Sunday, 10 February 2013

Get Stuffed (a tail of our visit to London)

Well, the day finally arrived. Kathy and I were off to London for our taxidermy class. Nerves were definately showing, luckily we had each other to cling to!
The 'famous' Sherlock Holmes phonebox.
The class took place at St Barts pathology museum, where I had recently spent the day twirling in front of film cameras. We had some time to kill and so checked out the local scenery. There's a monument to William 'Braveheart' Wallace, complete with Sainsburys flowers (nothing says hero worship like a £5 reduced bouquet) and also a decorated phonebox. At first glance Kathy and I thought it was resplendant with assorted cards from ladies of the night which, clearly, warranted a closer look. Instead it was an array of 'I believe in Sherlock' cards and pictures (also one which asked John to buy some milk, a code for something?) One Google later and we discovered this phonebox is on the actual site where TV Sherlock jumped to his possible death. One YouTube later and we could watch the actual action in front of the actual building. Actually quite surreal!
But the day was to get weirder!
Now, this might be the moment to discuss morals. I fully understand that taxidermy is not for everyone and people do have issues with stuffing dead animals. Amanda only uses roadkill/natural death/reptile food animals. As I own a snake and so have a freezer of dead mice I am in no position to argue the morality of using such animals. But I do see both sides of the argument.
The class was led by Amanda of Amanda's Autopsies and her fab assistant, they demonstrated each stage in the procedure and then gave help as needed. I have to say that Kathy and I were quite nervous, several of the other students (trainee stuffers?) seemed very confident. Still, we managed to get through the skinning with no problems, it was strangely therapeutic in fact.I did have a slight intestine mishap but nothing that a paper towel couldn't cover! Music was provided throughout the day, a heart inspired playlist meant we rocked out to Feargal Sharkey and Billy Ray Cyrus (shudder).
One rat, sticky side down!
Stuffing was done with cotton wool and wire for articulation. Getting cotton wool and wire into the skin and sewing it up to look vaguely rat shaped was an art in itself, adding the bead eyes and shaping the face was even more tricky! Once finished, however, we got to add our Valentine props. My rat, christened Mervyn, was to be a steampunk Cupid. I had spent all week making metal wings from tomato puree tubes. DH kindly made a steampunk shooter which sadly would not stay in his little paws :-(
Mervyn...wistful look and crossed paws clearly deliberate!
There were some fantastic end results, Kathy's Percy was lush with his felted balloons and our taxidermy neighbour, Mr Whiskers (a lovely chap who had been bought the class as a birthday present by his equally lovely fiancee) presented his rat in a fab tux!

St Pauls...
A pleasant walk back through London allowed us to clear our heads and ratty whiff before our journey home. We resisted the urge to get the rats out on the coach, but did talk about them a lot!
Pictures of the whole experience are available on Amanda's website Huge thanks to her for a great day!
I have to say I look petrified in all my pictures, but Mervyn looks awesome!

Pride of place on my dressing table!


  1. A very interesting and fact learning day out all round !

  2. My esteemed and very lovely tour guide even pointed out the building where your letters go if you simply address them No 1, London!