Die Wolperdinger… in his natural habitat… an antiques shop.
Last night I went here. By myself, if I might add, because I guess this does not sound so fun to most other people I know. Boy, I’ll bet they’re sorry now. First, Melissa Milgrom, author of Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy (Ahem, this is on my Amazon wishlist!), began with her story of learning the craft (she mounted one squirrel, and decided that was enough). She got to learn with the best of the best: the family who has long mounted exotic creatures for the Smithsonian. Wow. I don’t even dare to dream. That’s like getting a private tutoring session with Dr. Bill Bass.
Phar Lap the famous racehorse was mounted by the Jonas Bros (no, not those Jonas Brothers). The musculature in this piece is absolutely incredible!
The contest was preceded with a presentation by Mike Zohn (of Discovery’s “Oddities” fame) on the history and modern revival of taxidermy. My favorite part of his slideshow was a series of photos documenting the mounting of Phar Lap, the racehorse. It was amazing to see how they articulated the skeleton, and then built up the musculature/soft tissue with other materials before finally covering it all with the hide (this is a must-do for anyone wanting their horse mounted, as the pre-fab horse forms out there pretty much stink).
Read the NY Times article about the contest here.
My favorite presenter of the night was one Beth Beverly, of Diamond Tooth Taxidermy. Her first submission was “Elke,” the white Rat Terrier. Resplendent she was, sitting on her emerald (and finely tasseled!) pillow. Ms. Beverly told the story of a phone call early in the morning from a stranger… their dog had died… come pick it up. Elke was Ms. Beverly’s first dog mount. I think she did a lovely job–very glamourous! I found it interesting, her take on mounting a pet. I was touched by the thought and respect she spoke with for the creatures she preserves, both wild and domestic. Ms. Beverly’s second submission was that of a young pullet, dressed as a virgin princess. But my favorite thing was actually her hat–another chicken (this one red) posing daintily on her head. Hot!
Takeshi Yamada stole the show with his shining personality and fabricated “alien” skulls. Not my thing, but very entertaining!
Her blog is also something to check out. It’s got a lot of good technical info on taxidermy, great photos and, um… cooking tips? I would probably not be so brave unless I killed the animal myself and knew how it died, but whatevs–props to her for her “no-waste” mindset, right? Definitely! Plus, I noticed that she, too, is looking to make a pair of shoes out of hooves (I TOLD you I was onto something… everyone’s starting to come around now…).
Walking his new friend home? Or just in time for dinner?
All in all, I preferred the presenters who brought forth actual learning opportunities or people who did the taxidermy themselves. I was hoping for a more technical/scientific approach rather than the raucous, drunken free-for-all it spun into. Too many people’s “stories” turned out to be just that–stories. And I wanted the real background on things… not a Coney Island-esque sideshow. Still, I’m glad I went… there were a lot of treasures to be seen (especially the two anthropomorphic fox cubs holding their little duckling friends–both found in Budapest–SO ADORABLE!).