My name is Allis Markham and I'm one of those 'weird people' who play with dead things. I work at NHM in Los Angeles in taxidermy and recently opened my own studio in downtown Los Angeles where I do taxidermy classes and commissions for TV/Film.

I call my work 'ethical taxidermy' - the ethics I adhere to are using only specimens that were collected as salvage, from abatement work or otherwise not connected to the art. The museum generally follows these practices as well and I'm lucky to be a part of this wonderful institution. You are welcomed to ask me about the taxidermy process, life & death at the museum, the GoT three-eyed crow I just did for a friend (http://imgur.com/a/gPkqE) or anything else taxidermy related; I don't believe in trade secrets.

Proof: http://instagram.com/p/nLn4sGhMHm/ (Me inside of one of NHM's dioramas doing basic maintenance) My Tweet https://twitter.com/AllisMarkham/status/459754836909494273 announcing the AMA. My website for Prey Taxidermy http://www.preytaxidermy.com/

Comments: 139 • Responses: 63  • Date: 

kars4kidz14 karma

Chuck Testa?

Allis_Markham22 karma

Nope!

mrshatnertoyou9 karma

I've been going to the NHM in LA for many years and it seems like those displays have been the same forever! I like the large bird display the most. My question is that you mentioned maintenance of the exhibits what is required in that process?

Allis_Markham5 karma

Thanks for supporting NHM. That's great! The dioramas are actually changing constantly-- very slowly though because there are so many. We add birds, reptiles, plants and even change out mammals on a regular basis. Obviously, big changes don't happen too often because they would be a large undertaking. The basic maintenance would be CAREFULLY dusting, vacuuming the glass above the diorama (no kidding!), changing light bulbs with specific lighting designs, treating animals to protect from pests, checking specimens for signs of cracking/damage and repair where needed.

EDIT: I should also mention here that no one besides the taxidermists (my boss, me, our volunteers) goes into or above the dioramas. So, we are a small team with a lot to do, ha!

eazyryder8 karma

What was the coolest animal you have done up? Also what's the weirdest

Allis_Markham7 karma

Good question. Well, the coolest for me was working on skinning a tiger pretty recently for the museum. Just to be able to be that close and also see how large and strong he was. I felt so much respect for that animal. Here is a photo of my hand against his powerful jaws. http://imgur.com/c9Prf9E

The weirdest? Probably pocket gophers. Even though they seem quite common, they have the strangest weird cheeks-- getting those right is a pain. Also, Koalas have strange skull shapes.

unrequited_boy5 karma

Any other animals with strange skull shapes that I can look up?

Allis_Markham4 karma

Beaver, cat (different than you'd think), shark!, seal and hornbills!

wednesdaybingonight3 karma

How would you know what I think when I'm thinking about cat skulls?

Allis_Markham3 karma

Ha! Good point :)

PolarBearsToenail2 karma

GIS pug skulls. Aliens.

Allis_Markham2 karma

Oh man, good call. That's bananas.

IAmAGecko2 karma

Awesome! Just skinned a 60lb tiger that died of an aneurysm in a zoo, we are doing a skeletal articulation and taxidermy mount for our teaching collection.

Allis_Markham2 karma

That's amazing! Glad you could make of of that specimen. They're such gorgeous creatures. Send me a pic when you're done with the articulation if you can. I'd love to see it!

eazyryder1 karma

Wow that's an awesome looking color of that tiger do you have a full.licture of it as well? Pocket gophers are those smaller then regular ones? Dumb question but do sharks get done up

Allis_Markham5 karma

Thanks- I would show a full pic of the tiger, but the ones I have would show some gore. In this specific case, it's a zoo specimen so I don't want that out there out of respect to the zoo and the handlers of the tiger (his name was Manny).

Pocket Gophers are a smaller gopher, yes. They can wreck your yard just as bad though, ha!

Sharks are generally done as fiberglass reproductions. Most fish and even dolphins/whales/etc are done this way because their skin doesn't really hold up well for taxidermy. They end up looking bad and/or deteriorating quickly.

eazyryder2 karma

Awesome well thanks for sharing I always liked your job just to gruesome for me

eazyryder1 karma

Well I just checked out your website did you do that elephant also? That must have been a lot of work. I didn't think that such pretty girls would be interested in this stuff. Sorry to sound creepy just wasn't expecting that and didn't check any of your pictures out before.

