Started watching wildlife at 5 or 6 years old and collecting taxidermy by the age of 8 or 9. I then had a go at taxidermy when I was 14 and have never stopped.
What/Who inspired you to take up taxidermy?
After collecting taxidermy for some years in 1968, I found a goosander chick on an island in Lake Windermere and it was so beautiful, it seemed such a waste to leave it there that when I got home, I set about finding out how to do taxidermy.
When did you start and what was the first item you worked on?
The first item I worked on was a starling found as a road casualty when I was returning from school one day. I got Montagu Brown’s book from 1884 out of the library and read it through following the instructions.
What was your first break into the industry?
There was a commercial taxidermist who had set up a shop in Edinburgh in 1969, so I went there for a few weeks as an apprentice, but he went out of business. I didn’t get to see another taxidermist at work until Peter Summers joined the Taxidermy Department at the museum in Edinburgh.
While at Aberdeen University studying Zoology, I worked one day a week teaching the staff in the Zoology Museum taxidermy while they taught me some of the technical aspects of the art.
My first Exhibition of Taxidermy and Painting was held in Grandtully Castle in 1974 followed by one in Jenners Art Gallery in Edinburgh. I also had exhibitions at McEwen’s Art Gallery and Gleneagles Hotel in 1976/77.
I heard of the Guild of Taxidermists start up from Peter Summers and James Dickinson, so joined in 1976.
- Took on the project of producing 12 copies of the 1922 British Record Salmon.
- Provided 12 cases of Scottish Wildlife for the new Edinburgh Airport in 1978.
- Advertising work for various companies eg. Grouse Whisky for Saatcchi & Saatchi, Honda, McCain Oven Chips and various other household names in the 1980s and 1990s.
- Carried out various jobs for most of the smaller Scottish Museums including Perth, Dundee, Kirkcaldy and others where they did not have their own taxidermists.
- Carried out restoration of the taxidermy collection at St Andrews University.
- Carried out restoration work to various collections of old specimens, eg. world famous collection of 75 stag heads at Langwell House and over 80 African heads at Moncrieffe House.
- Prepared 3 life-sized model bears for Mark King (a conceptual artist): one for a display at the Storm King Art Centre in New York, one for Norway and the other one for France.
Who inspired you the most when you were learning?
- Peter Summers for his exquisite small birds;
- Derek Frampton for his model making skills and detailing; and
- Steve Massam for combining all of the above with absolute humility.
Who inspires you the most now or is it just Mother Nature?
For me, it has always been about trying to replicate the real animal or bird whilst realising that I never would, but trying to give a feeling of life to each piece anyway.
Have you helped or taught any successful students?
I started passing on taxidermy knowledge in 1972 at University and have had students in from all over the world, eg. Nepal, Australia, Iceland, Taiwan and the USA. Most have been artists like Polly Morgan, Harriet Horton, Fiona Dean and many others.
What Interests do you have other than taxidermy?
I am known for being obsessed with cars, whether rebuilding them or some as just functional pieces of art. I’ve also worked as a Survival Instructor and Mountain Leader for ex Special Forces in the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, West Highlands and for various others.
How have you seen taxidermy change?
There has been a massive change in the quality of work since the 1980s for the better. Now with the loss of museum taxidermists, it is even more important to pass on knowledge and try and help the new generation understand all the facets of taxidermy.
Accredited 1983 – large mammals, small mammals, birds and fish.
Guild Committee Work
Not being good with words or as a front man, I have avoided being on the committee until last year when I was persuaded to stand. I am also on the Judging Sub-Committee, and I helped in the organisation and running of the 2020 Annual Conference.
I have given a few lectures on different ways to make mammal bodies.
I was involved as a Judge in the 1980s and have stayed involved either as a Judge or an Adjudicator until this year. Now that external Judges are taking on the judging I took on the task of looking after them and collating the results.
George Jamieson, 2020