I went through multiple iterations on this one, and the lesson is; trying to save money usually wastes time.
Going with the idea that each sculpture features something real, I called the East Bay Vivarium, the local reptile house. I talked to the owner about my idea, and said that I wanted him to bring a rattler to my studio, coil it around a skull, and bare it's fangs toward the camera. He thought that this was crazy and he told me that there's one circumstance in which the rattlesnake will bear it's fangs – when it's about to kill something.
So, okay, no live rattlesnake. A rubber snake is right out. Taxidermy then. I had noticed that there were taxidermy rattlesnakes on eBay really cheap. I contacted one of the vendors and it turns out that she freeze-dries rattlesnakes. I explained what I wanted, sent sketches and photographs, and conferred over the phone, but she soon gave up in frustration.
She was semi-professional, so I upgraded to professional. I found Captured Moments in Reno, and was able to work with him in his studio. Taxidermys mix of sculpture and biology is interesting, and so is Rob. He did a bang- up job on the wings for the glass heart, but my requirements for the snake were too extraordinary, and we gave up after a couple tries.
Finally, I went Hollywood - Bischoff's. They do a lot of stuffed animals for films, and have been around for a long while. They got what I was doing, and were quick and responsive. Even though the snake looked great, the skull shattered in transit, so I had to cut the rattler off the remains, and put it on a new skull.
The end result is almost perfect. The slightly visible stitching on the belly is probably my favorite part.
In the end, I'm definitely reminded that time is money.