Friday, February 3, 2012

alligator tales...

this week has been a little disappointing on the diy front for me. i had this big plan of painting amazing bold black and white geometric designs on my boring white bathroom walls... well, on monday while trying to tape out the design i learned that whatever cheap paint my thrifty landlady put on the walls was prohibiting any tape from sticking to them.  so, i rushed to home depot to get frog tape since that supposedly works.  nope, didn't work. the tape stuck in a few parts of the wall and then wouldn't adhere in others. and then when i pulled it down in frustration, it ripped layers of old paint off the parts of the wall that it stuck to. nuts. so, instead of bold black and white graphic prints i repainted the whole room in boring off white to cover the mess left by the frog tape so that i can start over. what a bummer.  i am on to my next diy while waiting for my base coat to cure...
i have a really fun story to share with you involving that bit of alligator skin you see at the top of this post.  if you've been following my blog for a bit you have heard of my love of my metal smithing class at barnsdall art center.  that's where i have had the opportunity to create all sorts of groovy jewelry as well as the fabulous brass pendant light that i demo'd on the nate berkus show with the man himself.  i've also met some of the coolest most creative gals in this class. you may remember angela, mentioned a few weeks back with the peacock blue painted rug diy... my class is such a fun few hours a week that i really look forward to! (picture us like the steel magnolias ladies -with a token fab male instructor- wielding torches and jewelers' saws instead of scissors and rollers while gossiping a bit)...

well, one of these gals continues to amaze me!  her name is juliette (photo above).  she learned how to make jewelry at about the same time as me but her skill level has far surpassed mine.  anyhow, she is always challenging herself and creating amazing pieces with new materials.  like, while walking on the beach with her family last summer she happened upon some pebbles and was immediately inspired to work with them... next thing you know she has created the coolest cocktail ring out of a once boring black pebble.  that sort of amazing stuff.  yep, i am a bit envious... here are a couple of examples of her work so you get the idea...
she was once a botanical artist so is inspired by all things relating to nature
well, last week in class she shows me this alligator skin. during her christmas vacation she went to florida and 'caught' said alligator and took him home with her.  i have pasted the story as she tells it below.  and when you read it be sure to insert a very british accent behind those words, she normally seems so proper and elegant and not like a knife wielding alligator slicing sort of gal...  another reason this story makes me smile.

in the words of my friend juliette - the "gator girl"

The photo above is me with the beast in Florida. It was donated -defleshed (phew!) and frozen by Trapper Jeff of Pesky Critters of Fort Lauderdale, found and removed from someone's backyard...

I defrosted it, cut it up into manageable pieces, covered them in salt , rolled them up and put them in zip lock bags in my luggage, terrified the sniffer dogs would get me at LAX. ( note official tag from tail certifying a legal catch!!) 

Once back home, I thought: what now??!! So  I typed into Google: How to tan an alligator skin! You'd be amazed how many entries there are!!!  It sounded SOooooo complicated, primitive, scary, smelly and dangerous, but I like to rise to a challenge, learn new skills and I know how to follow a recipe.

I tried to buy some chemicals at Rite Aid and CVS , and had to explain each time what they were for. They looked at me as if I was mad or lying.  In the end I ordered the toxic chemicals from various taxidermy sights ( quite yukky having to navigate through lists of supplies including eyeballs!!!).  

The whole process took 4 weeks during which I felt as though I was in 'Breaking Bad' with my rubber gloves, face mask , stirring buckets of acid ( in the back yard right outside my bedroom door) and testing ph levels at regular intervals. It was completely stressful as I never took chemistry at school and I was utterly out of my depth! I had several nightmares that the beast would come alive and come and bite my head off.

This is the tanned skin hanging up to dry in my back yard:

Every day for 2 weeks I had to roll it and stretch it out to stop it going stiff.
But you've seen the evidence, and I think it WORKED!!!!!

i should also mention that juliette's husband was very impressed with her newly found gator hide tanning skills! and she is now in the process of turning the large piece you see hanging on the right into a clutch bag and then smaller pieces into groovy cuff bracelets mixed with metal.  i can't wait to see the finished pieces and share photos of them with you all! and i showed a couple of  the photos of the skin to one of the designers at my internship who was very impressed as well! we both thought it would be amazing for covering a chair...

and fingers crossed i will have my own diy success this weekend and will have something amazing of my own to share soon...

for those of you just tuning in and wanting to know more about me you can by going here... and if you didn't already know... i created a facebook page... check it out and "like" it! and follow me on twitter and you can even follow my boards on pinterest too!

until next time...

the (formerly almost) 40 year old intern


  1. Juliette is a renaissance woman, no question about it. The alligator cuffs are going to be fabulous.
    Can't wait to see them.


  2. The 2 of you are amazing and talented women. It's an honor and so much fun to be part of the "steel magnolias ladies".

  3. I want to be Juliette when I grow up! Sorry you hit a wall with your DIY project. This is just stretching your creative mind...can't wait to see what's to come.

    1. thanks dana! i appreciate the good vibes you are sending my way!

  4. Wow! Okay to be honest, the idea of tanning alligator skin kind of horrifies me, lol (and yes, I worked in a cadaver lab for 2 years- which makes it even funnier).

    But kudos to Juliette for doing this! It's gals like you that gave me confidence that I can stencil these stupid curtains...eventually :)

    1. yeah, i would never have the stomach for it either but it looks fabulous!

  5. There is never a dull moment with these "High Spirited" Ladies in my Class.
    Joseph Fiorillo
    Barnsdall Art Center

  6. Inspiring as usual!!! Oh how I miss Fridays creative energy. As Joseph said never a dull moment
    Keep creating!!!

  7. This is a great story! Love it. And love the Friday afternoon crew of amazing and talented artists in Joseph's class. Joseph, You Rawk!! And so do you Almost 40 Year Old Intern and Juliette. Miss you, Angela.