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.

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.
Clay finished and antlers painted

Final Clay/Paint/Focal Bead

So grateful the beads arrived with only a couple of days delay compared to “normal times”!

With the focal bead in hand I finished the clay work and painting as quickly as possible. Though still taking enough time to allow everything to dry properly.

Ready to start designing this layout!

Whitetail deer skull ready to begin the beading process.
Ready to start beading!

Bead Design

Before the beads arrived, I had several thoughts in my head for this design. But from experience I know things change depending on so many factors including the skulls’ dimensions, the size and shape of the focal and other beads selected and, most importantly the FEEL of the project.

I was so excited when they arrived because this color scheme is amazing! I started by laying them out side by side in different successions against the beautiful focal bead. And I found three colors I loved the balance of with it. Perfection!

Then I tried all kinds of layouts I’d had in my head before getting them. Why, I have no idea because in the end I came right back to the way I’d laid them out when I first got them. This is definitely a “heart” over “head” project! I’m listening now, Devon! Moving on to laying out the design on the skull. Doing this helps me envision how it sits on the skull and where other beads will fit in. And then the exciting part of this beaded skull art piece…the beading begins!

Initial bead layout
Initial bead layout

Beading Process

In this first image you can see how I start this process by placing the beads for the main design layout onto a temporary “pattern” on the skull. I don’t attempt to add all the beads here, just enough for me to get an idea how they will sit and where other beads will fit in according to their shape, size and/or color. Because it is a very rough visual representation of the design at this stage, it is difficult for others to see where I’m going with it. But in my mind, I see much more. Sometimes I have to put more beads on than other times to get the “vision” I need. This time it didn’t take much.

Main beaded skull art piece design layout.
Main bead design layout.

I was going to show an image of Devon’s deer with the design just to the point of the first image but changed my mind. I really wanted Devon’s family to see the main design as I “saw” it in my mind. The only thing that changed was I moved the line of tiny dark blue beads to the other side of the skull.

I still have a bit to do on the main design on the back and sides of the skull, though it wouldn’t be visible at this angle anyway. Then it’s on to all the details, which is the time-consuming part. So, Devon’s family, this is going to take a while. Please know I’ll be working diligently to get this precious skull back to you as quickly as possible. I’ll let you know just as soon as Devon’s Legacy is finished.

Beaded skull art initial design.
Initial main bead bead design for Devon’s Legacy is complete.

“Devon’s Legacy” is complete!

“Devon’s Legacy” is finally complete! And my husband and I had the great pleasure of delivery him safely back to David, Devon’s dad and Grandma Jean (Devon’s paternal grandmother).

Before saying anything else I want to say how much I appreciated the opportunity to meet in person Grandma Jean, who came wearing her signature turquoise. Love it! I SO wanted to hug her, but in the current circumstances that contact had to unfortunately be restrained. However, I got to see her face and smile and feel her energy and love for Devon. So thankful we met, Grandma Jean! Maybe we’ll still get to hug one day.

Devon's Grandma Jean and dad, David with "Devon's Legacy".
Grandma Jean and dad, David with “Devon’s Legacy”.


The image here does not do “Devon’s Legacy” justice and I am excited that professional photos by Byran Bosch (find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Photography-by-Bryan-Bosch-234421813426482 ) are on the way! Because of Devon’s and his family’s love of the outdoors, I had these photos taken outdoors in a woodland setting. As soon as I am able, I will create a page on my gallery with many of the images displayed here in the “The Making of Devon’s Legacy” section as well as the professional photos.

And that would normally be the end of this story…happy clients, happy life, right? But it was not the end for me.

Leesa with Devon's dad, David and "Devon's Legacy"
Leesa with David and “Devon’s Legacy”.

