Living Outdoors: God’s Creatures Taxidermy

February 4, 2012

 

Steve Martinez on the PM with a customer

By STEVE MARTINEZ

mcp.com columnist

 

 

Standing in the living room of this Victory township Home, I am surrounded by wildlife: paintings of a whitetail deer on one wall and one of a wild turkey hanging over the fireplace. Both were painted by Cris Hansen. Mounted fish also hang on the walls, a pair of steelhead with a driftwood backer and a gorgeous river brown trout ready to eat a giant hex fly. Looking at them, I almost expect them to flop or move. All are perfectly done. I am led into Cris’ workshop where new mounts, mainly fish, hang on the walls on their forms drying (the forms give the skins their shape). Cris is a Mason County Central graduate and lifelong resident of Mason County. With his wife Rita and two children they own God’s Creatures Taxidermy and they specialize in fish.

Cris Hansen works in his taxidermy studio

 

 

I have known Cris, and been familiar with his work as an artist, for a long time. His skills are remarkable. Cris notes that he has always had a knack for painting, one of the important skills needed as a taxidermist. Cris attended college, taking graphic arts and design, but free hand drawing and painting are his passion. Along with running Gods Creatures Taxidermy shop, he also works for Legends Taxidermy, another Mason County business, where Cris is a habitat builder. Building habitats provides an excellent opportunity for Chris to use his artistic ability, “I build the habitat, rock, brush, sand, everything that gives the animal a real life appearance.” 

 

 

As Cris puts on his latex gloves and shows me some of the steps involved in preparing a fish skin, scraping, cutting away unwanted parts of the flesh, it strikes me that taxidermy is a time consuming process and this is only the first step. Other steps include stretching the skin on the form, sewing any holes, filling any low or sunken parts on the form, and finishing with eyes and paint, everything that makes a prized mount look exactly like the fish that you caught. It all takes an amazing amount of skill and patience. Cris said he is “as busy as I want to be” right now. With a two to three month finish time, I look around and can see the reason why he is so busy.

 

 

Cris also does replicas of customers’ fish, which is a growing trend in the the industry. Replicas of fish do not require the angler to harvest their trophy. Pictures and a length and girth measurement is all that is needed. With catch and release fishing becoming more popular, this is a great way to preserve the memory. It becomes apparent that when you have a passion about what you do, that passion comes out in your work.

 

Steve Martinez is a professional river guide, working on the nationally designated scenic Pere Marquette River. He also guides fishermen near Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan and in Alaska. 

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