Like so many other kids, I grew up wanting to work around animals. I lived in a big city, but never felt like I belonged there. I dreamt of the country, living more outdoors than in, being surrounded by nature. It didn’t look promising when I took a post-college job as a corporate copy editor in a downtown high rise, and I knew then as I do now that no one hands you your dream life. You have to make it happen.

So I quit. I started working and living on small farms, learning to raise animals respectfully for food. And nothing makes you want to appreciate your food more than raising and caring for the animals that provide it. I’m a firm believer in using every bit of an animal that you reasonably can, and one day of slaughtering buck goats for meat, it occurred to me to try to salvage their skulls. I had no idea what I was doing, and not the slightest idea that this would be the start of the long and crazy journey to starting Dermestidarium.

After hearing about Dermestid beetles, I enlisted a team of them to start helping me. I’ve always loved insects, and I’m that annoying person who will hold up a hike to take 20 photos of a neat looking bug on the side of the trail. I found a process for skull cleaning that I’m happy with, and after doing it as a hobby for several years word got around and I got busy enough to make this a proper business.

I still raise a lot of our own food – a big annual garden, meat pigeons, ducks and geese – and I’ve become a self-taught hunter and angler. My experiences in the wilderness searching for game are so important for me, even if they don’t end in success. I get that a skull on the wall isn’t as simple as a trophy or decoration – there’s a story behind each one, big and small. A memory brought back to life.