Allis_Markham2 karma

The elephant is at the museum and was done by George Adams in the 1950s, so I just do basic maintenance on it and snap the occasional photo for my instagram feed that shows up on my site.

Thanks for the compliment. We ladies are getting into all kinds of things these days and i'm proud to be part of that :)

jeorne2 karma

what about the shark done by Damien Hirst? What do you think of his work that features animals?

Allis_Markham3 karma

I love Damien Hirst. The taxidermist who does his pieces is named Emily Mayer and is incredibly talented. I think those pieces heighten taxidermy to a new level and make wonderful artistic statements in their own right.
BTW, the shark wasn't exactly taxidermy. It was set in a formaldehyde solution.

jeorne2 karma

ah, I wasn't aware of the distinction. What about reptiles? Most that I've seen (ive studied biology) are also on formaldehyde. Are they difficult as well?

Allis_Markham7 karma

Reptiles are delicate but can easily be done as skin mounts. We don't fully tan the skin, but do what's called an 'acid pickle' to set them. The ones you see in formaldehyde are called 'alcoholics'. They're the second kind of museum alcoholic. I'm the first.

jeorne2 karma

you mentioned Hirsts' taxidermist was very talented... what do you look for in a taxidermist? Say I wanted to become one, where would I start?

Allis_Markham2 karma

I guess I just look at the craftsmanship of the taxidermy and some of the finer details and see if I consider it good. Like, how you can look at a steak and, without even tasting it, decide if it looks good. I kind of apply my own knowledge to the taxidermy, think of mistakes I may have made in the past and see if they're there.

If you wanted to learn, I'd say first take a short class or workshop. If you like that, find a school or start volunteering at a museum or nature center. Some taxidermists have also learned through books or online tutorials. It's very hands-on, so that's hard but possible.

EmeraldEyedMonster6 karma

What happens when an animal isn't cleaned properly?

I know someone that does this with animal tails and sells them at furry conventions, but there have been rumors that she doesn't clean her tails all the way.

Allis_Markham7 karma

Great (and very specific) question! I love it... Well, if a skin has residual fat or flesh on it, it is attractive to pests like beetles, ants, mites and even bacteria. It'll basically get eaten/rot over time. Also, if she's not tanning them (the chemical process of turning skin into leather) then you can probably expect the same. Its very important to remove anything than can become food for pests and then to treat the skin properly before it's sold. Otherwise, the product is just deteriorating over time and not really clean to have around.

Edit: More gross details

AWildRisuAppeared5 karma

How does one actually get started doing taxidermy? I find anatomy utterly fascinating, and well-done taxidermy is seriously impressive.

Allis_Markham6 karma

I started by collecting and repairing my own collection at home. Eventually I found myself disillusioned by my regular job and decided to use my vacation time for taxidermy school (it's weeks, not years). So, I went to the Advanced Taxidermy Training Center http://www.taxidermy-schools.net/ in Montana and loved it. When I got back to LA, I started volunteering at the museum. Eventually, I think I just showed up so much they had to start paying me, ha ha. So, you never know where life will take you!

AWildRisuAppeared2 karma

Taxidermy school...I hadn't even thought about something like that existing, huh. Well, there's one more thing on my ever-increasing list of things I want to do. My A&P classes for vet tech school would probably be helpful there, I'm guessing.

Allis_Markham3 karma

Oh yeah, any knowledge of anatomy would help with taxidermy. Re: school-- you should look in your area for taxidermy classes. I'm in Los Angeles and do 2-3 day classes, so perhaps someone in your area does too. Some taxidermy schools offer short workshops too. Just do some research to make sure the place is well regarded.

topbanane5 karma

I once stumbled across a dead bird in a parking lot that was strikingly beautiful and looked intact. At one point I had thought about trying out taxidermy and when I saw this bird I wanted to preserve it...but I wasn't sure how long it had been dead and if it was all starting to rot inside. My question is, is there a point when you can't work on an animal because it's too far decomposed, and how can you judge that?

