“Calling all women hunters,” Athena Annis says. “I want to work with you on creative and interesting projects.” Annis is working in the male-dominated field of taxidermy, and she knows there are women hunters and anglers out there who would be just as happy to meet her as she’d be to meet them. “I’d like to work with more women, because I’m interested in doing more than just creating a trophy," Annis says.
Annis attended taxidermy school in Rice, Minn. The only other student in her class was also a woman, and the instructor was pretty clear that he didn’t think they’d be successful in the business. Annis had been told she could do apprentice work with her teacher and get some extra class time if she was willing to put in the hours, but she says the instructor only offered them the bare minimum of both time and effort. After graduation, she wanted an apprenticeship to gain hands-on experience. “I called all over the state and got turned down by everyone I asked. Finally, I got an apprenticeship with a man who had had another woman in his shop. She got me in,” she says.
Annis has been doing business in Chaska as Tia’s Taxidermy (Tia is her nickname) for about a year. Customer service and attention to detail are two of Tia’s Taxidermy’s strongest selling points. “I work hard on deer, for example, to get the eyes just right,” she says, even using false eyelashes to make the eyes look full and lively. Annis prides herself on the attention to detail that elevates her work from trophy creation to artistic expression, and she says she brings that same level of attention to customer service on the business side. “I’ll pick up and deliver anywhere in the area,” Annis says. “That makes it a lot easier for people.”
Most people might experience a certain level of, shall we say, squeamishness when handling dead animals, but not Annis. “I’m interested in being creative … in making pieces that are decorative or artistic and not just the same old things you always see,” she says. She considers her work to be a passion and an art form, as well as a craft, and she is determined to push the boundaries as far as possible. Some of Annis's work is available for purchase at Shop 501 & Company in Chaska.