A passion for skulls

6/27/2014

A passion for skulls

A passion for skulls

Holcomb man turns hobby of taxidermy into a unique business.

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram.com

Lane Galliart is a 27-year-old from Holcomb. He has a wife, a 14-month-old son, a house, and works full-time as a sales account manager for Coca-Cola. Galliart has what most people imagine as a good, clean-cut life, but he also has a gritty passion that may muddy the image to some.

That passion is taxidermy, but instead of stuffing a white-tailed deer, bobcat or coyote, he is more about the skulls.

Galliart owns Southwest Skulls, a skull mount shop he runs out of his home. He said his stepdad has had a taxidermy hobby for the past 20 years, and his interest in that venture led him to launch his own business and hobby.

There is one specific style of work Galliart has made his own from his stepdad's detailed work with birds, deer and a range of other animals, and he uses that as his premier art work.

His speciality is the European mount — the bare skull and horns of a deer or chosen animal attached to a plaque of a customer's choice. Galliart chose the European mount because it's cost friendly, is a rewarding mount for memory and shows the skeleton detail.

During hunting season, Galliart said he'll receive 40 to 50 deer heads, a number of bobcats, elk, beavers, geese, hawks and coyotes to prep for a mount. His business has been around for two seasons of hunting, and has completed more than 150 skulls.

Before the final European-mount product is returned to a customer, it goes through an unusual process that most people want no part of, Galliart said.

He will use more than 100,000 flesh-eating beetles to cleanse remaining tissue from the skulls hunters bring him from their prized kills to create a skull mount.

"It's unique and fun to me, but some people do find it strange," Galliart said. "But hey, I love doing it. I take satisfaction in providing good work."

He said there are several steps before putting the beetles to work.

First, Galliart said you have to remove the eyeballs, brain, jaw, face, then put it in a box or dispose of them.

"My wife has never been in the shed. She hunts, but she wants nothing to do with what goes on in here (the shed)," he said.

The shed is where the time-consuming, foul, odorous and degreasing hard work begins. The process begins with the removal of various parts, and the skin and flesh. Galliart has designed his own degreasing tank that cleans off the bone when the skull is submerged in different fluids.

While Galliart prefers domesticated flesh-eating beetles, he said there are other ways to get the job done — although some have consequences.

He said you can boil the deer head, but that will cause the loss of teeth, as well as a lack of detail with possible broken bones in areas like the nasal cavity. With the beetles, such problems don't arise.

"People are always surprised at how white the skull is and the detail of it," he said. "The beetles might take about a week, but it's worth it. If I wouldn't want it on my wall, then I know it's not good enough for them. I want them to be pleased with the work I do."

The beetles are the cleaner method for removing meat from the skulls. A colony of ravenous insects can make short work of cleaning skulls by removing most of the large chunks of meat.

A finished deer skull would cost a customer $150, and customers have to set up an appointment with Galliart.

Aaron Claar, 32, has known Galliart for years, and has worked with him for two years when there is a need for collaboration. Claar applies hydrographics to skulls, which cover the skull in various patterns and designs, like camouflage or wood grain.

Galliart cleans the skulls, and Claar designs them.

"We offer a unique service, I'll say that much," Claar said. "With the beetles, you can get it as clean as you would like it."

Claar has tried his luck with the grimy process, but said he'll happily leave it to Galliart.

"I think Lane does a phenomenal job. I did it a few times, but that's not my focus," he said, as he laughed. "It's funny that most people don't find it too weird. They enjoy it and think it's rewarding."

Galliart hopes to grow his business in the future, and hopes to hand over the reins to his son some day, if he also has a passion for skull mounts.

"It might be just a hobby, but I get so much satisfaction out of doing this and love it," he said. "I want to build the business one day and hope my son will want to take it over."

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