Hello, my name is Travis Williamson and I have been a taxidermist now for close to three decades. I was always destined to be a taxidermist as my grandfather and my father were both well respected taxidermists. I wouldn’t quite say that I have their skills, but I have still received a lot of praise for my work due to it being out of the box, so to speak. Below you can find out a bit more about taxidermy.
A Quick Look at What Taxidermy is
A taxidermist is somebody who preserves the dead body of an animal so that they may be displayed or studied. The animals are often, although not always, shown in a life-like state. Taxidermy is often done on vertebrates (animals that have a backbone) such as birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, and sometimes amphibians. On the rare occasion, taxidermy might be carried out on arachnids or insects.
Museums are fond of taxidermists as we allow them to record species that are close to extinction so that visitors can see what they looked like. Take the dodo for example. This flightless bird has, unfortunately, been extinct for centuries but we can get a life-like glimpse of it thanks to the fact that some were stuffed before the species was wiped out. This also shows how long taxidermy has been about as a form of preserving life.
Hunters are also fond of us taxidermists as we allow them to proudly display their kills around their house for guests to look at. Before you think about contacting me to say how cruel that is, please be aware that I am totally against that and will not stuff anything that I know has been killed in cold blood. I will work with animals that have died of natural causes or have been hit by a car.
We all love our pets and get terribly upset when they pass away. Nowadays, more and more people are turning to us taxidermists to immortalize their beloved pets when they die.
A Brief Look at the History of Taxidermy
Preserving dead animal skins is something that people have practiced for centuries. In fact, embalmed animals have been buried with Egyptian mummies. However, embalming itself is not considered to be taxidermy. During the Middle Ages, apothecaries and astrologers often displayed poor examples of taxidermy. The earliest records describing how to preserve birds for cabinets was published in France in 1748. Then, in 1752, the first book about mounting techniques was published by M.B. Stollas.
By the beginning of the 19th century, the tannery business was huge. Hunters would bring their preserved skins to upholsterers who would stuff them with cotton and rags and then sew them up. This is where the term “stuffing” comes from. However, I would like to point out that most professional taxidermists prefer “mounting”. I, personally, are not bothered either way.
In 1793, a Frenchman by the name of Louis Dusfresne started to use arsenical soap for his work. This was a revolutionary technique and allowed him to build a fantastic bird collection for the Natural History Museum in Paris. This method arrived in England at the beginning of the 19th century, but arsenical soap is highly toxic, so Montague Brown and Rowland Ward, two of the greatest taxidermists at the time, created some non-toxic methods.
The Victorian era was taxidermy’s golden age as mounted animals were highly popular decorations. John Hancock, an English ornithologist, is considered by many as the father of modern-day taxidermy. In 1851, at the Great Exhibition in London, he displayed some of his work. The public were extremely interested in his stuffed birds and a judge told him that he was taking taxidermy to a whole new level. His bird display greatly increased the interest in taxidermy.
Taxidermy was improved further in the 20th century thanks to William T. Hornaday, James L. Clark, Leon Pray, Coleman Jonas, and Carl Akeley. These talented taxidermists created anatomically accurate mounts that were then displayed in realistic poses and settings that were appropriate for the species involved.
People Pay Lots of Money for Taxidermy
Taxidermy is a skill that many people will pay a good sum of money for. For example, rich hunters will pay up to $60,000 to get the animals that they have shot mounted. Once again, I need to emphasize that I do not agree with this, especially when a lot of these animals are endangered species.
A quick search on Google reveals that the most that someone ever paid for some taxidermy was $490,000. In 1997, Maurizio Cattelan, who works with taxidermy, put together a collection of pigeons that was sold for nearly half a million dollars 8 years later.
Anyway, now that you know a bit more about taxidermy, why don’t you browse through my site and take a look at some of the work I have done. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know as I am always looking to improve myself and my work.