Fleshy Ideas: The Creative Art of Taxidermy

Mark P’s masterclass last week got me thinking. “How do your hobbies improve your craft?” The question twirled into my mind and drowned shortly after in a sea of Adobe chaos. Sweltering on the disgustingly-hot Victoria line, and pondering what to write this week’s SCAB on, the question spun back into my head. Do my hobbies improve my craft? How? 

As most of you have now discovered, my preferred way to spend a Saturday night is curled up with a defrosted rat and a scalpel. No, I’m not totally off my nut; I’m an amateur taxidermist. Okay, maybe I’m a little off my nut…

Taxidermy, for those still a little unsure, is the art of preparing and mounting animal skins for display or study. The animal is carefully skinned, its insides removed, small structural bones and skull (if left in) cleaned and the lost flesh remoulded, the skin washed, prepped and then dried, a false body moulded, the skin mounted then sewed back together, and the specimen set in position to dry. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on specimen and skill. 

But how does this improve my craft? Where are the transferable skills in taxidermy? Not a question I ever thought I’d ask. But how wrong I’ve been not to.

Taxidermy isn’t iteration-able like Illustrator. If you fuck up, you fuck up. There’s no CTRL Z on a dead mouse. You either get a new mouse or rethink your idea: the mouse was going to be on all-fours but there’s some slippage on one side (some fur’s falling out basically), he becomes a picnic-posed mouse on a tartan blanket, slippage-side down. Fuck ups sometimes inspire creative problem solving, they mainly inspire concentration and attention to detail. That’s three transferable skills. Damn. That was surprisingly easy. 

Although that doesn’t make me the easiest person. I’m writing this SCAB at 1am because I’ve spent the evening picking apart every pixel of our agency video. A big shout out to my heroes, Nicole, Oscar and Dave, for putting up with me. It’s annoying to have someone constantly picking at the work (especially when they’re not even the one making the edits) but we do have a better video for pushing it. 

But I was a creative thinker and obsessive perfectionist before the taxidermy. What has practicing taxidermy specifically, given me? (Apart from a bedroom entirely unsuitable for one-night stands). I think the answer is, confidence. And a good smattering of self-acceptance. 

“That’s disgusting!”

“What the actual fuck?’

“That’s so weird… bad weird.”

“There must be something wrong with you.” 

“Gross! Not on the kitchen table!!!” (okay that one was fair enough…)

I’ve heard it all before—obviously, it’s dead animal art, what do you expect? It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a bit weird. I’m a bit weird. But that’s totally fine—more than fine, that’s great. God, I hate non-weird people. Thank goodness SCA exists to bring us  weirdos all together. (Though even you lot think I’m nuts—good nuts I hope…) 

So does my taxidermy make me a better creative? I’d say so. But more importantly, will I be making a furry SCA mascot? Absobloodylutely. 

Which leaves only one question:

Mouse, rat, or squirrel?


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