On Wednesday 28th August, we welcomed ethical taxidermist Jazmine Miles-Long to YCN for the last in our summer-long series of Member Events.
Our Summer event series has given Members insights into the realms of infographics, illustration, film-making and more. It drew to a close last night with a talk that concentrated on a different creative discipline altogether – taxidermy.
Jazmine Miles-Long has been working with taxidermy since graduating from the Fine Art Sculpture course at the University of Brighton in 2007. She was introduced to the craft whilst working at Brighton’s Booth Museum of Natural History, where she soon became inspired to try her hand at mounting her own birds and mammals.
Self-taught at first, Jazmine honed her skills by studying with the Yorkshire-based, multi award-winning taxidermist Mike Gadd. A stint at Edinburgh's National Museum of Scotland under the tutelage of Jack Fishwick helped Jazmine develop her practice further. It was here she learnt how important staying calm, keeping tidy, listening to music, taking regular breaks and having lots of cups of tea can be to keeping a level head whilst working with taxidermy.
Jazmine then elaborated on her position as an ethical taxidermist. She made the call early on in her career to work solely with animals that have died of natural causes or road casualties. She now relies entirely on donations, be they from family and friends, rescue centres or her Twitter followers.
The talk continued with a step-by-step account of how Jazmine goes about mounting (note that taxidermists ‘mount’ their animals, not ‘stuff’ them) a small bird. Using a cockatiel as an example, Jazmine documented every single part of the delicate process, from skinning the bird, right through to deciding on an appropriate base. We were given a look at the tools of her trade; a surprisingly everyday collection of household implements including scissors, tweezers, wire, a scalpel and cotton wool. It was also interesting to see how few chemicals and preservatives Jazmine uses, opting only for a bit of ethanol to help prevent ‘slipping’, when fur or feathers fall away from the creature’s skin over time.
Jazmine demonstrated how she constantly took measurements throughout the process, precisely recording everything from the length of the bird’s neck to the width of its eye. We were told how important taking note of these measurements is, as they determine the size and shape of the balsa wood frame that the skin will ultimately cover. These details are essential in creating an accurate representation of how the creature looked in life.
We then heard about some of the collaborations Jazmine has been involved in to date, from an exhibition with illustrator Lilli Cowley-Wood to a piece she produced with artist Shezad Dawood for the Hix in Soho. Jazmine also shared some ideas behind a special sculptural collaboration with Benjamin Phillips. This ongoing project sees Benjamin’s illustrations brought to life as sculptures, which are then put into compositions with Jazmine’s creatures. The two artists’ styles combine to create wonderfully tactile compositions, which have caught the attention of numerous galleries already. Plenty more pieces in the pipeline, of which we were given a sneak peak during Jazmine’s presentation.
Following a look at the final stages of mounting the cockatiel, Jazmine rounded off the talk by discussing her work with the Guild of Taxidermists. She became a member in 2009, and her enthusiasm for the craft did not go unnoticed, as she was quickly elected editor of the organisation’s yearly publication. Jazmine cited joining the Guild as one of the best professional decisions she has ever made. She praised the institution’s invaluable support, and recommended their regular conferences and seminars as a source of inspiration for any taxidermist.
We would like to thank Jazmine for her insight into the taxidermy process, and to all Members who came along.
YCN Members can apply for free places at events, with Super Members given priority on seats. Not yet a member? Join here.
Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:28th August, 2013 at 6:30pm
End:28th August, 2013 at 8:00pm