C.J. Fegan can finally talk about the confidential project that had him working 20 hours a day and taking secret trips to California.
The Edgewater taxidermist even knows where he will set up his nearly 12-foot-long mounted display of stuffed foxes, deer and porcupine. But first, he has to get it back from AMC.
Fegan will be featured in this week's episode of the cable channel's new show, "Immortalized." Each week, the program pits two taxidermists against each other as they create projects based on the same theme. A panel of judges selects the winner.
A North Carolina taxidermist is Fegan's opponent Thursday at 10 p.m. The mission given to the two was to create a piece with an "end of the world" theme. He can't say yet if he won, but he is pleased with the project.
"I did an awesome, awesome piece," said Fegan, who, with his father, runs Fegan's Taxidermy. "It's a little bit off the wall, but it was for television. They wanted something and they said go big. So I went huge."
The show's Valentine's Day premiere introduced viewers to the world of taxidermy, from traditional forms to rogue methods. Those who use traditional methods -- like Fegan -- can create a stuffed piece that looks like a real animal.
But the rogue forms offer transformed hybrids, such as a mermaid bunny, show representatives said. Each episode will feature "Immortalizers," who are highly regarded in the field, competing against a "Challenger."
But the ultimate goal of the show is to get beyond the stereotypes the public may have about taxidermy.
"The show really is on a macro level about taxidermy as an art form as opposed to the way it's usually presented, as this oddity," said Joel Stillerman, AMC's executive vice president of original programming.
"The goal (of the show) will be to walk away thinking that it's a fine art in the way you would evaluate any traditional form of sculpture."
Fegan's Taxidermy, just off Muddy Creek Road, has a showroom complete with stuffed leopards, mounted deer heads and re-creations of scenes from nature, such as a bear chasing coyotes and birds in flight.
On the upper level Fegan and his father Charlie use molds, glue and dishwashing liquid, among other things, to assemble their pieces.
Their customers are hunters like state Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, who keeps a glass case of the shop's mallards in his office.
In March 2012, AMC executives discovered Fegan's Taxidermy's website and emailed the Fegans about the upcoming show. After a review, C.J. Fegan was selected as one of 12 taxidermists to appear on the program.
Fegan will go against Immortalizer Page Nethercutt, a second-generation taxidermist Fegan had met before. Both were given $5,000 to create a project within 30 days. They were prohibited from using mountain lions and bears.
For Fegan, the result was a rocky habitat with nine animals -- two foxes and a bobcat, raccoon, porcupine, coyote, squirrel, white-tailed deer and timber wolf. Each animal is on one leg, as if they were jumping off the illuminated rocks.
He worked on it 18 to 20 hours a day for a month in the shop's upper-level studio. Then the network shipped it to California. Filming wrapped up in November.
"I thought they would've picked me more than him, because I'm smarter," said Charlie Fegan, adding that the shop was approached twice before about being on television, with no results. "Hopefully, this all turns out. Hopefully, he gets another year."
Currently, the shop has stuffed leopards in the spot where Fegan plans to put his "Immortalized" project, which he estimates is worth $25,000. He has no big plans for watching the show because he and his father will be rushing home from a Ducks Unlimited event.
"TV is weird stuff, it's a lot of behind the scenes, a lot of hurry up and wait," Fegan said. "It's definitely not exactly what I expected. People from California think differently than we do on the East Coast." ___