Sherman businessman seeks to capture nature through the art of taxidermy

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
David Pierce poses next to some of his taxidermy projects at Spirit Ink in Sherman.

A Sherman businessman is looking to take his love of the outdoors and create a new business.

David Pierce, who owns Spirit Ink recently announced plans to open a taxidermy studio in a portion of his company’s building on Gallagher Drive.

As a hunter for most of his life, Piece said he was always intrigued by the process and how a good taxidermist could bring life back into an animal through their trade.

“I’ve taken some of my kills to a taxdermist to get them done,” Pierce said in May. “When I would be in their shop, and saw some of their work, I was always intrigued about the process to take that harvested animal and create a lifetime memory of that animal.”

With every taxidermied animal I have, I can pretty much tell you every thing about that hunt.”

Despite the long interest, Pierce joked that it took him until his mid-50s to take his interest further and pursue formal training. Earlier this spring, Pierce attended a school in Llano, Texas — one of the two schools in the state that are accredited to teach the trade.

“I went to school to really not do this as a hobby but create another business entity here in Sherman.” Pierce said. “There’s not really a brick-and-mortar.”

While there are taxidermy shops in Durant and Bonham, he said there isn’t as much of a presence in Sherman and Denison. Instead, he said many taxidermists in the area work out of their homes rather than a studio like he plans to create.

While some taxidermists may wish to capture an image of exotic animals from across the world through their craft, Pierce said he would prefer to work on projects from closer to home and have the chance to hunt.

I’ve never wanted to hunt those animals, so they probably aren’t on the top of my life of animals I’d want to taxidermy,” he said.

Through his trade, Pierce said he tries to put the animal in as close to a natural position as possible. Most taxidermy projects begin with a base form made of Styrofoam, but a skilled taxidermist can add detail even at the base layer.

“There is already going to be some muscle structure in the form, but you can see where I took sandpaper and made the folds where the head and neck would turn,” Pierce said.

From there, the skinned hide, or cape is stretched over the form and attached in place. Further details including the eye socket are molded in clay and attached. It is through this that a taxidermist can personalize a piece and show emotions in a piece.

“If you were submitting something to a competition, the accuracy of something like that is something you’d be judged on,” he said. “If you can’t get the face right, no other detail really matters.”

As an example of his work, Pierce said a client recently brought him a fox that had been struck by an automobile. In addition to having a head injury, the animal also suffered road rash, which destroyed a part of the hide along the shoulder.

Pierce said he was able to patch the hole in the hide in such a way that it wouldn’t be noticeable to the untrained eye. Thankfully he was also able to save most of the facial features of the animal.

“That particular job had some repair to be done,” Pierce said. “I guess my point is that there is some satisfaction in being able to take something in like this and send it back repaired.”

Despite his long interest in the trade, Pierce joked that he isn’t sure what made him finally pursue it further in his mid-50s.

With his successful work with Spirit Ink, Pierce said he was finally able to break away from the daily operations and pursue other interests.

“The spirit ink entity came to Sherman in 2004,” he said. “The business, pre-corona, was very stable and I had the parts in place to allow me to not be quite as involved with this part of the business.”

While the age range of his class was wide, he noted that the majority were younger, with some just out of high school.

“The majority were young people who decided that maybe college wasn’t for them or are like me and just enjoy the outdoors,” he said.

The classes were serious and required him to be in the classroom for eight hours a day for six weeks.

“The school itself was a large investment,” he said. “I was to the point in my life where number one, I could afford it and number two, I had the time I could invest in it. There aren’t a lot of people who can afford both the time and money in that. I was at a point in my life where I could do both.”

“In order to enroll, I had to provide my high school diploma,” he continued. “I couldn’t find it, so I had to take an entrance exam.”

In late May, Pierce presented plans for the studio to the Sherman Planning and Zoning Commission, who unanimously approved the project. The next step will come when the city council considers giving the OK later this month.

Beyond the city requirements, Pierce said he also plans to start developing relationships with law enforcement, including game wardens. Taxidermists are legally required to keep a record of any animals that they take in, and in can assist law enforcement in poaching and other cases.

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at