Morbid Anatomy’s Divya Anantharaman Shows Us DIY Taxidermy
Since we profiled Divya Anantharaman and her taxidermy shoes last summer, she’s become a “taxidermist in residence” at Morbid Anatomy, an enterprise dedicated to “cool stuff that’s at the intersection of art, science, and death.”
Founded by Tracey Martin and Tonya Hurley, a pair of twins who grew up in the funeral parlor business, Morbid Anatomy recently expanded into a huge new space in Gowanus that houses a museum, library, cafe and learning center. (If you can’t swing the $50 admission to the grand opening party tomorrow, the inaugural exhibition opens Saturday).
The empire of death was actually founded seven years ago, around the time Divya got her start as well. Back then, the rogue taxidermist found it difficult to find a mentor. “There are not a lot of traditional taxidermists who are willing to teach someone, especially not some random person living in Brooklyn,” she explained.
If you’re in a similar predicament, click through the slideshow as Divya shows how to perform taxidermy on a surplus mouse from a snake food supply company. If you’re squeamish, it might be best to sit this one out. But, Divya assured us, “anyone who’s cooked chicken before has seen similar stuff.”
If you can brave the sight of some uncooked guts, you’ll need the following supplies:
- a (dead) mouse, preferably acquired ethically, sustainably. (“No one wants to kill mice for no reason,” Divya said.)
- dry powder preservative. (“This stuff is pretty harmless,” she said. You do not need to go anywhere formaldehyde. Divya said this is a surprisingly common misconception.)
- a scalpel
- shaping/sculpture tools, or really anything that can be used to delicately press and shape the skin without piercing it.
- wood wool for shaping the body stuffing
- clay for shaping the faux skull
- a strong invisible string for sewing the pelt back up
- access to a sink
- mild soap
- something to dry the pelt on after washing (Divya used a pasta strainer)
- a hairdryer to help speed up the drying process
- “eyes” (in this demonstration, Divya uses pins)
- wire (stripped pipe cleaners work fine)
- a pair of pliers for shaping the wires, and stripping the pipe cleaner fluff.
- a small paint brush.
- extra pins (“These are used like scaffolding to aid in the drying process,” Divya explained. )
- something to mount the animal on (Divya uses a piece of styrofoam)
- a small, round object to stretch the skin over.
Divya makes it look easy, which taxidermy is certainly not. So remember to proceed carefully and don’t be discouraged by mistakes. “Everything can be fixed,” Divya laughed. “People bring animals with gunshot wounds to taxidermists.”
Click through the slideshow