Pedagogy in the internet age is big business and quite convenient. Learning taxidermy does not have to be bloody, difficult and time-consuming. Learners can now find everything at the tip of their fingers and can consume lessons in their own time--which is invaluable for beginning taxidermists and hobbyists.
Becoming a taxidermist is no longer the hard (but fulfilling) journey that it used to be. Indeed, you could even get a fully-mounted specimen with a few clicks. But if you have pride in your work and the capcability of your hands, you can certainly make your own--if you know where to start.
We’ve put together links, resources and important things to know for you to embark on your taxidermy journey. We suggest enrolling in classes or tutorials while at the same time obsessing over material you can find online.
But before you dive in, let’s discuss the heart of the hobby and craft.
Throughout your research, you will read a lot of descriptions on what is a taxidermist. As a start, you will need to figure out your commitment to the art so you can confidently explain your own understanding of what is a taxidermy.
Taxidermy is known to be the art of reproducing life-like animals for permanent display. From its Greek etymology of “taxis”, which means movement, and “derma”, which means skin, you can roughly translate it as the movement of skin.
Actually, this is the easiest and most straightforward description on what is a taxidermy type of art, because it involves removing the actual skin from the animal specimen. Not while alive, of course, we would like to make that clear to everyone.
So, whoever removes the skin of vertebrates and fashion it to reproduce its likeness, and in most cases, replicate even its natural habitat, is called a taxidermist.
How does taxidermy work then? Read on for a simple step-by-step overview of the process will be enumerated.
Before you embark on the wonderful world of preservation that is taxidermy, you will need to brush up on your zoology and anatomy. If you remember dissecting a frog, a cat or rat in lab classes, then that knowledge will come in handy.
Make no mistake, taxidermy is a very meticulous process. A penchant for detail should be one of your characteristics. Along the way, not only zoology or anatomy will be helpful, even carpentry, sculpting, painting will be thrown in to help you become a successful taxidermist.
Of course, there is no pressure to learn all of these in one go. These might be helpful one way of the other but sometimes you will not even use them. This is because taxidermy is highly personal. This means you create your own process in whichever way that it is comfortable to you.
Taxidermy is an enjoyable process only if you find the steps to your own liking. Otherwise, the pleasurable part of the craft is lost and it might affect your specimen. So don’t be pressure to follow the steps exactly. Use them as a guide to create your own best practices.
As an overview, methods on preserving animals have come a long way. From the crude form associated with embalming in Ancient Egypt, to the Victorian Era known as the Golden Age of Taxidermy, to Modern Taxidermy. Because each animal is different, there is no one way to do taxidermy.
It will mostly depend on the anatomy of the animal you prefer to stuff. Use the steps below to guide you to further your learning on how to stuff dead animals, as hobbyists or for business. As Oliver Davie, author of Methods in the Art of Taxidermy hinted, you will need to discover bit by bit what you will need to further progress successfully in this art.
Taxidermy is as methodical as artistic. To start, even taking measurements of your specimen will need practice. Knowledge in carpentry will come useful in this step. “Measure repeatedly before cutting”, that is the motto of the carpenter. We urge you to use this rule as well.
Measuring comes before skinning the animal.
Some taxidermists prefer to buy pre-made forms, others want to make their own. Forms come in different materials. There are forms made of plastic resin, nylon twine, clay and a lot more. It will all depend on what you prefer. At this stage, you might want to base it on your budget as some will be more expensive than the others.
Skinning is the process by which you remove the skin from the body of the animal. This is tricky because some of you might be tempted to just cut through everything to separate the skin from the body.
Doing so might damage the skin with incisions and cuts from scissors, cutter or scalpel that you think will help you do things faster. But skinning takes patience in pulling the skin gently and tugging where needed without tearing skin.
At times, you will hear breaking bones as you pull but with more practice, you’ll know exactly where to pull easily or cut pristinely. Keep in mind to not tear up the body cavity as any blood that seeps out will ruin the skin. So in this portion, handle with care.
Also, depending on what animal you are mounting, some will be more difficult to skin.
Heads of fish, some reptiles and birds are kept intact for preservation. You will need to remove whatever will smell bad but keep the head in perfect shape.
