Monday, 29 July 2013

Taxidermy beginnings with Kirstin

I've had a love for Taxidermy ever since I was little, starting from those first few trips to the Natural History and Horniman museums and vague memories of flicking through the Walter Potter catalogue of anthropomorphised critters and Victorian Cabinets of wonder and curiosity. I went to a mouse Taxidermy class held by the Last Tuesday Society a year or two ago and it did not go well, I managed to completely destroy a poor mouse pelt and it was impossible to stuff after I'd clumsily torn holes in the skin. I decided to have another try with the intent of practicing more and eventually using Taxidermy as a medium in my art work through some sort of illustration-animal sculptural combination. The peeling was the relatively easy bit. Then I immersed the pelt in Borax salt to absorb any remaining moisture and then removed any excess fat. The stuffing wasn't so easy. I used cotton wool as it's easily malleable, wood wool was also an option but for such a small animal it seemed a bit pointless and cotton wool was easily accessible and just as good. I'm proud of my rat, I would have preferred to have found my specimen myself as this rat was bred for snake munchies, but it was a good starting point and I really enjoyed doing it despite my ethical concerns. It was an incredibly intimate experience and satisfying that the final result actually resembled a rat and not a bulbous mass of cotton, fur and whiskers. He is a little skinny and tubular and his face isn't quite right but for my first try I'm pretty happy with him. Kirstin was a brilliant teacher and really let me get involved with the animal inside and out without a step by step guide, it's an incredibly personal thing, I'm sure methods differ but I felt very comfortable doing it on my own and picking away at flesh and fat to then mould and shape it after gently prodding cotton wool and wire under the skin and getting to know the rats body. I'm getting my tool kit together slowly and have every intention of practicing. I plan to write my dissertation on Fashions of Taxidermy in art and clothing and why there seems to be a revival in interest for it. I think it makes all the difference when you have experience with it rather than appreciation from a far.

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