#taximag #1 October 2014
Hello… I’m pleased that we found you.
#taximag looks at the European taxidermy collecting scene and the people in it. It has materialised thanks to the enthusiastic involvement of some extraordinary collaboration buddies and enthusiastic contributors. Key among them are Katherine Edden (www.katherineedden.com) for her fabulous photography and Marie Leggo for putting up with me long enough to complete this great layout. The people who contributed to this without knowing how it was going to turn out deserve special thanks and appreciation. They are Karen Unrue, Toni Raphael, Casper Grooters, Tamsin Pearson, Emily LW Kern, Katherine O’Connor, Danny Kingston, James Cranfield and Bob Gibbs. #taximag is the magazine that I want to read. If this appeals to you too then please come along for the ride. Better still, please tell your friends. We are hoping that this will be the start of something interesting and exciting. So, if you have an interesting taxidermy story to tell and fancy getting in on the act, then get in touch by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you so please don’t be shy. Watch out for #taximag updates on Instagram (http://instagram.com/curiouskanna) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/curiouskanna). Kanna. www.curiouskanna.com
Inside 4 - 11 Dead Safari Diaries
42 - 43 Squirrel Ragu
12 -13 Collecting or Hoarding?
44 - 45 Dreaded Moth / Saint Squirrel
16 - 17 Casper’s Creatures
46 - 47 Death of a Collection
20 - 21 Stuff The World 22 - 23 The Consolation of Taxidermy 24 -25 Katherine O’Connor Q&A 32 - 33 Tamsin Pearson Vegetarian Taxidermist 38 - 39 Sourcing Squirrels
Dead Safari Diaries Story by Karen Unrue / Photos by Katherine Edden
Robin Williams famously said of his 1980’s cocaine habit that it was God’s way of telling him he had too much money. In my experience the same can be said of taxidermy collecting. It all started with a fish. A Perch to be exact, a Perch with one eye hanging from its socket. It had been caught, stuffed, and mounted in a case in 1959, and we spotted it in a Wiltshire collectibles shop in 2009. We fell in love and brought it home to swim forever upstream on our lounge sideboard; one lonely piece of taxidermy among our kitsch 1950’s décor. Five years on and our West London flat is now so full of taxidermy that you cannot swing a cat, not even a stuffed one, oh and by the way we have one of those without hitting something dead! This is a tale of money, madness, and mammals, (we still only have the one fish). Maybe madness is going a bit far. Obsession is a better description. Kanna is South African but when it comes to collecting it soon became clear that she is possessed of an eccentricity usually reserved for ageing English aristocrats. She is a dying breed and in that, I suppose, she is similar to the things she collects. Over the years I’ve accumulated dozens of books on World War 1, collected a few treasured artefacts, perused countless museums, visited the Somme, and taken a guided tour of the Ypres battlefields. I considered myself an anorak and wore it with pride. But that was before Kanna discovered taxidermy. Co-habiting with a real collector, one with the money to fuel her habit, I now concede that I was merely an amateur. Wide-eyed at the madness rapidly overtaking Kanna, I could do nothing but remove my anorak and hand it to her. She was far more deserving of it, clearly bonkers but deserving. In the first few months things moved at a pedestrian pace. She acquired a squirrel in a case, two red squirrels in a diorama, a rabbit and Jay. Nothing to be concerned about I thought: nothing yet to indicate the taxidermy tsunami that was to come. She was new to this, you see, and finding taxidermy took time. Most weekends our days were spent on country roads and our nights in village inns as we trolled the Shires for something stuffed. Hungerford Arcade became a favourite. We stumbled upon it when Kanna was attending a crop circle conference in Marlborough. Yes, you heard correctly, a crop circle conference, and no, please don’t ask, that’s a conversation for another time. At first I enjoyed these excursions, interspersed, as they were with cream teas in pretty villages. Only when the taxidermy purchases began to threaten my place in the car did I wonder whether there would ever be an end to the buying of dead things. Journeys home from these buying sprees were far from comfortable for me. Sitting in the passenger seat of our tiny sports car I juggled various feathered and furry things on my lap and at my feet, I was poked mercilessly by horns, antlers, and beaks from the back shelf with each left and right turn, and was particularly concerned about the risk of death by impalement should we stop suddenly. I was willing, though, to put up with these inconveniences. It was her hobby, it made her happy, and I liked to see her happy. However, on the day she suggested I give up my seat in the car to a newly purchased deer head and make my way home by train I realised that this collecting malarkey was no longer just a hobby. Kanna had entered the taxidermy twilight zone and she wasn’t coming back.