Allis_Markham2 karma

Firstly, make sure the bird is legal for you to possess. If you're in the US, laws are pretty strict. Assuming that's all good and salvage is legal in your state, you just have to check it out. 1) Does it smell? No- great. 2) crushed beyond belief? No- great 3) loosing hair and feathers? No- great. Then get it into the freezer ASAP. If it's a mammal you may also decide to remove the organs before freezing it.

armorsmith425 karma

Does your SO get tired of people making jokes that you are/will be a great "Trophy Wife"?

Allis_Markham6 karma

No, but he will say that now. Thanks! :/

classyAcups4 karma

[deleted]

Allis_Markham5 karma

Thank you!

Allis_Markham4 karma

Yes! And it's wonderful. I love Emily Graslie.

no_yolo4 karma

Do the animals smell when you get behind the glass? Are the parts you can't see gross?

Allis_Markham3 karma

No finished taxidermy should smell-- it's all tanned skin (leather with fur) and sculpture underneath. All the animals are preserved and it's quite beautiful from inside.

cptnpiccard4 karma

What do you think of those Chuck Testa ads? Is he doing good work?

Allis_Markham3 karma

He is doing great work. Wonderful commercial taxidermist and he does a wonderful job with his videos and online stuff. Seems like a great guy. I know he's been in the biz for a while (much longer than me) so I have a lot of respect for him.

runchranda3 karma

How long does it usually take you to finish work on an animal?

Allis_Markham5 karma

Taxidermy is all about multi-taking. I might skin an animal in the morning and then let it sit in salt while I go on to work on another specimen. If I want to work on something straight through, I can finish maybe 2-3 birds in a day or skin maybe a 2-3 mammals. Mammals require tanning (chemical 'leather-ization' process) so I would have to pause a week or so for that.

In my bird classes, students finish a bird over 2-3 days (9 hours)-- that's frozen to finished. I'm still working on mammal classes that will include tanning.

LordHaveMercyKill2 karma

[deleted]

Allis_Markham2 karma

I've only been doing taxidermy since about 2008. Speed comes with time and also necessity. One year, I spent just doing prep at the museum, so in that year I managed to get pretty quick at skinning.

kmja3 karma

If you could do any animal, dead or alive, what would it be? Also, have your profession changed your views on life and death?

Allis_Markham3 karma

Firstly, I like to work on only dead animals (ha!). If I could work on anything, I would say dogs. I LOVE dogs. I foster dogs in my home and love how each one is different. They're usually mutts, so it's so fun to look at the different features. I'd love to recreate the create we helped to shape genetically. Not my dogs though! (I was recently gifted a gorgeous dog from a friend and i'm very much looking forward to working on him. So beautiful.) I would also love to recreate some extinct animals like the Dodo or Tasmanian Tiger too.

I have always been kind of ok with the thought of death and dead things. I think that taxidermy has made me more attuned to life though-- I try to capture characteristic movements and behaviors in animals. So, when i'm out in the world, I might get mesmerized by a sparrow or squirrel that I would have overlooked before.

gmhart3 karma

Could you shed some light on how big the market for taxidermy actually is?

Allis_Markham4 karma

There are a few facets of it: Commercial taxidermy (for hunters mostly), Museum taxidermy (for museums, nature centers and education and Taxidermy Art (people on Etsy and just out there making art). Commercial taxidermy studios can be pretty popular and people make a nice living from that occasionally. Usually good people too. Museum people like myself are few and far between these days and some of that work is being taken up by commercial people. I feel like the taxidermy art sector is growing and it's great to see people excited about it.

Long story short, I don't think anyone gets into taxidermy to make millions, but it's certainly fulfilling in other ways.

babymonkay3 karma

Do you take requests to taxidermy pets? I don't know if that's creepy or cool like Rowdy.

