I’ve been giving people information for years on basic care for the dance hides and such that they buy from me; however, I finally wrote up something to send off with orders, and I thought it would be worth sharing, just for informational purposes. (If you’re interested in seeing the art itself and what I offer, this is my website, this is my Etsy shop, and this is my online archive at deviantArt.)
The Care and Feeding of Your
Totem Animal Dance Costume
Thank you for bringing home your new totem animal dance costume! As I’m sure you intend to have a long relationship with this new spiritual companion, please allow me to give you some information on how to care for real animal fur over time.
Over time, hides can dry out and become more fragile. I recommend treating the hide with mink oil or another leather conditioner; cremes are easier to work with than liquids. Carefully rub the conditioner into the skin side of the hide, and then lay it out skin side up for a few days to let the conditioner dry. If you live in a dry climate or if you dance with your skin around fires, you may want to do this twice a year; less often otherwise. You may also wish to carefully apply a vacuum brush attachment to the fur side every few months to remove dust and other debris.
Keep your dance skin out of overly humid places. If it gets wet, such as in the rain, dry it out immediately. If you have a newer skin, and it becomes excessively dirty, you can wash it in water and gentle soap, but again, dry it out as quickly as you can. Hang it out to dry; do not apply a hair dryer or put it in a clothes dryer. Older skins* should not be bathed, and need to be dried out if they get accidentally wet. Small amounts of dirt may be removed from most skins with a damp washcloth.
Spiritual care tends to be much more personalized. The most important thing is to know what the spirit of the skin itself wants. If you’ve never done this before, I have a basic tutorial available for free at http://therioshamanism.com/2011/04/04/how-to-talk-to-dead-things/. I do a full ritual purification on everything I make with animal parts, and a portion of the money I make goes to groups like the Defenders of Wildlife or Wolf Haven International, among others.
If you’re looking for more ideas on how to dance with your skin, please see
I do free repairs on everything I make, as has always been my policy. If you ever need a strap replaced (or even more significant repair), or if you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
* In addition to skins from indigenous and subsistance trappers, I work with a range of vintage and reclaimed hides and furs; generally, “reclaimed” means hides that I have procured from other artists & collectors or discards from the fur industry, so they may not be technically secondhand in the way a recycled old fur rug would be. You are welcome to ask about the origin of your particular hide.