In memory of Devon Kurzhals

This is not a large whitetail buck. However, he is a VERY important one. Not to just one person but to an entire family. And the most important beaded skull art piece I have ever had the privilege of creating.

Whitetail buck to be beaded in Devon's honor.

This buck is in memory of Devon Kurzhals. He was a very loved young man who was taken from this world too soon. His father and he were especially close hunting and fishing buddies. And this is the last deer Devon took on his grandparents’ property.

Only once before have I named a beaded skull art piece before I started working with it. But this is the first time one has been named before I had even held it. Before getting Devon’s buck from his father my husband and I were talking about Devon’s story and his family. And my husband thought of a name that made us both tear up. However, this is such a special situation I wanted to make sure his family would approve. When we met David, we asked what he thought of the name and I will never forget his smile.

This is “Devon’s Legacy”.

Getting started

To get started, as with every skull I work with Devon’s buck got a bath. However, there was just a bit of debris in some deep crevices. David did a great job taking good care of him.

He had lost a couple of teeth but David found some replacements in the “treasures” he keeps and glued them in before I got him. Nice job David!

There was very little to clean on the outside of his teeth. So it only took an hour or so to pick the debris out.

Devon's whitetail deer teeth before cleaning.
Before cleaning
Devon's whitetail deer's teeth after cleaning.
After cleaning

Ready to start the clay process!

Clay Work Process

Clay work is coming along nicely. I was happy the small bones in front were just loose and not missing. Therefore they secured in place very well.

Devon's deer before the clay process.
Before beginning the clay process.
Devon's whitetail buck after clay is finished on the right side.
After left side clay work.

The left side is finished save a few spots I will blend in as I work with the right. In this case it was necessary to use some clay below the antler base as there was a bit of cracking. And so I’ll do the same on the right side.

Finished with clay on the left side of this whitetail deer.
Left side clay finished.
Clay work started on the ight side of deer skull.
Right side started.

The cartilage in the eye sockets is always cracked as it is very delicate. Therefore it breaks easily meaning more clay work. However, Devon’s Legacy is gladly cooperating and nothing has broken. Strong young buck.

I’ll post more images when the clay process is complete.

Clay Update

Finished with clay! Well, almost. The center needs to be fitted to the focal bead when it arrives. I have already started “flattening” the area so it shouldn’t take much to complete.

I painted the inside cavities before finishing the underside clay. So, while waiting for the that to dry I worked on the antlers. To address the discoloration, since they were on the whiter side, I had originally thought to simply give them a white-wash. I started that process; however, it didn’t take long to change my mind. It would have taken more white than I liked to cover some blemishes and I kept thinking of the chosen color scheme. This was not going to work. So, I washed the white-wash off.

After Devon’s Legacy and I sat together for a while, I decided to start with a light tan and medium brown. That was better but still not quite right. So, I added a bit of deep brown and that was the ticket. Now his antlers will blend just right with the color scheme.

After Devon’s Legacy and I sat together for a while, I decided to start with a light tan and medium brown. That was better but still not quite right. So, I added a bit of deep brown and that was the ticket. Now his antlers will blend just right with the color scheme.

Next up, paint! Although I won’t be able to finish until final claying is done for the focal bead. But I can get started.

Whitetail buck beaded skull art piece; clay finished, antlers painted.


  1. Grandma Jean on May 14, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    Your blog is very touching. You’ve got the story and the history right. Thank you for caring so much. Your careful preparation reminds me that you are caring for Devon’s memory and getting the “spirit”of it all. We poured live into Devon and you are pouring love into your work.
    Grandma Jean

    • admin on May 15, 2020 at 4:59 am

      Dear Grandma Jean,
      I’m so glad you approve and so thankful I’m able to be a part of bringing Devon’s Legacy to life through my art. Thank you so much for your comments and trust with this project. I did not know Devon but when working with his deer I think of him. I will do my utmost to care for his memory well.

      • Josette Purdum on May 20, 2020 at 12:36 am

        As Devon’s mom, I am delighted to see that something so dear to him is being made into Devon’s Legacy! He absolutely loved hunting, fishing and nature in general! Thank you for making his last deer skull into a piece of artwork as I am sure this will please him greatly and will give his family something extraordinary to look upon and think of him!

        • admin on May 20, 2020 at 4:41 am

          Dear Josette,
          Devon’s mom! I have said and will continue to say how incredibly honored I am to create this art piece for all of you AND for Devon. I honestly believe he is as excited as all of us about this. I am grateful we can share the journey of his last deer together and hope when it is completed I can meet you in person to hand Devon’s Legacy back into the care of his loving family.

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