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We asked Brian Kelly from BioPharmachem Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:

 

Brian Kelly

Science Entrepreneur

BioPharmachem Ireland

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  Brian Kelly
Go for it!  But realise that its not going to be easy and things take time and there are LOTS of sacrifices to make. Also make sure you learn from your mistakes - because you will make them. It is really only a mistake if you don't learn from it.
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Taxidermist

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At a Glance... header image

Preserves dead animal specimens (mammals, birds, reptiles and fish) into lifelike representations.


The Work header image

A Taxidermist is a highly skilled craft person, usually with an in-depth knowledge of natural history, anatomy and wildlife.

Taxidermists work to produce sculptural representations of animals for display and to preserve damaged specimens.

Taxidermy has comes from the Greek “taxis” meaning movement and “derma” meaning skin. This is because Taxidermists sometimes remove the animal’s natural skin and replace it with man-made materials to make it appear lifelike. Taxidermists may also preserve the animal’s skin, feathers, fur, or scales to be mounted over an artificial skeleton or armature.

Taxidermists may specialise in one of the main animal groups: mammals, reptiles, fish or birds, each of which requires different techniques. Fish are generally thought to be the hardest to reconstruct, especially because their scales lose their colour as they dry. Fish taxidermists must be deft and highly skilled painters.

In the UK, Taxidermy is regulated under strict laws and most animals that find their way to the taxidermist’s workshop are found dead on the road. Taxidermists will not work with illegally killed animals and will ask collectors to provide a proof of the animal’s origin and of the circumstances of its death.

Taxidermists may also specialise in restoring antique specimens, working with museums, local authorities and collectors to provide identification, authenticity and valuation services, as well as licensing and legal advice.

Taxidermists can be employed by national history museums, scientific companies, private organisations, or they may be self-employed.

Taxidermists may also hire out their specimens to the props department of a film, TV or theatre production. 

Tasks

  • Recording information about the circumstances of the animal’s death, its scientific name and habitat
  • Freezing specimens in appropriate conditions, for example in sealed bags
  • Studying the natural pose of the animal
  • Using power tools, scissors, scalpels and other cutting instruments to remove the hide from the body
  • Tanning, de-greasing and preserving the specimen’s skin
  • Making the body’s armature using moulding, casting and other techniques
  • Choosing appropriate materials for the armature, for example wood, polyurethane foam, steel rods, plastic, fibreglass or papier mâché
  • Making artificial parts such as eyes, eyelids, skull, fish scales, etc.
  • Adding the skin and all the parts to the armature
  • Placing the reconstruction on a mount
  • Adding finishing touches such as a natural backdrop
  • Holding a licence to keep certain types of animals
  • Staying informed of current legislation concerning the use of dead animals
  • Respecting health and safety regulations

Knowledge and Skills

  • Artistic skills to render life-like representations of animals using photographs as references
  • Knowledge of animal form, coloring and fur/scale/feather texture
  • Administrative and marketing skills for operating a taxidermy business
 


Personal Qualitiesheader image

Strong hand-eye coordination and attention to detail are important qualities for this job, together with patience, creativity and problem solving.

 


Entry Routesheader image

There are no formal qualifications available to become a Taxidermist.

Academic subjects which will help you enter the profession include biology, anatomy, wildlife, art and design.

Skills were traditionally learnt through apprenticeship with an experienced taxidermist. It is also possible to take short courses to further your skills, topics for which include legal issues, anatomy, preparation of the specimens, armature-making and finishing techniques.

Local and national museums such as the Natural History Museum or the Zoology departments of major universities are among the main contractors. While they may traditionally have employed a taxidermist, there are currently no in-house taxidermists in Ireland. This work is more typically outsourced and commissioned to private pratitioners.

Last Updated: December, 2014


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Organisation: UK Guild of Taxidermists
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