Collecting or Hoarding? A psychologist’s perspective.
Story by Toni Raphael / Photos by Katherine Edden
The collections and accompanying habits and behaviours of collectors may not always endear them to the people with whom they live and share space. They may find that their pursuits are not fully appreciated or understood by their non-collecting counterparts. There may even be name calling, psychiatric and otherwise. Obsessive, eccentric, cluttered, compulsive, socially inappropriate, anti-social, hoarding….. Hoarding Disorder made its first appearance in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel (DSM-5), which is the American Psychiatric Association’s very widely used classification and diagnostic tool, in 2013. Before that hoarding behaviour made a few guest appearances as a possible symptom in other diagnostic categories such as Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, which, in turn, fell under the banner of Anxiety Disorders. But Hoarding Disorder has come into its own in the DSM-5, where it is listed under the new category Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders. It joins ranks with the likes of Trichotillomania, and Excoriation (hair and skin picking respectively). It is an entire disorder all on its own. Basically it involves the compulsive acquisition of possessions, as well as the failure and inability to discard of possessions that seem to have no intrinsic value. It includes the concept of clutter, which renders living space unavailable for its designated function. Finally, it significantly impairs the functioning of the person who hoards at various levels and often causes distress to those around them. People with Hoarding Disorder gather possessions for the same reasons as most other people do: sentimental value, potential future usefulness, and aesthetic appeal (however subjective). Then there are collectors and even extreme collectors. The latter appears to refer to what might be called poly-collectors. Collectors, like people with Hoarding Disorder, do sometimes experience an extreme urge to acquire possessions, as well as distress at even the prospect of discarding (selling, giving away, donating, bequeathing) items in their collections, regardless of their intrinsic value. It’s a slippery slope. Collectors set themselves apart from those with Hoarding Disorder, however, in that they take pride in their collections and the display thereof. Collectors generally keep their collections well organized and maintained, they always know what they have and where they have it. Their collections give them joy and pride, and they interact with other collectors and share their interests. Generally, collectors gather possessions that do have some shared intrinsic value that can be objectively quantified. If a collector gets into debt because of their collection, is unable to use the space in their homes for designated functions, If they are embarrassed, distressed, or feeling controlled by their collections and collecting behaviour, if their collection is preventing them from doing things that they want to do, then a name other than “collector” may apply.
Story by Kanna Ingelson / Photos by Casper Grooters & Katherine Edden
Casper Grooters is a Dutch classical painter and licensed taxidermist. Things took a creative turn when he moved to Germany. Only rats, mice, and frogs are unprotected and Casper’s license was not recognized. He turned his attention to the much more easy going world of day-old chicks and started experimenting with some “cool shapes”. When I first saw Casper’s creatures I wanted to look away. Except that I couldn’t. And I kept coming back. Then I did what any self-respecting collector would do: I got in touch and bought a couple of pieces. At least one of my friends thinks that Casper is a genius. Others who otherwise have no interest in taxidermy concede that his work is entirely compelling. That’s when I decided to have a chat with him. Casper’s taxidermy aspirations started when he included a found dead heron into one of his installations at art school. When it “turned to snot” a week later, Casper started to think about how best to preserve birds and keep them as they are. A two year weekend course followed and a taxidermy career started. Casper sells his work at markets and says that passers-by don’t always immediately realize that they are looking at taxidermy. When they do, the response is almost always positive. He speculates that the appeal of his creatures might be because they seem real. “If they were alive and you set them free in nature, they might possibly survive. They seem natural”. Male chicks are killed by breeders almost as soon as they hatch. Their inability to produce eggs destines them to become fertilizer. A few make it into the pet food chain and these are the ones that Casper transforms into magical and mythical creatures. Working with a by-product of the poultry industry suits Casper because, like many taxidermists, he doesn’t endorse the killing of animals for the sole purpose of taxidermy. He argues that few people have the right to criticize his work since they only exist because people consume eggs. When people look at his art they are effectively looking at the reality of the poultry industry. Casper is more than happy to do custom pieces and to hear from anyone who may be interested in his work. Check him out on www.casperscreatures.com. Remember, you saw it here first!
