We recently ran a second series of taxidermy workshops here at the Museum, run under the expert guidance of professional taxidermist Derek Frampton. Once again they proved very popular with participants, so we asked one of those budding taxidermists, Kit Collins, to give us a short write-up of the day…
As a child I was always fascinated by nature, finding adders, baby hares, grass snakes, slow worms, and watching dolphins, buzzards, and Red Kites, when they were much rarer. I even once skinned a mouse that had been caught in our mouse trap.
I have always wanted to try taxidermy and I now work at an auctioneers where I regularly see all sorts of taxidermy – skins, horns, and skulls, including a hippopotamus skull. So I was keen to know more about the process. This was the first taxidermy course I’ve seen so I jumped at the chance to try something new and learn from an expert taxidermist.
During the workshop we were taken through each step of the process, first watching Derek demonstrating on his bird then copying these steps on our own Red-Legged Partridges.
We could see the finished article that had been made in the previous day’s workshop, sitting watching us on a nearby windowsill. Unfortunately, our specimens looked nothing at all like this at the start and as the morning went by it looked less and less likely that our piece of wet skin and feathers with a few bones attached would end up looking anything like a real bird again…
However, with the help of a blow dryer the feathers regained their soft, striking plumage. We then spent the afternoon piecing the bird back together using a kind of packing straw to recreate the shape of the body, and wire, clay, false eyes, and car body filler to do the rest.
We each ended up with a beautiful bird to take home, as well as the memories of a fun and unusual day out (and anatomy lesson) at the Museum. I would love to do it again.