Janelle Becker, 33, is a Ringling College graduate who has created Skelosaurz, kits that allow people to create skeletal dinosaurs out of leather. The current kits are for a T-rex, stegosaurus, triceratops and brontosaurus. Photo by Rachel S. O'Hara

Fascinating Fossils: artist sculpts leather dinosaur skeletons

When Janelle Becker was little, she would dig in her backyard and declare her findings dinosaurs. The love of dinos never really left her. Fast forward to now, and the 2005 Ringling graduate is doing something super cool with her twin passions for art and dinosaurs.

Becker has spent three and a half years perfecting her design for the leather dinosaur skeleton models she builds by hand. She calls them Skelosaurz, and now, they’re ready to go into the world.

“You can do a lot with leather in terms of tooling,” Becker said. “And because of how malleable it is, you really can get the effect of bone if you work with it. I created a troodon skeleton and a stegosaurus, then a couple of pterosaurs. I’ve really just been hooked since.”

Becker’s friend and college roommate, Stephanie Brunson, was the person who first encouraged her to work with leather. Becker was making a Halloween mask out of plaster and it just wasn’t working. So Brunson offered her an old leather hide she had stored in her closet.

Turns out, that leather hide was all that was left of Brunson’s childhood pet cow. The cow now lives on in the form of Becker’s first leather sculpture.

Becker’s work has been nationally recognized at Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain Leather Show World Leather Debut and also in Leather Crafter’s Journal.


The current kits are for a T-rex, brontosaurus, stegosaurus and triceratops. Photo by Rachel S. O'Hara

The current kits are for a T-rex, brontosaurus, stegosaurus and triceratops. Photo by Rachel S. O’Hara


Each Skelosaur piece is hand-cut out of vegetable tanned leather and its edges seared with a wood burner. Because the carving process is detailed, Becker created a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to fund a laser cutting machine so she can make the small dinosaurs faster.

“What’s cool about these is you can customize them however you want. You can color them with markers, dyes, acrylics or you don’t have to dye them at all. They have a really nice look just sitting on their own,” Becker said.

Tyrannosaurus rex, stegosaurus, triceratops and brontosaurus assembly kits are available to preorder for $50 each. Each kit comes with all the dinosaur’s pieces, metal clamps to put it together, a wooden forming tool and a cork stand for the model once it’s complete. Fully assembled artist edition models are also available.

There’s still a few days left to contribute to Becker’s Kickstarter and check out her awesome leather work.

“I think the coolest thing would be able to have these in places like national parks and museum stores, that are known for their fossils,” she said. “And in any of the natural toy stores,really. That’s really what these are. Something from something cool that was living.”


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