Stuff the World by Kanna Ingleson
This 90 minute film of The 2005 World Taxidermy Championships provides a quirky insight into the world of competitive taxidermy. It will inspire you and challenge your sensibilities, probably in equal measure. Judges squint at a deer’s anus to be sure the ‘pucker’ is exact, shine a torch up an animals’ nostrils to check the veins, and disappear between the legs of a moose for a more detailed inspection that one might imagine. The World Taxidermy Championship is a big deal and it happens every two years. It transforms a bog standard conference centre into a 30,000 square-foot Noah’s Ark with the obvious distinction that all the animals are dead. The film provides a quirky insight into the taxidermy sub-culture. It highlights the sheer scale of the American taxidermy business which is fuelled by a massive hunting interest. Over a million hunting licenses are sold each year in Texas and taxidermists are picking up a lot of the spoils. Foreign competitors are severely restricted by what they can bring to the event and competing European mounts are small by necessity. But size clearly isn’t everything because they have managed to gain an advantage with beautiful songbirds that Americans are forbidden from using. And then there is the world of miniature fish that provides one of the more compelling aspects of this film. Matthias is a German born again Christian featured in the film for pioneering the art of mounting very small fish. He wins Best in World with one of them in the 2003 competition. It takes three months to prepare and requires specialist equipment more reminiscent of surgery than taxidermy. Matthias thought that winning would bring him fame and fortune, but instead he is forced to live with his mum and work part time as a security guard. Ken is a Canadian maverick who is turning taxidermy on its head with epic taxidermy recreations. He invests $25,000 of his own cash to recreate two spectacular life-sized prehistoric Great Elk. These creatures have been extinct for at least 1000 years with antlers spanning 13 feet. Jeannette is a cowgirl from Nevada who seems unusually preoccupied with testicles. She is ambitious beyond her capabilities and controversially plans to mount a jumping horse for the competition. She is desperate to be taken seriously for her work rather than her looks, but only when it suits her. Jack is a top UK taxidermist whose arrogance is matched by his accomplishments. Having won pretty much everything there is to win, he has become bored with the UK taxidermy scene and fancies himself as a player on the international scene. His collaboration partner Peter is a Danish perfectionist with a passion for fine wine and classical music. Together they take on the Americans by artistically resurrecting a bird that has been languishing in Peter’s freezer for 20 years. Things get interesting when we meet 8 year old Victoria, known as ‘Killer’ for her unflinching blood lust and passion for shooting. She mounts her kill for the World Championships and thereby earns the accolade of being the youngest competitor. Roy is a Texan taxidermist and hunter who has for many years dreamed of killing a leopard. He decides to realise this dream in South Africa. He is likely to challenge your views on hunting, whatever they are. “Stuff the World” is directed by Morgan Matthews. To order your own copy, contact email@example.com
The Consolation of Taxidermy by Emily LW Kern (who is entirely new to the world of stuffed Owls)
While Anna’s peers and early playmates tread, In freedom, mountain-turf and river’s marge; Or float with music in the festal barge; Rein the proud steed, or through the dance are led; Her doom it is to press a weary bed — Till oft her guardian Angel, to some charge More urgent called, will stretch his wings at large, And friends too rarely prop the languid head. Yet, helped by Genius — untired comforter, The presence even of a stuffed Owl for her Can cheat the time; sending her fancy out To ivied castles and to moonlight skies, Though he can neither stir a plume, nor shout; Nor veil, with restless film, his staring eyes.
