Greg can stuff it
School project leads to a career in taxidermy
NNSL (Oct 15/99) - When Yellowknife taxidermist Greg Robertson worked on a Grade 10 biology assignment he had no idea it would become his livelihood.
The project was to do some taxidermy work on a squirrel, rabbit and fox. He liked it so much, he continued to do taxidermy as a hobby for years before starting a business in 1990.
"It was always a hobby until 1990. I've always been interested in wildlife. I grew up around hunting and trapping as my grandfather trapped for a living," the 33-year-old Yellowknifer said.
"I was always interested in going into business and I want to provide a quality product for people."
He said the most difficult animals to mount are hares because their thin skins tear easily.
"We try to tell a story with the piece by putting action into it. That way it's more interesting for the client so he can appreciate it for years to come rather than just having a mounted head on a wall," Robertson said while looking at a podium with a running bobcat frozen in a chase for a snowshoe hare.
"This is a bit more artistic and it shows what the animal does."
Sometimes people come to him with ideas for how they want animals to be mounted while other times Robertson said he is free to create the image.
First in the process is to flesh the animal, or to take the skin off the flesh.
Then comes tanning the skin which makes the skin smoother and usable on a foam replica of the animal.
"You have to get all the flesh off before it's tanned. Then it goes through the tanning process and from there you've got a skin you can work with for mounting."
Specialized mounts are done mostly in the winter, Robertson said, because the animal flesh is frozen in the desired position.
Once frozen in position, Robertson spreads plaster around sections of the animal.
The plaster cast is then removed from the animal and foam is injected in the mould.
The foam dries and then Robertson breaks the plaster mould to leave the foam mannequin of the animal which he then puts the animal skin on top of.
"The flesh is just designed for a one-time mould and then they're garbage," he said.
"It's usually for a specific client and they're never repeated."
Much of the job is trial and error, he said, as he is pretty much self-taught though there are several good books on the subject.