I’ve been interested in Taxidermy since I was around 9 years old, when I went to visit a family friend’s home in Norfolk. This particular family friend is Emily Mayer; a very talented and successful Taxidermist. I was overwhelmed with the realisation that the animals I admired so much could have their beauty preserved after death, and I was completely in awe.
I started collecting taxidermy a couple of years ago, when I was finally in a position where I could afford to save up for the odd piece! This ‘collection’ only consists of a Pine Martin, a Japanese Courli bird (both bought at markets in Brighton) and a magpie so far, but it can only grow!
Back in September 2011, I was put in touch with Lee Ismail, Curator of Natural Sciences at the Booth Museum, because I decided that I wanted to learn how to do Taxidermy myself, so that I could appreciate and understand the art of it, and be able to put the skills to good use.
Lee has a collection of headless seagulls in the workshop freezer, so on my first day he started by letting me practice on its body whilst he supervised and worked on a woodpecker.
The level of detail and precision required was more than I could have imagined… Making sure you pull all the innards out without cutting through the skin is a job that requires patience and a strong stomach!
Despite the smell of the seagull’s guts, it was a really interesting experience.
Since then, I have done a seagull wing and a seagull foot, which is a bit simpler than the body as it’s just a case of pulling out some tendons. On my second or third session, I really enjoyed sewing up a seagull foot, which I then took home. I’m planning on mounting it in a frame and putting on my wall!
Last week, Lee got out an old buzzard which had been skinned a while back, but that still needed stuffing for use as a study piece for the Booth Museum. I really enjoyed making its body mould, as it involves measuring the exact size of the bird and making a shape out of wood wool, with cotton reel wrapped tightly around it to make it sturdy.
Once the shape was right, it was placed inside the bird and I sewed it up. With the wire now stuck through its legs, and up its neck and through the forehead, it was no longer the limp corpse of a bird. It was beginning to take form and look lifelike.
This made me very happy and excited; I can’t wait to carry on with it next time I’m at the Booth Museum again.
Georgia Flowers, Volunteer