Eyes are also a special portion to be extremely careful about as these are delicate whether reptiles, birds, fishes or mammals. Eyes are, after all, the window to the soul, and this is the same with animals. In the last Taxidermy Championship, you will see judges noting eyes and its overall impact to the taxidermied animals.
Tanning is the preservation of the animal skin. This process also uses different chemicals depending on the preference of the taxidermist.
The most common materials used are borax, non-iodized salt or alcohol. When using salt, rub this into the flesh part of the hide and let it sit for 24 hours. Repeat the process but with new salt. Afterwards, let it dry in a cool, dry place, careful not to let it get too hard to mold.
Once you are satisfied with how it hardened, disinfect with just a cap of Lysol, water and table salt. Rinse it several times and hang it for dripping. You can further dry it by toweling or blow drying. Once it’s dry, rub tanning oil, let it sit and put it in the freezer until you are ready to mount.
Again, no animal is the same, so don’t be surprised that processes, materials, tools differ each time. A reptile, bird and fish taxidermy process is different from that of mammal taxidermy. Especially with any fish taxidermy process, be prepared for an even more stringent process because these are more delicate creatures than mammals.
Finally, you are ready to stuff you skin in its form. Mounting or stuffing is as easy as dressing a doll. It will be easier if the form you made or had pre-made is exact as the skin will slide easily. You will then sew it up.
Sewing is also painstaking as you will need to be precise in each your needlework. We have seen careless sewing before and affected the skins of the animals, making portions look tight, deformed and eventually resulting in a ruined specimen.
Mounting your taxidermied animals should be artistically done. Similar to the showcase of taxidermy animals in Missouri, you seek to re-create not only the animal but also their natural habitat. This way, you are truly imbibing the essence of taxidermy by also conserving and preserving nature.
Once you mount your animals, work does not stop there. A committed taxidermist will make sure that caring for these animals is a part of any taxidermy instructions.
Sunlight and mildew are just two of the enemies of preserved animals. Ensure they have a place in your home that will not be detrimental to their form and your artwork. Taxidermy stuffed animals were done with passion and time, so don’t waste it by not caring for it.
How to do taxidermy is a skill best learned over time. We learn new things by practicing continually. It is no different with taxidermy.
Many taxidermists start as hobbyists, preferring to do it in a leisurely manner. This is fine as long as you are committed to perfecting the craft. Museum taxidermists should not intimidate you as well because taxidermy is for anybody who loves animals and contribute to the preservation and conservation of wildlife.
If you want to try taxidermy but think that it’s too complicated, or expensive or whatever the reason, stop. All you need to be to become a taxidermy hobbyist is if you are a consummate do-it-yourselfer. There are countless do it yourself taxidermy online to get you started. We’ve compiled a few to inspire you to start how to do taxidermy.
Take a look:
World Taxidermy and Fish Carving Championship 2015 – We want you to experience Taxidermy at its finest with a short video from the New York Times cover of the World Taxidermy and Fish Carving Championship. In just a few minutes, competitors across America will give you insights on what constitutes a champion taxidermy. Feast your eyes on the crème of the crop!
Squirrel Taxidermy How-to Cover by The Guardian – Taxidermy isn’t just in the US, the UK also has its interest in the art. In this video, you’ll see an actual mounting of a squirrel by Patrick Barkham of The Guardian in South London with professional taxidermist Sean Douglas. We especially chose this video because of how quick and easy Barkham and Douglas showed us the process.
Taxidermy as a business, the Works by WatchMojo – As mentioned previously, taxidermy is different every time. Its uses, objectives and perception is different to each taxidermist. In this video, WatchMojo captures the ins and outs of the taxidermy business. Oftentimes, love for the art runs in the family as show here. Find out how the business of taxidermy can help you decide your level of commitment to the art.
Behind the Scenes at WTC – This collection of photos by Helge Skodvin will give you an idea on what the art of taxidermy is trying to convey, both in the eyes of the taxidermist and us as its audience. We thought to show you this so it gives you an understanding of different perspectives when you finally decide to diy taxidermy.
Taxidermy is an Archive, NatGeo – Why do people get into taxidermy? For some people, it’s as simple as preserving memories. In this video interview with Michael Novacek, senior vice president of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, shared by National Geographic, Taxidermy is a means to keep history alive. We included this video because taxidermy is not just about big game hunting after thought, but is also a noble endeavor if we choose it to be so. This way, you get to think about your objectives on being a taxidermist.
