Even if you don’t work in a museum, taxidermy is a fun and fascinating hobby that’s surprisingly easy to get into. Most hobby taxidermists take it up for one of two reasons- they also enjoy hunting or fishing, or they want to learn the skills to add to their other visual artworks.
For hunters and fishermen, taxidermy is a great way to preserve trophies. Unfortunately, commissioning a professional taxidermist to create a lifelike trophy can be expensive. With the right know-how, however, it’s possible to avoid this cost, and end up with a high-quality end product that’s still perfectly posed and mounted. Many of the necessary tools and materials are available online, including tools to sculpt a mount, stretch the hide, sew it closed, and even add other small artistic touches like realistic glass eyes or artificial teeth.
For artists, taxidermy is becoming an avant-garde addition to many other visual arts disciplines. Painters and sculptors, in particular, are seeing a revival of taxidermy, as artists incorporate both antique and vintage specimens, and more modern specimens in everything from sculptures, to dioramas, to paintings, to other pieces like artistic hair or clothing designs. Some enjoy combining two or more animals to create a fantasy creature- lambs and goats become unicorns, fish become mermaids, and some others are even more exotic. Special materials are available for these pieces, as well, like dye, special armatures for wings, horns, and glass eyes in beautiful, unusual patterns and colors.
Once you’ve elected to pursue taxidermy as a hobby, it’s necessary to find out where you’ll get your materials. If you’re a hunter, or know one, that’s easy enough. If you’re an artist, you may find inspiration in picking up vintage specimens from an antique shop or estate sale, or even in using leather or fur garments to create a creature. Some artists don’t use skins at all, preferring to work with antlers, shells, skulls, or bones instead. The only limit is your imagination, and very beautiful pieces ca be created from some very humble beginnings, after a bit of practice. While taxidermy is a great way to use every part of a hunted animal and ensure nothing goes to waste, many groups take a very negative view toward killing an animal solely for the purpose of creating a taxidermy piece. Therefore, it’s very important to always approach this art form with a level of ethical treatment and respect for the subject.
Once you’ve chosen to pursue taxidermy as a hobby, you won’t be disappointed. A fascinating discipline with a long history, taxidermy is a great way to help preserve part of the natural world, as well as expand your artistic horizons.