elk, gazelle and peacock taxidermy, plus zebra skin rug

    What is Taxidermy?

    elk-and-zebra-rugFirst of all, it’s not spelled taxadermy. The word taxidermy is derived from the ancient Greek words taxis, which means movement, and derma, which means skin. So when you put the two words together, taxidermy means movement of skin.

    And yes, usually it’s the skin, and the antlers if any, that is used in modern taxidermy. The skin is either tanned or applied with preserving chemicals before the molding. But taxidermy is not just about stuffing animals. In fact, to create a lifelike animal form or manikin complete with muscle and vein, modern taxidermists use polyurethane foam if not the combination of wood wool (or excelsior) and wire. The taxidermist then uses glass eyes, sculpts the eyelids from clay, and sculpts the nose and mouth from epoxy or wax.

    So to define taxidermy is to appreciate it as a craft and an art form. There’s no gore involved in the process. The taxidermist doesn’t cut open animals and spill blood and internal organs; the process of taxidermy can be done without slicing open the body cavity. But what taxidermy does involve are several disciplines from tanning, molding and casting to carpentry and woodworking, as well as artistic skills in sculpture, painting and drawing.

    There’s a lot of bad taxidermy out there. But when beautifully done, taxidermy can look majestic and impressive, and it certainly makes a statement.

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