Photo by Javier Carbajal http://www.hispayork.com/galeria/
Wiki, the very first exposure to the process – If you’re completely new to taxidermy, then here’s a simple, uncomplicated overview of a diy taxidermy or home taxidermy. Most newbies will look to Wiki to show them how to do things. We don’t want to overwhelm you with too much detail, so this Wiki on home taxidermy will pave the way for you to seek a deeper understanding of the craft. If you will that this isn’t detailed enough, then we have succeeded in our objective of getting you curious about taxidermy steps. Thus, you’re on your way to becoming a more advanced professional.
The Art and Science of Taxidermy by the Western Australian Museum – This thirty plus minute video is a lecture done by Kirsten Tullis, Senior Preparator of the Western Australia Museum. In her lecture, she explains the difference between a Preparator and a Taxidermist. Either way, you will find out that though each has its own job scope, Tullis shows us that detail is key to preserving animals for display. In addition, she will also show you how to stuff a bird in this taxidermy instructions lecture. You can watch the video and use the transcript for future reference.
Tools of the Trade or Hobby – You can hardly start to stuff an animal if you don’t have the proper tools. To stuff an animal takes precision. But you cannot be precise if you do not know which tools to use. In this site, you will familiarize yourself with the tools you need in taxidermy. This is part of the taxidermy steps to learning further. As you learn how to preserve animals, this site shows you how to love the tools you will also use.
Taxidermy, British Style – How do the British taxidermy animals? It pays to have different perspectives on taxidermy processes. This way, you can combine best practices and be an even more effective taxidermist. You can also take advantage of literatures they share on their site. More readings for you until do it yourself taxidermy days.
Just like any hobby and profession, there have been issues since the start of the craft and especially during the height of its traditional era.
President Theodore Roosevelt was known as an avid taxidermist and a conservationist. Others, like Mark Twain, openly criticized him for this saying Roosevelt was a hypocrite. We could see where the debate is.
Conserving wildlife seems farfetched when you also take part in stuffing animals you swore to protect. With big game hunters getting some added heat from the killing of Cecil the Lion, how can taxidermy marry conservation and preservation of nature?
As taxidermy experts and newbies, this is what you need to weigh in on the issues and questions in the taxidermy industry. In the concluded World Taxidermy Championships just last May, taxidermists all over the country came to pay homage to a distinct hobby by choosing the best of the bunch.
Taxidermy: To Preserve, Conserve and Enjoy Nature
Taxidermy gets hit with a lot of flak, maybe because it’s closely associated with big game hunting. But Taxidermy is not about big game hunting at all. It is time that we clear that misconception. As times change, so do our roles. As a beginner, ask yourself that question. What is your role as a taxidermist? Is it to preserve, conserve or enjoy what nature has to offer us?
We’re sure you are familiar with what happened to Cecil the Lion and the outrage its death caused. Previous situations have put us in the limelight. Are we enemies of nature, a bystander or do we take an active role in our playground, nature?
As a person actively seeking to learn about taxidermy, know that it is no longer just an art nor is it just science. It is now a responsibility to be good at it because we have the option to be an active participant in history by preserving animals and archiving their natural habitat.
After we have finished a course or learned enough to produce taxidermy work, each of us has a responsibility to become an active teacher in spreading awareness on wildlife extinction.
Another way to be responsible with the craft is to become an active art curator of nature’s best gifts through the creation of an avenue for others to view taxidermy as a needed skill for overall preservation and conservation.
Part of being a taxidermist is finding material on your own. But at the same time, it’s also important that you know where to look and are available to discern which resources work for you and which don’t.
Here are some tips and leads for the budding hobbyist:
YouTube has a wealth of free information. But take everything with a grain of salt as some are amateurs teaching their own home-grown style. Use online lessons like these to supplement your formal training.
you can find old texts on the art of taxidermy and its processes for free online. Lots of old books are now uploaded online in e-book format such as this one.
Order all your supplies online and you don’t have to hunt for specialty shops ,unless that’s part of the enjoyment for you. Look for supplies here and here for starters. Afterwards, simply search online for stores or suppliers near you.
When one actually thinks about it, sitting in front of a screen has now become an integral process to becoming a modern taxidermist. Cheers on the beginning of your wonderful journey!
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