A career in taxidermy

 26 September 2012

Mike Gadd's job as a taxidermist allows him to combine his love of wildlife with his skills as a sculptor. He spoke about his work.

Mike Gadd sees his award-winning taxidermy as a form of specialised sculpture.
Mike Gadd sees his award-winning taxidermy as a form of specialised sculpture.

Working in the taxidermy industry

"I have 28 years taxidermy experience as a taxidermist and sculptor. I started my career when I was 14, setting up my own business by the age of 21. I worked for the best people I could find without money being the driving force.

"Looking back, perhaps I might have looked even harder to find the best of the best to work with. Perhaps I should have been more prepared to spend money to do it.

"I've won a number of awards for my work, including industry 'Best in Show' prizes, 'Best Taxidermist in Great Britain', and UK Bird Taxidermist of the Year.

Skills in sculpture and design

"Each project requires planning. Before I start, initial groundwork has to be sorted. This might involve casting a rock or log, or designing a case for the item once it's finished.

"You need to be skilled with your hands in areas like sculpting, woodwork and painting."

"Once I’ve done this I can skin, flesh, wash and dry the item. This usually takes a whole morning. Depending on the item, the best part of a week can be devoted to finishing the job.

"Being able to freeze-dry specimens is one of a number of special skills required by taxidermists. The success or failure of projects often directly relates to the proper pre-freezing of specimens.

"It takes a long time to become skilled at taxidermy. You need to be skilled with your hands in areas such as sculpting, woodwork and painting – what I would call proper copy art.

How taxidermy is perceived

"Recruiting new staff to the business can be a challenge. Very few people are at my level of skill, and the ones who are usually have their own business.

"Often people think an arts degree is enough to get them the job, but it takes a lot of effort.

"A change in public opinion of taxidermy would help – I'm a wildlife lover!"

"My advice for anyone wanting to break into this industry is to specialise. Study one aspect and do it well.

"Issues that affect me daily include the common public opinion of taxidermy as a trade, and legal red tape. It would help if European wildlife legislation was used to protect wildlife rather than civil servants’ jobs.

"A change in public perception of taxidermy would also help – I'm a wildlife lover, and Mother Nature inspires me daily!"

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