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Taxidermy is a living, an art (Photo Gallery)

By BY ANGELI WRIGHT - AWRIGHT@VICAD.COM
Jan. 17, 2013 at 12:04 a.m.
Updated Jan. 19, 2013 at 7:20 p.m.

Roger Saski cuts the antlers off of a deer's skull after skinning it on the back porch of his shop on Jan. 3. Saski's passion for taxidermy stems from a love of hunting and fishing as well as a childhood artistic streak that had him drawing animals. "It's definitely an art," he said. "There's an art to every part of it."

Walking through an art gallery, patrons scan the walls, falling upon the paintings, sculptures and photographs. Walking through the collection of Roger Saski's work, the pieces of art look back.

Up the simple cement stairs of Saski's Taxidermy, 1311 Moody St., after a greeting by a growling bear and zebra, lies a dusty gallery of Saski's work. Mounts of deer, birds, wild hogs and alligators are among those that make up a portfolio 27 years in the making.

"It's definitely an art," Saski, 52, said. "There's an art to every part of it."

Watching him expertly texture the nose of a deer mount or airbrush its ears to bring the piece to life, it's easy to believe that taxidermy is a profession Saski seems fated to pursue.

A younger Saski found taxidermy after a motorcycle accident left him unable to continue working at his father's crane and equipment company. Saski needed to have orthoscopic surgery in Corpus Christi.

It was there that Saski wandered into the shop of a taxidermist that just so happened to be looking to give his first crash course in the art.

A move back to Victoria led Saski to working out of some rooms in his dad's shop, to working for another taxidermist in town, to eventually opening the shop on Moody Street in 1993.

The markers of his 20 years at the location cover the walls as he skillfully places clay inside of a deer mount's nose, an attention craving cat sleeping nearby. The gaps between work spaces and mounts in various stages of completion are filled with photographs, children's drawings and elementary school art projects.

"It's kind of a family atmosphere," he said of the shop where his children frequently visit, his 6-year-old son begging to stay to watch him work instead of going home.

The ability to arrange his schedule to attend ball games and pick his kids up from school has helped keep him in the business. But it's Saski's attention to detail and overall artistry that keeps customers coming back.

"I try to do the best job on every mount that comes in," he said. "If I'm not satisfied with it, I keep working, even if I'm losing money."

His talent especially shines in the finishing work he does on a mount, which takes him about six hours.

"There are a lot of people that can mount a deer," he said. "But not everyone can make them look good."

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