On Compassion, Empathy and Taxidermy
After the initial shock of learning what I do professionally, there tends to be a standard questionnaire that follows. Among the frequently ask questions is one that always takes me aback, concerning the assumption that I "must not like animals," followed with commentary on wither or not I have emotional connectivity working in, what many assume to be, such a gruesome and morbid field.
I largely blame this reaction to our hollywood depictions of taxidermists, who tend to be introverted quiet types, later revealed to have some violent or cruel tendencies and are ultimately named the serial killer. Meanwhile, roles focusing on other fields in museum sciences are romanticized and typical quirky, adorable and lovable characters. I understand entertainment and ultimately have no real complaints about this, aside from recognizing how little people truly know about taxidermy, and the negative connotations that are created as a result.
So how does compassion and empathy play into taxidermy as an art and preservation science? I would like to think that they matter more wholly than technique and basic trade skill knowledge. Wither the animal is a pet, has been hunted, or a found in the road, they are all brought in for the same reason, to be preserved. "Preserved," literally defined as " to conserve, protect, maintain, care for, look after." With out a deep sense of appreciation, appreciation and understanding of animals it would be difficult to create a life like piece that embodies the animal as it was in life. The idea that taxidermists don't care about animals stems from a lack of education and a state of being uncomfortable with death, which is ultimately a byproduct of a society which is taught that death only matters if something is left behind, rather than being an opportunity to create something to celebrate that one-life.
Every pet that comes into Remnant Preservations holds an entire families history, years of memories and loyalty that will never be replaced. Being empathetic to these things allows myself, and many taxidermists, to ensure that the animal is able to continue on indefinitely in these peoples lives as a continued source of comfort. Which means attention to every detail, going over the animal multiple times to make sure no characteristic and quality is ever overlooked. That emotional tie to these animals ensure that nothing is overlooked or carelessly disregarded as 'insignificant,' doing so would entirely change the emotional reaction to seeing a pet after going through the trauma of not only the passing, but also the bittersweet reunion after the preservation process has been completed.
With animals that didn't belong to a family, the compassion for a lost life helps recreate the vibrancy of the feral and untamed nature of wild animals. This extends even beyond, and into accurately recreating the essence of animals that many individuals will never have the opportunity to stand near, let alone touch and engage, in their lives. If a persons only opportunity to touch a Gems Buck, or Moose is going to be through a piece of taxidermy, the responsibility to accurately simulate that will only be achieved by studying and taking painstaking care in earnestly providing the animals exactness.
So, to answer those who misunderstand the nature of taxidermy, I would like to say yes, I do adore and care about animals, as much in death as in life. And with out this appreciation of them, I believe that I would fall short in being a taxidermist who put out worthwhile work.