. Yeah, I've been considering writing up a post soon!

      But in regards to your pig skull, toss that sucker in a bucket of water and leave that on your porch instead. It will help soften the tissue so it will just basically fall off the bone with little work.

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  46. I'm with everyone else...why the heck would we read your blog if we weren't into your wonderful weirdness and quirky antics! I'd really like to get into a hobby like this, but I guess one of the downfalls of living in the city is lack of dead wildlife to come across! Or you do, but you feel too strange trying to take it home in the public eye. Ahh how I miss small town living sometimes.

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  47. My neighbours have a pug skull hanging on their wall in their garage. If you can get your hands on one of those they look super rad! :)
    Nice work on the cleaning though!

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    1. Gah! I would love a pug skull. They're so interesting looking!

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  48. I've always been a skull aficionado and have a small but growing collection. I love that you showcase them on your blog! And a pug skull sounds interesting {I have a pug so that might be kinda weird!} heading to Google it now!
    http://www.savieenrose.com

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  49. This came out really beautifully!

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  50. Keep telling us more! They are beautiful and fascinating. Not weird in the slightest!

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  51. Is it weird I find that skull cute? Especially the wittle teeth.
    You have an amazing art and collection dude!

    <3
    Harlynn
    www.mindyourmadness.blogspot.com

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  52. Hi Kaylah!

    I absolutely love the last picture- the reflection is perfect in showing the teeth from the underside!! The cat skull is so darling- I don't think I would have it in me to clean it myself but i admire the work you do. :-)

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  53. So beautiful! I would love to own something like this but I need to do my research that I am not paying for something fake. I live in a major city in an apt. I think attempting cleaning of animals may get me kicked out.

    Please keep posting about your hobbies because I love reading about them.

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  54. These are really great! I love skulls, and the rest of your cabinet of curiosities is also fantastic! Definitely would love to hear more about all of the awesome things you do!
    Question-- where do you get skulls? All from your dad, or is there another place one could possibly troll for these treasures?
    Weatherly

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  55. Wow! That's so neat! I think skulls and skeletons are so interesting, because to me its easy to forget that we all have them inside us! Haha! And oh my gosh I would to see a tutorial on this! I've always been curious to how this is done.

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  56. Well done Kaylah!! It looks amazing! (I love the opossum skull the most but that's probably because we don't get them - or raccoons- here in Aus) So amazing! I think working on a cat skull would be really hard on me. Lizards too would be hard on me. I'm glad it wasn't as hard on you as you thought it would originally be. And the result is lovely!

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  57. As weird as this may seem, I really enjoy this.

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