William Wordsworth We all feel like Anna sometimes, doomed by physical or mental weariness to be stuck in place while everyone else carries on with adventures. We might sometimes feel envious of our globe-trotting, marathon-running, pie-baking friends. (Personally, I’m hoping that my next social media update will include floating in a festal barge.) And you know life isn’t going your way when even your guardian angel is bored with you. But there is also potential for freedom within this stuckness, if we can allow our minds to escape from the busy world of peers and playmates. Can a stuffed owl help? Taxidermy is unlikely to replace reading as my favourite way to wander from reality and cheat the time, but it has a different power over the imagination. Reading can help us ramble into new worlds, but the book is a physical object that only represents the imaginary. The object of Anna’s contemplation, the staring stuffed owl, has actually been part of the natural world her friends are exploring without her. The “turn” of the sonnet (the ninth line: “Yet”...) takes us away from that sunny social scene into a nocturnal flight of fancy. Anna’s genius is imagination, and not just imagining which steeds her friends might be reigning in at the moment or picturing the sublime scenes described by a poet. In quiet contemplation of the owl she couples nature with imagination to create an entirely new and comforting nature-of-the-mind. Engaging with taxidermy is obviously not necessarily a solitary activity. I’m learning that there is a busy and exciting world of creators, curators, and collectors. We also encounter taxidermy in social places, homes and museums. But it seems to me that Wordsworth, so attuned to nature and imagination, captures something of what is unique about our individual response to stuffed owls and their kin. As former citizens of the natural world, they both inspire and invite questions we might not ask about other objects. What about the owl’s doom? As Wordsworth notes in conclusion, he is the most stuck in place. But his presence comforts and encourages Anna to find freedom in imagination. Taxidermy inspires thoughtfulness about the natural world, not as we rush through it but as we quietly imagine it.
Katherine O’Connor Q&A
Katherine originally studied a B.A. in Animation at the University of Humberside and Lincolnshire. Graduating in 1999, her independent short films have been screened all across the globe Katherine now teaches animation at Teesside University. Recently Katherine trained as a taxidermist and is now a member of the Taxidermist Guild. Her work explores primarily light and dark, Christianity and faith along with the “uncanny” investigating the line between life and death. This general fascination with the traditions of taxidermy and its attempt to bring to life the dead through traditional mountings combined with the idea of the moment of death as the separation of the soul from the being is the main focus of the work. The work is also steeped with symbolism, bringing together the hidden language from renaissance Christian art and the traditions of still life. Have you always been fascinated by birds and why? Ever since I can remember I have had a real fascination with birds. I think a lot of people do, but I can’t articulate what it is exactly that I find so magical about them. They have a majestic beauty, a sense of fun in their movements and behavior and of course the enviable freedom of flight. Have you always been interested in taxidermy? When I was younger I really detested the philosophy of taxidermy but had a fascination of it too. The uncanny feelings that it can bring to the surface always drew me in. Why did you become interested in taxidermy as an art form? Around six years ago I started to move away from filmmaking and became interested in communicating ideas through a single image in the form of painting. I started to use taxidermy as part of still life compositions and as I became more immersed in the symbolism of the objects traditionally used in this genre of painting it quickly became apparent that I would need to learn the craft so that I could have particular species in the poses I needed for each painting. Why did you decide to take up taxidermy? It really was a means to an end. It would have been to costly to commission a taxidermist to produce what I needed so I decided to go on a course but was quite worried as I am rather squeamish. Fortunately overall, it’s surprisingly not that messy and in truth I loved it
How has taxidermy changed your work? When I started this journey I was interested in painting and its traditions, however the introduction of taxidermy into my work has meant that I have begun to explore new areas in particular installations and how that can be used to reinterpret more traditional media such as painting. For example, the piece “light Arises” is a reinterpretation of the painting ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ by Daniel Maclise and in particular the darkness lifting from the court that can be seen almost as a spiritual presence over the sleeping princess. The piece “Light Arises” also tells the story of the “Sleeping Beauty” by Daniel Maclise. Part of the subject matter of the painting looks at the symbolism of light overcoming dark and it is this aspect of the painting that the installation focuses on with the addition of the text included as part of the piece, “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12 The species of bird chosen are significant for their symbolic meaning and physical beauty. The pheasants represent the prince from the painting and are the embodiment of majesty as well as God’s light with its rich colours reflecting those found in the painting as well as symbolizing the glory of God’s creation as they are well known to us. However we really stop to admire them in all their beauty through the iridescence of their plumage and colours that we traditionally associate with Kings such as Prussian blue and green with the added guilding to emphasize this. What is it about taxidermy that fascinates you? I think it is many things, the idea of taking something dead and preserving it as if it were still alive and this then creating a limbo state for this animal where it is held in a place between life and death for our pleasure. I find this enforced limbo state touches something very deep within, an uncanny feeling that draws me in being at the same time both fascinated and afraid. How do you use taxidermy in your work? I use taxidermy in two ways, as part of the drawing or development stage. I allow the animals to inform the shape and form of the final piece, whether that is to be a painting or installation. The species is most important. There is a traditional symbolism already attached to many animals and along with this I have incorporated a new symbolism, such as the male pheasant who in my work represents royalty, God’s majesty as the male pheasant is bejeweled with the most wonderful and colourful plumage and the association of these rich Prussian blues and velvets being traditionally the colours of nobility. The crow has long been a symbol of evil and all things that we fear including death and sin. In the painting “in the shadow of your wings” we see the crow looming over us from out of the darkness. It covers us and holds us in fear. Within this there is a goldfinch, traditionally the symbol of the passion of Christ. He shines out in hope as a beacon we can follow. What’s next?
