Learning Taxidermy Mounts
Preparing a lifelike taxidermy mount is an artistic achievement, and a means of not only preserving hunting trophies or biological specimens,
but of creating a realistic nature scene. However, like any art form, taxidermy takes some effort to learn. While some taxidermy hobbyists will be lucky enough to know an accomplished taxidermist they can learn from, others will find that kits for creating mounts are an invaluable resource for learning.
Taxidermy kits usually come with a couple key ingredients, though the type of kit and the animal it’s intended for will impact what’s included, so it‘s important to know what type of animal you plan to learn to work with before purchasing the materials. All of them generally include the powders, pastes, or solutions needed to properly preserve the skin of the animal, while some others might include injectable solutions for use on fish mounts, which often require leaving the head and tail of the animal intact. Since fish and birds require some additional considerations that mammals don‘t, beginners are usually recommended to start with mammals, like squirrels.
Mannequins themselves may or may not come in a kit. Often, due to the wide range of sizes and poses available for most species, they are sold separately. These are usually made of polyurethane foam, and developed by wildlife artists to be anatomically correct and realistically proportioned. Some mannequins are different for either gender of an animal, so it’s important to know some things about the specific animal you’re going to be working with before you get started, if you don’t intend to keep a good selection of mannequins on-hand. Eyes, for the same reason, are generally not included.
Kits also come with guides, and sometimes video, on how to perform all of the steps of your taxidermy project. Depending on how you learn best, whether you choose a kit with a written guide or a video is up to you. However, video might be a bit easier for hobbyists who “learn by doing,” since it’s easy to turn the video on and work on your project at the same time, pausing and rewinding as necessary. The best guides will show every step of the project in detail, from skinning the animal to mounting it, though general how-tos exist on the internet for novices who need more help in a specific area.
Though it’s hard for a beginning taxidermy hobbyist to choose which animal to learn on first, forums exist online for helping beginners get their feet wet and introduce them to the art of taxidermy. By following the advice of others, developing an idea of what they would like to create, and purchasing a good kit, even novice taxidermists can create lovely, realistic mounts in no time at all.
Making Taxidermy Your Hobby
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.
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