Allis_Markham4 karma

I'm not into doing people's pets for them. Some taxidermists like to, but I just feel like I don't want that kind of stress in my life. They're just never going to be alive again and I don't want to try and manage those expectations. Sorry, Rowdy! (Yeesh, that dog on Scrubs looked bad!)

unrequited_boy3 karma

Are there any animals you'd like to work with but cannot due to lack of supply and/or too difficult to preserve?

Allis_Markham3 karma

Yes. This is an issue in a few cases. The museum currently needs a few specimens to replace old ones, but we just can't find ones right now. We have a 'want list' and are on the lookout for zoo, rescue center, etc deaths. In my personal work, I'm limited by my ethics (no deaths related to the art) and my state & federal laws. For instance, I love birds of prey and song birds, but even if I found specimens, I couldn't work on them privately, own or sell them. Kangaroo are also illegal in CA to have. So, those are some of my general limitations.

unrequited_boy2 karma

Is your want list posted anywhere? Is there a process to authenticate specimens that are "collected or purchased legally after natural or unavoidable death"?

Allis_Markham4 karma

Re Museum: Want-list isn't posted, we just get it out to our contacts and the museum mammalogist keeps an eye out for specimens for us. Any specimens coming to the museum would come with paperwork from the institute or government agency that monitors it.

Re: "authenticate specimens that are "collected or purchased legally after natural or unavoidable death" in my own practice - I get specimens from specific people doing abatement work, not trappers so they would be pests and they are really making money on getting rid of the pests, not selling it to me for cheap. Otherwise, it was killed for food (deer, antelope, etc) and NO ONE is going to not eat those and just sell me the cape. Otherwise, if there's paperwork that would go with the animal (ducklings I got from a breeder that died) I have relevant paperwork on him as a breeder. Mostly I just have connections and use my common sense: if someone said they just found it in perfect condition and then I find a bullet hole, I'd know.

ohhhthatsnasty3 karma

If you could stuff one mythological creature, what would it be?

Allis_Markham7 karma

Maybe a pegasus? I'd just love to do a horse in general. But, I love working with feathers too... Man, I don't know where I'd get wings that big though.

We DID do a "flying monkey" from the Wizard of Oz for the NHM Halloween fair by taking an existing Olive Baboon mount and adding Great Blue Heron wings and I made a little outfit too. http://imgur.com/wsCRVdI

theslothmaster3 karma

How do you feel about hunters and people who collect and fill up their houses with a bunch of taxidermy of exotic animals?

Allis_Markham13 karma

I love hunters. I've been hunting. Hunting is the truest form of free-range. I love eating meat that has had a life outdoors and free, rather than in a cage or on a farm --and I eat this way as much as I can. I even order deer, antelope and wild boar from a ranch in Texas that hunts on about 500 acres.

As for exotic animal hunters and big game hunters, it's not my thing but sometimes these people serve a great purpose and help the animals. Stay with me here: It costs tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to hunt an animal in most African countries. That money helps preserve those lands and protect the animals from being wiped out by poachers. So, you might think it's evil, but it is a necessary one. I can't really argue with that. And, if someone wants it on their wall, that's up to them to. I'm just manning my own farm over here, so to speak.

bannibunny3 karma

Is there ever a time that you become depressed about your job? Like I'm an animal lover, seeing dead animals every day would be difficult for me!

Allis_Markham6 karma

Oh sure, I get sad about the animal's deaths all the time. I look at something and it's so amazing and then I find out it was struck by a car. That's very depressing. But, then I get to make it look alive again and that feels good.

Mostly, walking in the door and being jumped on by my rescue dog and one (or more) foster dogs is a cure-all!

s_blackmoore3 karma

You mentioned that mammal hides need to be tanned. What does that process do to the fur of the animal? Does it need to be treated differently to maintain color or any other properties?

Allis_Markham4 karma

Great question!