Currently I am exploring very small self-contained spaces where the animals can play out their limbo state. I want to explore further the uncanny and the line between life and death. This is likely to take the form of very small installations and perhaps some paintings or images taken using light. I want to explore this hidden world of “limbo in purgatory” taking on board the traditions and philosophyies that exist behind the painting of “Icons”. Overall I want to take the viewer to a place behind our everyday and beyond the boundaries of the present. https://katherine-oconnor.squarespace.com
Vegetarian Taxidermist Photos by Katherine Edden
A Bizarre Pursuit by Tamsin Pearson
My creative work stems from a desire to preserve a beautiful material that would otherwise be considered and disposed of as “waste”. I find the process from start to finish extremely fulfilling – from carefully sourcing animals and logging when and where they died, to the delicate process of preserving their bodies, and finally disposing of their remains correctly. The animals I use in my work have either died naturally, or through accidental deaths on roads. I also source animals from organic farmers, as well as those that are considered waste by-products of the food industry and sold as reptile food. Some may consider taxidermy to be a bizarre pursuit. However, when living in a fast paced world of short attention spans, where life is more and more subsumed by technology, I find that being able to absorb myself in an activity that not only requires patience and a keen attention to detail, but also connects me with nature, incredibly grounding. I believe in encouraging childhood instincts, particularly learning through touch. I vividly remember being screamed at by a ballet teacher during a pre-school show for wanting to touch the red and white felt toadstool costume of a girl in front of me. I only wanted to know if the white spots on the mushroom were made of cream like those in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Practicing taxidermy has deepened my appreciation of animals and a fascination with anatomy. I am far more aware of the alarming amount of waste produced by our consumerist society and the effects it is having on the natural world. I hope that my work draws attention to the beauty of nature and encourages an appreciation and respect for animals. “Weird Wearables” Along side practicing traditional taxidermy, I am attempting to combine my skills as a costume maker – and by abiding to a re-use, re-cycle and restore philosophy – to create a collection of ethically sourced wearable taxidermy art.
“I do not and will not ever endorse the killing or torturing of animals or their use for product testing, for whatever reason.” www.tamsin-pearson.com
Sourcing Squirrels Story and photos by Danny Kingston
It’s curious but whenever I’ve mentioned in the past that squirrel is on the menu , the raised eyebrows and quizzical gasps that return the announcement are often not as straightforward as you might think. In fact, the prospect of tucking into a cute and furry woodland creature, straight out of Disney, seems to be the furthest from people’s minds. They don’t seem to worry about that. No, provenance is usually the biggest question. And we are not talking about putting people’s minds at rest with organic, free-range, logo stamped assurance here (although squirrel does fulfil all those criteria by the way). We are talking about answering this very simple query: “Oh my God! You’ve cooked squirrel? *pause* Was it a grey one and or was it red one?” In other words, am I about to eat one of those bushy tailed, destructive rodents that I see every day in the park? Or did you travel all the way to the Isle of Wight to capture a national treasure; a protected, indigenous animal that has been harangued and chased from this fair land by the aforementioned grey Yankee rat? Did you, you bastard? Because if you have, I am not eating it. I have had that reaction before, I am not kidding. Like anyone in their right mind would want to eat an endangered species. But you should be made aware, that if you ever wish to cook squirrel, prepare yourself for a blast of slightly xenophobic outrage. Most of the time though people will delight at the very quirky nature of being served squirrel (unless they are vegan/vegetarian, another pitfall) and there is no reason why we shouldn’t see it on our plates more. Wild foods and foraging has exploded onto the food scene and as chefs continue to clamour for fruit and nuts, mushrooms and weeds sourced from the great outdoors, I am certain that we will see squirrel used more and more as a source of protein and inspiration.
