Taxidermy is an art form of making a sculpture of an animal and then using its own skin. Stuffing animals was the beginning form of taxidermy until taxidermists started using authentic animal skins and not other materials. The taxidermist knows sculpture, anatomy, tanning and in some cases painting.
Any animal with a backbone can become a taxidermy project. Taxidermists do not see the insides of the animals they sculpt, just the flesh under the skin. They do, however, use the bones and skulls of the animals. Fish, deer, and other hunting trophies make good beginning projects. Birds, mammals, snakes and frogs all make good specimens. Each animal can take months to produce.
Any person interested in this field should think about taking art classes such as painting and sculpture. Learn to make excellent molds so the skin fits the sculpture exactly. Learning to take accurate measurements of the body will make the animal more lifelike. A love for animals and nature is a requirement for this career. Taxidermists do not need to know how to hunt or trap to make good models, because they can hire others to do that or they can find animals that have died naturally or from road kill. Some work exclusively with pets.
Stores have kits and tools for doing taxidermy. Most include eyes made of glass or clay. Better kits have everything needed to complete the project. Other needed supplies include: a preservative, needles, borax, batting, and threads. These supplies contain toxins poisonous to children and pets. Keep careful labels of them.
Different types of taxidermy exist: anthropomorphic and rogue. Rogue features imaginary animals or prehistoric ones. The taxidermist uses his imagination more than real specimens. With anthropomorphic taxidermy, the taxidermist dresses up the animal as a person, as well as, sculpts it to look real.
Besides using freshly killed animals, freeze dried animals also provide taxidermists with specimens. These often cost more than regular taxidermy and the risk of insect infestation exists. The expense comes from the equipment needed.
Classes teach students how to become taxidermists. Also, some taxidermists will apprentice others. A degree in veterinary medicine can help the taxidermist. Students with a background in English, biology, arts and crafts can produce respected and sought-after work. This is not a career one learns quickly. However, skilled taxidermists do make considerable amounts of money.
Museums, parks, nature centers need taxidermists to provide specimens to help them interpret the animals and their environments found in their part of the world.