Tanning is not about the fur-- it's about the preservation of the skin it's attached to. The skin has to go through a chemical process that we call tanning which causes a change on the molecular level from a tissue that is organic to a more stable state-- the skin is turned into leather. If done properly the fur should look the same as it did before but will now be more stably attached to the skin and the skin is now protected from rotting.

frombadlands3 karma

I'm in the UK, but this is pretty much my dream job, what sort of qualifications and stuff do you need roughly to work in a museum? I want to pursue it but I'm so bad at science. Thanks, your work is amazing. x

Allis_Markham2 karma

You should start by reaching out to local museums and nature centers. They always need volunteers and many times that's how you learn the skills to get the job. Honestly, though I went to taxidermy school, I learned almost all of the technique I use today by volunteering at the museum under Tim Bovard. You should reach out and see who you find. You might find yourself sweeping floors and painting leaves before you ever touch a specimen, but if you want it bad enough, it's worth it.

moornik3 karma

Do you have a stuffed donkey or monkey?

Allis_Markham1 karma

Not at my studio, but we have several monkeys, chimps and other primates at the museum.

Turk1823 karma

Just wanted to thank you for all of your hard work. I took summer classes at the museum as child and went to several open house tours as a member. Thank everyone there for all of the great memories.

Allis_Markham4 karma

Oh wow- thank YOU for being a supporter and a part of the museum. That's what it's all about!

sumvell3 karma

Do ghost squirrels come in your dreams and hang you upside down while slapping your face and biting your nuts? If yes, do your nuts pain after you get up? If no, are you afraid that they might do so after reading this question?

Allis_Markham5 karma

I don't fear the ghost squirrels biting my nuts because i'm a female. And, anyone who happens to be in my bed knows what they're getting into.

sumvell2 karma

Damn, should have seen the proof before asking. I guess that's the reason proofs are necessary (hides face in embarrassment )..... thanks for answering though....

Allis_Markham2 karma

Hey, it's a reasonable assumption. No worries :)

sumvell1 karma

GGG right here. Answers questions by a nut on nuts without having any of her own...

Allis_Markham2 karma

This might be the best post in this whole thread :)

bolanrox3 karma

What was the biggest Animal you have worked on? How long does it usually take start to end?

Allis_Markham7 karma

Biggest I've worked on would be at the museum. I worked together with my boss (30-year veteran at the museum) to skin a Sumatran tiger (350lbs) and also a full-size Corriente cow mount (850lbs). I hope to go bigger! Maybe some Elephant Seals in the works?

Edit: here's the cow http://imgur.com/pt554IO

Oolonger3 karma

I think taxidermy animals are beautiful, but my husband doesn't want one because he thinks they're unsanitary. How likely is an old deer head bought from a yard sale to be carrying bugs or bacteria or anything unpleasant? Am I right that it's not any worse than an old sofa?

Allis_Markham4 karma

Well, an old sofa would have MORE bacteria/mites because it would contain oils and hair and skin flakes from humans. So there, ha! However, old mounts if not properly cleaned or cared for, can have pests. Best idea is to check the fur close to the root by spreading it. You can always put it in a chest freezer for 72 hours and add a product by Knobloch's called Protext

Oolonger1 karma

I have always wanted to tell guests not to mind the head in the freezer when they get ice. If anything, that's a plus point.

Allis_Markham2 karma

::sigh:: that's my husbands least favorite thing...

Kimbolinaa3 karma

Your job looks awesome! What is your background in? Art? Biology? Something completely unrelated? Was taxidermy always something you wanted to do for a job or did you just sort of fall into it?

Allis_Markham3 karma

I grew up running around in the woods, making sculptures and things out of bones. I was certainly aware of taxidermy, but went a completely different route. I was in social media marketing for a long time and did very well there. But, I just wasn't happy at some point and decided to do this. I had always had it in the back of my mind (collected taxidermy, repaired it) and finally went to taxidermy school. After that, I started volunteering at the museum and I think I just showed up so much that they had to pay me. I think it's an odd path, but I don't think anyone who knows me was surprised.

msheahan993 karma

What inspired you to do this, as a kid did you think to yourself "one day I'm gonna stuff dead things" or did it just work out that way?

Allis_Markham3 karma

It just worked out that way. As a kid, I was really interested in the outdoors and the natural world -- bringing home bones, frogs, etc-- and I did sculpture later on. But, it wasn't until I was an adult that I put those things together.

Kaylakoala2 karma

A day late to this but I have laughed so hard at this: http://crappytaxidermy.com/

Also, I highly recommend visiting Deyrolle in Paris if you havent already, it's a gorgeous old taxidermy shop.