What does squirrel taste like though? What made it such a favourite of Elvis, wedged betwixt two slices of bread and smothered in peanut butter? Well, as you would expect from an animal that has lived a flighty existence, scrambling from tree to tree, their meat is very lean and sparse. But it is quite sweet in flavour, with a texture resembling chicken or rabbit. Close your eyes and concentrate and you might even detect a hint of hazelnut. Seriously. And I have to say, my favourite way of eating them is when they’ve been deep fried, a la The King. Sourcing squirrel can be tricky. I have seen it turn up at farm shops and markets in the countryside but in cities, very few places will stock it regularly. I live just outside London and have to commute to South Kensington to Brompton Food Market (http:// bromptonfoodmarket.com/) to pick up some up. Usually eight at a time, with four destined for the freezer. I have asked my local butcher before but he just tutted and wrinkled his nose at me, suggesting that it wasn’t worth his time. Some butchers are like that. You could, of course trap your own and apply for a government grant to boot. Big incentives are given to keep those North American grey squirrels in check, all in the name of conservation. Your options then would be two-fold as hunting would not only supply good wholesome meat but also quarry to practise taxidermy. The considered method of despatch is use an air-rifle and deliver a quick, clean shot to the head which only leaves a small mark on the fur. Some organisations would prefer to see non-lethal methods used to control but given the imbalance, culling does seem to be the controversial way forward. Unless we resort to sourcing squirrel via the method of road kill. But even then it’s difficult, as the rules say that motorists can only pick up animals that have been run over by other drivers. You can’t keep for instance, a squirrel that has met its demise on your front bumper. This is presumably to ensure that people don’t go ploughing into animals willy-nilly. And why would you want to do that anyway? Unless it was a grey squirrel. Never a red.
Squirrel Ragu This recipe is an excellent starting point to introduce squirrel into your diet or culinary repertoire. It is slightly time-consuming and fiddly but it is worth it for the rich, decadent result at the end. Ingredients - serves 4 4 grey squirrel, cleaned and jointed into 6 pieces (arms, legs and saddle split in two) 1 onion, roughly chopped 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped 2 celery sticks, roughly chopped 4 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped 1 bouquet garni (bunch of thyme, parsley and bay leaf tied together) Half a bottle of red wine 250mls of chicken stock Salt and cracked black pepper Half a nutmeg, grated Olive oil, for frying Tagliatelli, 500gms Parmesan, to grate at the end 2 or 3 hazelnuts, also to grate at the end Method First, place a frying pan on the hob over a medium heat and add a splash of oil. Season the jointed squirrel generously and then quickly brown the meat in batches, placing into a casserole pot when done. Deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine and scrape up all the left-over ‘bits’ and pour over the meat. Then add some more oil and gently fry the onion, garlic, celery and carrot for ten minutes or so until everything has softened. Place into the casserole and put the pot on the hob over heat. Add the bouquet garni, the rest of the wine, chicken stock and the nutmeg and bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that might rise to the top. Bring the heat down, cover and leave to gently simmer for an hour and a half or until the meat is really tender and begins to fall off the bone. Leave to cool and then strain the meat and vegetables through a sieve or colander, pushing down with a large spoon or ladle, reserving the cooking liquor in a bowl. Remove the bouquet garni and then separate the meat and vegetables. With the squirrel meat, carefully pick the flesh away from the bones making sure that no small bones remain. It is always good to use a metal bowl for this purpose. As you drop the meat in, any bones left in will ‘ping’. Put the shredded meat to one side. Place the vegetables and cooking liquor into a blender and pulse until smooth and then strain through a sieve again into a saucepan. Place the saucepan over a heat and reduce by half, checking for seasoning along the way. As that is reducing, also boil up some water and add your pasta, cooking to instructions on the packet. And then add your shredded squirrel to the ragu sauce to thicken and warm through. Drain the pasta and serve into deep bowls. Add a healthy dollop of ragu in the centre and grate plenty of parmesan and hazelnut over to top. Enjoy.
