What/Who inspired you to take up taxidermy?
I have always had an interest in natural history and when visiting museums, found the taxidermy fascinating. I used to try and preserve birds’ feet and wings without much success, which led to asking for a book on taxidermy from my parents when I was 13. On Christmas Day, I was the proud owner of Taxidermy by Leon L. Pray.
Soon after, I had a go at mounting a starling. It was pre-internet days then and I didn’t know where to find a supplier for any taxidermy materials. I ended up using some copper wire I found and used black pin-heads for the eyes. I wish I had kept it.
What was your first break into the industry?
My first break into the industry/ world of Taxidermy came in 1978 when I saw a magazine article about the Guild of Taxidermists and I applied to join straight away. Having never met or even talked to another taxidermist, attending my first conference in 1980 at Liverpool was an amazing experience. I remember meeting George Jamieson there and we both had entered the red grouse competition.
After leaving school, I worked in the family knitwear factory for 15 years, learning the process from start to finish and ending being in charge of production/quality control among other things.
I was always busy doing taxidermy in my spare time, mostly for myself, but also doing some commissions. I often thought of doing taxidermy full-time and the opportunity to do so came from an unlikely source.
In 1990, we had invested a lot in a new market, Israel, and were all set for their Annual Fashion Show when Saddam Hussein started firing scud missiles over the border into Israel. This was the final straw, resulting in the factory being sold and I chose to turn my hobby into a career.
I’ve worked on some interesting projects over the years, including commissions for many museums, the most notable being for Ulster Museum on animals found in Ireland during the last ice-age.
Who inspired you the most when you were learning?
Seeing the work of all the top taxidermists who attended my first conferences was very inspiring. They would include people like Steve Massam, Derek Frampton and Peter Summers.
I was also greatly inspired when I went to the 1995 World Show in Gainsville, Georgia USA.
Who inspires you the most now or is it just Mother Nature?
Most of my inspiration now comes from Mother Nature. I love observing all aspects of natural history and also find good photographs can be inspiring and want to try and recreate what I see.
Have you helped or taught any successful students?
Hopefully, constructive feedback from judging has helped a few people over the years.
What Interests do you have other than taxidermy?
My main interest outside taxidermy/natural history was fencing, from age 16 (a relatively late starter). I went on to gain 28 caps for Scotland, including two Commonwealth Championships, and was once Scottish Epee Champion and team captain many years ago!
My other main interest now, which in a way is relevant to taxidermy, is natural history photography. It’s very enjoyable to go for a walk with the camera and check up on the local wildlife, hopefully capturing images of anything interesting. I’ll also go further afield to get good images of mainly birds.
I am also involved with red squirrel conservation.
How have you seen taxidermy change?
The standard of work has risen steadily over the years in the UK and we should be proud of the part the Guild has played in this.
More information is also available from good books, the internet, instructional DVDs, courses run by taxidermists etc. Materials and forms are also much better than before
When I first found the Guild, taxidermy was all very traditional and the Guild was run by mostly museum taxidermists. The membership was probably around 90% male. Now there are hardly any museum taxidermists, the membership is much more diverse, as is the taxidermy and the majority of new members in recent years have been women.
- Accredited Taxidermist (1995)
- Bird Specialist
- Mammal Mpecialist
Guild Committee Work
First joined the committee in 2010 until present day (2020), with a one year gap. Mostly helping where required and involved with competition/judging organisation.
Have done several lectures/talks over the years at conferences and seminars on things like making silicone moulds, casting rocks, using an airbrush, aspects of groundwork, World Show report etc.
I have been one of the judges on many occasions from 1996-2019.
Colin Scott, 2020