As we drove home after delivery “Devon’s Legacy” to his family the thought struck me that I would never see that deer again. My eyes suddenly welled up and startled, I shook off the thought. I’ve never had that thought or that feeling of sad separation before with any of my artwork. Later that evening it returned to me and I allowed the thought and feelings to linger. As a lump formed in my throat and tears came to my eyes something very profound struck me. It was not about the deer. It was about Devon. Whatever loss I felt, the small tears that I shed were but a literal drop in the bucket to the monsoon of tears this family has shed and the life constricting emotions they have felt for the loss of Devon.

Dear Devon’s family, I pray this small piece of Devon’s life, that you have given a “new life” to brings happy memories to you all for many, many years to come. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your and Devon’s journey here, and beyond.

Beaded Skull art piece, "Devon's Legacy".
“Devon’s Legacy” completed.

14 Comments

  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.

  2. David Kurzhals on June 1, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    Wow, that focal bead looks awesome. This is going to look great.

    • admin on June 1, 2020 at 10:46 pm

      It’s even better in person. Just wait until you see some of the other beads with it. I’m loving it!

      • Grandma Jean on June 8, 2020 at 1:23 am

        Your heart and Devon’s spirit are guiding the process. The whole project seems to be honoring much…. Devon, family, Mother Nature, artistic talent, and the love that connects all. Thanks Leesa for your joy and care on this artwork.
        Grandma Jean

        • admin on June 8, 2020 at 6:21 am

          Dear Jean, you have No idea how much your words, and trust mean to me…especially today. I have very bazaar (to most) working hours…working different times throughout the day and night times hours. My sister-in-law lovingly calls me a vampire! Okay, so I love the moon! LOL. I’ve been working very happily with Devon’s Legacy until last evening when I switched on the light to work with him and said, “Oh NO!” I have a very vivid imagination (Surprise!) and saw, due to the bottom portion of my design a likeness to something I felt very inappropriate. My husband could not see it, but I could not get past it. So there’s been a bit of change to the main design in that area. As I was removing the “offending” beads I told Devon, “OK, that’s one Bonsai tree screwed up! How would YOU fix that?” I was very serious, but it made me giggle. We’ve got it sorted out now. So yes, I DO believe Devon is guiding me, and having a laugh or two with me as well. All of the things you mentioned are all of the things I wish to honor. I feel and respect his and your spirit in this venture and would be honored to meet you when Devon’s art piece is complete.

          • Grandma Jean on June 10, 2020 at 12:47 am

            Your experiences with Devon and the deer skull make me smile, chuckle a bit and tear up a bit. Indeed, the spirits of life are with us and around us all the time…. in ways known and unknown…. in humor and joy…. guiding and sending us awareness and love…. if we are open to receiving. Isn’t it just too amazing???!!! Hooray Leesa! Hooray Devon!



          • admin on June 10, 2020 at 6:02 am

            YES, it is amazing!!! Totally amazing!!! And you made me tear up…okay more than tear up. I believe there was a reason your family choose me for this project and I will forever be grateful for and humbled by that choice. Thank you for cheering us on! Together we’ve got this, Grandma Jean!



  3. Josette Purdum on June 1, 2020 at 11:09 pm

    I absolutely love the focal bead as I am a December birthday and turquoise is my stone! I wear turquoise, daily, and know that Devon is pleased with his legacy too!
    Thank you,
    Josette

    • Barbara A Gray on June 2, 2020 at 4:09 pm

      I am Devon’s other Grandma, Grandma Barb. This is such a great thing to do with Devon’s last deer skull after he went out hunting. He would be very pleased with the end results ! What a blessing to do this, it will bring many memories of him & his love of this sport! He had so many interests that brought him pleasure, and now they are brought to us to enjoy forever.
      Sincerely,
      Grandma Barb

      • admin on June 2, 2020 at 5:27 pm

        Grandma Barb! Wonderful to hear from you! It truly is a blessing for me to be able to do this for Devon and all of you. Thank you for your heartfelt comments here. Means a lot to me while I’m working with his deer. I feel the love every time I hear from any of you.

    • admin on June 2, 2020 at 5:17 pm

      I am sincerely glad you’re happy with the stone and that it means so much to you. Even happier that Devon is pleased too!

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