Dreaded Moth by James Cranfield
With regards to insect pests, there are two nemeses that us taxidermy collectors face - the museum beetle (the larvae of which can wreak havoc in a collection) and the dreaded â€˜moth. The way in which to control them is to freeze any new specimen. This is however, not always practical. The best alternative that I have found that seems to work, is to put the specimen in a sealed bag with mothballs and if possible some ethyl acetate (insect killing fluid), which can be bought from Watkins and Doncaster squirted onto some cotton wool. This stuff is extremely smelly, and to a certain extent dangerous, so make sure if you do use it that the bag is completely sealed. This is just a precautionary measure that I do to most new additions before incorporating into my collection. You can leave the specimens in the bag for as long as you like, but I would say at least a week. Specimens that show signs of insect damage I always treat directly with the ethyl acetate - injecting it in and brushing it on. Do not flood the specimen with it, as it may affect the fur and feathers. Other than the above I give all new specimens a liberal spray with Indorex, the household insect spray. Its real purpose is for carpets and pets to control the lifescycle of fleas, but it will also control against dust mites. Other than that just keep an eye on everything, checking thoroughly once in a while (every month at least) to see if any specimens are showing any signs of insect attack - loose feathers or fur, small piles of dust (the little critters faeces!) on or around the specimen. Keep the specimen well maintained - dust or gently Hoover every once in a while not allowing a build up of dust. During the warmer months pay particular attention to specimens that you think may have an insect problem, as the increased heat may activate anything lurking. Also, the museum beetle adults can fly and are active during summer. They look a bit like ladybirds (brown with yellow specs) and I have seen them on my windowsill before. Do not allow them to get into contact with any specimens as they could lay eggs.
Visit James at Cranfields Curiosity Cabinet, 1193 London Road, Leigh on Sea, Essex, SS9 3JB.
Saint Squirrel by James Cranfield
Saint Sciurus carolinensis. The following is a true story. Within only a few weeks of my shop opening, a lady called me enquiring as to the value of a stuffed squirrel. I had told her that there were numerous variables that would determine its value and to bring it in. An elderly lady came in, and said that she had called about a squirrel, and as she placed it on my counter, unveiling it out of a carrier bag, she remarked ‘this squirrel saved my dogs life’. I was intrigued. She went on to say that she didn’t like taxidermy, nor did she own any other pieces, but had actually commissioned a taxidermist 20 years ago to stuff this squirrel that stood before us, bug-eyed and holding a dried pine cone, because it had given its life in order to save her beloved dogs life. One afternoon, she explained, her dog was in her front garden, and before she knew it it had escaped and was running down the road after the squirrel. Darting across the road, the squirrel was hit by a car, moments before it would have hit her dog. With nothing left to chase, the dog stopped and she was able to catch it. Seeing the poor squirrel forlorn, dead in the road, the lady scooped it up and took it home with the dog. She contacted a local taxidermist, and had it mounted, in order to honour its memory. The fact that the dog was chasing it and actually the squirrel was probably hit by the car because it was trying to get away from the dog didn’t appear to even come into the lady’s train of thought. She very truly believed that it had sacrificed its life in order to save her dog. Perhaps the squirrel committed suicide, throwing itself in front of the car as opposed to the thought of being ripped to shreds by a dog? I didn’t suggest this. Anyway, she no longer wanted it, and thought that as a taxidermy shop had opened up round the corner that the squirrel would be better off there. Enchanted with the story, or perhaps simply bowled over by her delusion, I purchased the squirrel, removed the dried pine cone, and fashioned it a brass halo.
Death of a Collection Story and photos Kanna Ingleson
The “other end of collecting” is a curious place. After a lifetime of accumulation, my friend Bob Gibbs is getting rid of it. All of it. As he nears retirement, his focus is on living a less complex, more selfsufficient life away from the city. And part of that is to redistribute the collection. I have always considered myself a temporary custodian of the menagerie at home and often wonder what will happen to it when I am old enough not to care. Having never sold a piece in my life, this will probably be someone else’s problem. I imagine an enthusiastic young dealer being called to help “get rid of the lot”. Everything that I have painstakingly tracked down, assessed and paid too much for will land in someone else’s lap. This does bother me, but only slightly less than the idea of waking up one day having lost the thrill of the chase that only other collectors understand. Bob, on the other has taken control of this entire dilemma and, with the luxury of time, has sought out other collectors and dealers who appreciate these old and new artefacts almost as much as he does. He can decide who to deal with, whether or not he wants to wait for a better price and which collectors get the good deals. I am one of the fortunate beneficiaries of this sell-off and recently headed North out of London to meet Bob. I was surprised and heartened when he called to ask if I would pick up a bird case for him on my way up. I was more than happy to do it for him and happier still that he clearly isn’t completely done yet.
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