The Viktor Wynd Museum, London
The Viktor Wynd Museum,11 Mare St, London, E8 4RP & Islington Arts Factory, 2 Parkhurst Road N70SFGet Directions
£50 or 2 for £70
The Last Tuesday Society is responsible for the growing revival of this Victorian whimisical artistic crag since first intro ducting this class from New York in 2009 we have taught literally 100s of novices how to stuff their first mouse, many have gone on to become talented & even professional taxidermists in their own right. This is an ideal introduction to the craft in which you will be taught all the basic skills of taxidermy - from skinning & preparing to mounting and preserving. Our ancestors, most famously Walter Potter - The Man Who Married Kittens created elaborate and often charming tableau of all sorts of animals in human like poise. Various props (& animals) provided, though please bring your own. The classes are taught by expert taxidermist Tonja Grung, if you would rather stuff a rat simply email us a few days before your class and we will get one out of the freezer for you all the equipment, mouse & props are provided and you keep your mouse! but please bring in any props you might like to use.
Monday and Tuesday Evening Classes take place from 6:30pm-9:30pm and Sunday Classes Take Place in Our Islington Workshop - 11am-3pm
Virginia Ironside - Author, Journalist & Agony Aunt Takes a Class
When he was young, my son and I liked nothing more than to visit Mr. Potter’s Museum of Curiosities, which was housed in a ramshackle cottage on Arundel High Street. Walter Potter was a Victorian taxidermist, who not only collected the most peculiar bits and pieces – he displayed a quantity of two-headed pigs in bottles, not mention six-legged lambs and possible the odd tiny dwarf – but he also assembled the strangest anthropomorphic dioramas. There was a terrific set piece of "The Death and Burial of Cock Robin", a woodland scene in a huge case which included ninety-eight species of British birds and a variety of other animals dressed up. If you pressed certain buttons, different sections lit up, revealing, perhaps, the Beetle, making the shroud with his needle and thread, or the Fish, with his little dish to catch the blood. And there were charming glass cabinets which showed, variously, a rats' den being raided by the local police rats, a village school featuring forty-eight little rabbits busy writing on tiny slates and the Kittens' Tea Party – they were playing a game of croquet. Elsewhere a guinea pigs' cricket match was in progress, and twenty kittens attended a wedding, wearing little morning suits or brocade dresses, with a feline vicar on hand in white surplice.
My son, Will, even did a project based on the collection, called, at first “Freaks of Nature” and then (in the interests of burgeoning political correctness) “Natural Oddities.”
Sadly, the collection was broken up – thankfully Peter Blake bought quite a few of the set pieces – but my son and I continued to be fascinated by Potter’s art. I bought a stuffed duck from a car boot sale and dolled it up in a hat, dark glasses and an umbrella. I also acquired a stuffed tortoise and a couple of freeze-dried ducklings (don’t ask). In his freezer my son has kept various small animals brought in by the cats – shrews and birds – hoping one day to stuff them. And then I found the perfect treat for both of us. A four-hour taxidermy workshop. “Mice and accessories included!” “Nothing is killed for this class. All mice used are feeder animals for snakes and lizards and would literally be discarded if not sold!” “No former taxidermy experience needed!”
“I’m taking Will to the taxidermists!” I told a friend.
“But have you told him?” asked the friend, aghast. “Or are you going to stuff each other?”
It was all very macabre. There were about ten of us, mainly trendy young women of around 35. At the beginning of the class we sat at tables laid with frozen mice and a variety of scalpels. First, we were told, we had to warm up our mice by rolling them around in our hands, before slitting them down the tummy and removing their insides. Well, I won’t go into all the details; suffice to say the process first involved a lot of holding of noses, bone-cracking and scraping before the skins were washed and hung up to dry with a hair dryer. Once they were ready, we were forced to pull out the eyeballs and the tongues, then given wire and cotton wool as stuffing and, finally, we had to get our creatures into some kind of shape before inserting beads for eyes and stitching the skins up with a needle and thread.
I glued mine onto a chair, stuck a tiny top hat on his head, gave him a pair of specs, and had him reading the Times. Will opted for his to play a minuscule ukulele.
Taxidermy, it seems, is all the rage. The classes are sold out far in advance. People can’t wait to get stuffing. It seems it’s partly because they’re a couple of generations away from the old colonels who returned from Africa with stuffed lions and tigers and elephants (very non pc these days), and partly because of the fashion for the bizarre popularised by the Damien Hirst/ Marc Quinn generation of YBAs – cutting cows in half, casting heads in blood and so on.
As we left late at night, stuffed mice in hands and glowing with satisfaction, we peered through the darkness over the fences at the Hackney City Farm. To Greg the goose and the Golden Guernsey Goats, all I can say is: Watch out!
Virginia Ironside’s Growing Old Disgracefully will be on in Edinburgh in August. See www.virginiaironside.org