Allis_Markham1 karma

Thanks for the tips! I'm planning a trip to Paris actually and Deyrolle is one of my most important stops.

timeshifter02 karma

Has there been a time where you didn't taxidermied an animal?

Allis_Markham1 karma

Oh sure, some animals are in just too bad condition or already decomposed. I recall a fair amount of roadkill opossums that I had to give up on.

MrShoe3212 karma

What's your favorite animal?

Allis_Markham7 karma

I'm really into birds. I never thought they'd be my favorite thing to work on, but they are. I love especially birds of prey. I've have a Cooper's Hawk and a Merlin currently on display at the museum. My FAVORITE is the Secretary Bird. Most badass bird with the least badass name.

Edit: Here's the Cooper's Hawk http://imgur.com/gGWDd2K

Veeks2 karma

How did you learn to do this? Where does one get started in taxidermy? I'd love to get into it but where do I learn?

Allis_Markham1 karma

I answered a version of this question above and I'll paste it below. Also, if you're ever around Los Angeles you can take a class from me.

I started by collecting and repairing my own collection at home. Eventually I found myself disillusioned by my regular job and decided to use my vacation time for taxidermy school (it's weeks, not years). So, I went to the Advanced Taxidermy Training Center http://www.taxidermy-schools.net/[1] in Montana and loved it. When I got back to LA, I started volunteering at the museum. Eventually, I think I just showed up so much they had to start paying me, ha ha. So, you never know where life will take you!

FallopianFiddler2 karma

Thank you so much for posting this. I've been leisurely looking into taxidermy and this has been the most helpful AMA (in general) that I have read.

Allis_Markham1 karma

Oh wow, thank you so much. I do my best. I truly love what I do and especially explaining it to others; that's probably why I love being at the museum. I'm glad you got something from it and feel free to reach out any time for more information :)

ng0zi2 karma

How does one become interested in taxidermy?

Allis_Markham1 karma

I really love science and art -- it's just a lovely melding of the two in my mind I guess.

sals_wrecking_co2 karma

maybe too late, just saw this now, buuuut, i have a porcupine leg that i cleaned last summer (its just the bones) and i was wondering if you could tell me how to reconstruct the leg so that the bones will stand in the proper anatomical position? do i need to drill into them and connect them with small pieces of wire? or just use glue? or something completely different? thanks!

Allis_Markham2 karma

There are several different types of articulation. It really depends on how you want to mount it and if it still has (and if you want) tendons and ligaments on it. I recommend visiting this forum on taxidermy.net and looking at some of the projects people have done there. There are also tutorials, so this might be a better place to start than me just throwing out some jargon at you. http://www.taxidermy.net/forum/index.php/board,17.0.html

panicakess2 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm totally a day late to it, but it's been an interesting read.

If you're up for a could belated questions I have two: Which museums, aside from the NHM, house your favorite taxidermy? Also, what are some good animal anatomy references in print? I set up 3d models for animation - good anatomy knowledge is invaluable.

Allis_Markham2 karma

Glad you've enjoyed it!

Other museums I enjoy:

American Museum of Natural History in New York

London Natural History Museum

Mutter Museum in Philadelphia

Per animal reference, I generally use photo reference from Flickr (thank you birders!) and around the web to find finishing photos. As for creating anatomy, I'm very spoiled in that the museum and my boss there have an extensive collected of zoology books, encyclopedias, old magazines, science journals, etc. So, I use about 5 different sources for everything. I'm very very lucky.

wednesdaybingonight2 karma

When people say a taxidermy animal is "stuffed", what exactly is it stuffed with?

Allis_Markham1 karma

"Stuffed" is actually a derogatory term in taxidermy. We say "mounted" or "taxidermied" because our animals aren't stuffed-- the skin is laid over a form that we create. That's literally what the work means: Taxi = movement, dermy = skin. Movement of skin.

Stuffing' dates back to the act of stuffing study skins with sawdust or cotton for research specimens-- where taxidermy gets it's roots. Hope this explains it!

