What/Who inspired you to take up taxidermy?
My Dad - he had a go at taxidermy when he was younger, but he never kept at it. I bought a book called Amateur Taxidermist by Jean Labrie and after a few efforts at birds using the method in the book, my dad was quite impressed and told me to stick with it. I also mounted a perch as described in the book and I still have it at home.
James Ellwood was a saddler and taxidermist at 22 Wilson Street in Workington. He mainly did fox heads and I never saw any full bird mounts that he did; pheasants, ducks etc were all head, wings and tail on a basic shield. I had a mallard done and took it apart to see how it was done. He did make great belts though while you waited by cutting a curved leather strip about 1½" wide off a large piece and after measuring it, punching a few holes in it and putting a brass buckle on it, he would stamp your name on the back. The belt was curved so it didn't develop a notch at the back like you get with straight cut belts.
When did you start and what was the first item you worked on?
A gooseander copied from James Ellwood's method - head, wings and tail on a board done in my bedroom. I would be about 18 at the time.
What is your taxidermy career?
I have never lost interest in taxidermy and never made a living from it. I have done quite a few commissions over the years, but I like to do my own stuff and have it displayed at home.
I started mainly with birds and mammals, but after joining the Guild and seeing the quality of the painted cast fish by Steve Massam, Peter Summers and Jack Fishwick, I really got into fish.
I've mounted all the British ducks and nearly finished casing them for myself.
What has been your inspiration?
- The Guild since I first joined in 1982 and haven't missed a conference since.
- Carl Akely and especially Robert Rochwell - these blokes taught themselves everything and were masters. After reading Robert Rochwell's book, My Way of Hunting, I went to the New York Natural History Museum in 1995 to see his and Akeley's work.
- All present and previous members of the Guild like Steve Massam, Erling Mørch, Derek Frampton, Mike Gadd, Don Sharp, Peter Summers, Jack Fishwick, Emily Mayer etc who were regularly bringing brilliant work.
Have you helped or taught any successful students?
I have not taught students, but have done a few talks at Guild conferences (see below).
What Interests do you have other than taxidermy?
- Woodcarving - birds and fish. I got the two day bird carving show at Bakewell every September.
- Springer Spaniels.
- All types of music.
How have you seen taxidermy change?
- Loads especially the brilliant books from America as well as in the UK.
- The use of foams etc (i still use wood wool).
- The quality of beginners and the number of women who are taking up the craft.
- The internet.
- Certificate of Professional Member in 1999 (16 years after joining the Guild)
- Specialist Bird and Specialist Fish Taxidermist in on 21 September 2001 (two years later)
I've done 5 at Guild conferences:
- Coastal and Rocky Habitat
- Artificial Heads on Ducks
- Casting Duck Feet
- Mounting a Duck
- Buzzard Body Bindup
I have judged a few times at Guild conferences, but I'm not keen on it. I'm fairly confident on fish although there are not many at the conferences.
Peter Scott, 2020