31lo2 karma

What is the form made of? Something squishy like pillow filling or hard like plastic? Is it hollow or solid?

Allis_Markham1 karma

Today it's a polyurethane foam mostly-- a solid but porous light plastic. Birds are made of wrapped bodies ( wood wool and string). All this has metal wire for support. Pre-1980 it's mostly burlap and plaster.

bannibunny2 karma

Also, do you have any pets of your own? If so, would you ever do work on them after they pass?

Allis_Markham2 karma

I do have pets! I always say the only thing I love more than dead animals, is live ones. I have my dog, Bacon http://imgur.com/l77jG and an ever-growing list of foster dogs. Currently, I have Jones http://instagram.com/p/nJqIfehELs/ who I found just outside the museum. I also have chickens- in Hollywood. Because I guess I just wasn't weird enough.

EDIT: Oh, and no, I wouldn't like to work on my pets. I think the tears would be too much of a hinderance to seeing my work. :)

FatherofMeatballs2 karma

I have some vintage taxidermy that I have inherited from my grandparents, etc. Mostly larger mounts. What's the best way to clean and care for these? Specifically, I have a beautiful antelope mount that seems to lose a fair bit of hair if I try to dust it with a dry cloth.

Allis_Markham1 karma

That is a problem we deal with at the museum constantly. Hair loss on antelope, deer etc is very common bc it's a hollow hair structure. The best idea is to very very gently wipe with a clean cotton rag or very soft paintbrush, following the hair flow. You can also use a product by Knochbloch's called Protex and gently wipe it on them. (You may have to skip this if the hair comes out too much). Use a clean cloth or q-tip to polish eyes and hooves.

i_am_a_mole2 karma

So what is a trade secret?

Allis_Markham1 karma

Probably they're tanning formula or what they use to groom. I do a Formic acid pickle and Lutan F for tanning. My grooming 'secret' is that I use chinchilla dust to fluff birds. Also, dry shampoo is GREAT to groom hair as a finishing technique.

batalpaca2 karma

What advice would you have for a girl wanting to get into taxidermy? I've always thought mounted birds especially were beautiful and the first day I came home with a mounted crow my dad made me throw it away.

Allis_Markham1 karma

Well, I would say firstly to have a chat with your Dad and let him know why you're interested in taxidermy so he doesn't throw anything else away; use the museum angle, parents love that. ha!

Secondly, I think it's wonderful that youre so interested in birds because they are the best place to start in my opinion. Maybe find someone local who is teaching classes or workshops and take one. See what you think. I teach classes in Los Angeles, but there are quite a few places around the country and abroad.

Also, reaching out to local museums or nature centers is a good idea. That's really where I started. Volunteer and you never know what jobs may pop up.

batalpaca2 karma

I was looking at it, I live in LA! I do work every weekend in May and June though but will for sure be looking into it in the future. Thank you for the AMA it's great!

Allis_Markham1 karma

Thanks! Glad you liked the AMA. I do have weeknight classes too. So, you never know. Hope to see you there!

Laffano2 karma

Do you feel sympathy for the animals you are doing?

Allis_Markham1 karma

Absolutely. I love animals and am very involved with dog rescue and fostering. I think making them look alive again is somewhat sunny. I hope!

AutoBond2 karma

Kudos for introducing me to the correct definition of 'ethical taxidermy'! Previously, I thought that it just meant limiting taxidermy to people or animals who were dead. Thank you!

Allis_Markham2 karma

I think many people have their own ethics and I can respect that. Those are just mine :)

Estamio22 karma

I have an old Boar (1955) whose skin is "drumming" and is shrinking.

What could I "moisturize" it with?

Are you also a "Special Effects" artist?

Allis_Markham2 karma

Hmmm a couple questions: When did the drumming start?-- is this a recent issue? I ask because you may want to move it into a new spot as it may be being effected my heat or something.

Also, where is the drumming? In the ear or on the chest/under neck? Let me know, I'm happy to give advice?

umma_gumma-1 karma

Chuck Testa?

Allis_Markham3 karma

nope!

[deleted]-3 karma

[deleted]

Allis_Markham3 karma

nope!