Thursday, 8 August 2013

New butterfly Class Online now!

We have a fabulous butterfly taxidermy event coming up later this month, hurrah! Not only will it be filled with butterfly taxidermy, but also cocktails and delicious food to boot - that's my idea of a great evening out! 

In this butterfly evening class you will learn all the stages of butterfly taxidermy, from rehydrating to pinning and mounting. You will leave with a set of framed butterflies of your own design by the end of the evening.
In addition a selection of vibrant mediterranean tapas dishes are included in your ticket price, along with a glass of prosecco on arrival, and a choice of cocktails and soft drinks.
Class sizes are always kept small to ensure each person gets plenty of time for one to one tuition when required, and there will be two tutors on hand to guide you throughout the class.
Any questions or for more info email me at

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Inspiring images.

I love these charming gouache insect sketches produced in China in the 19th century...

Friday, 12 July 2013

I'll keep this one short and sweet! I just want to share with you all these lovely photos of our butterfly class taken by the brilliant Nigel Bewley....see more of his work here:

New dates available this week for booking at

Contact Sarah at for information on private group bookings for your special occasion - a great evening out for birthday's, hen & stag parties full of cocktails, wonderful food and butterflies!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Mourning Jewellery

When coming across these beautifully detailed designs I marvelled at them for the attractiveness of the drawing alone, but on closer inspection found they had an even more interesting story to tell. They show designs for Victorian mourning jewellery made using real hair. Hair as always been a symbol of life in many cultures, and can be traced right back to Egyptian tomb paintings showing pharaohs and queens exchanging hair balls as tokens of enduring love. 

This jewellery marked the lives and times of the people who wore it. It was a token to remember a loved one, a reminder to the living of the inevitability of death. During the Victorian era it was often used as a status symbol, elaborate jewellery made from precious materials showed the wealth of the lost loved one.

After the death of Prince Albert in December 1861 it reached it most popular, and many people were making and wearing different variations. Queen Victoria went into deep mourning for Albert, which was imitated by her subjects when faced with their own bereavements.

By in the 1850's hairwork became a popular pastime, and patterns for making brooches, cuff links, and bracelets were widely available. Preparation was important. The hair must be boiled in soda water for 15 minutes to clean and make it more pliable. It was then sorted into it various lengths and divided into usable strands. Sometimes horse hair was used because it was coarser than human hair, and so was easier for beginners. Moulds were almost always used to create these precise designs, and on certain occasions wealthier families has local craftsmen make specific moulds for them.

Hair art developed to be used not only for mourning jewellery, but in artwork and other crafts. Beautifully detailed landscape pictures and floral designs became popular,  and jewellery began using the technique in commercial pieces. The elaborate work produced showed an incredibly high level of skill. Hair became an expensive commodity, and merchants often offered young girls ribbons, combs and trinkets in exchange for their hair.

Godey's Lady's Book endorsed the fashion of hair jewelry and made it easy to
acquire. The following excerpt extolling the virtues of hairwork is from c. 1850:

"Hair is at once the most delicate and last of our materials and survives us like
love. It is so light, so gentle, so escaping from the idea of death, that, with a
lock of hair belonging to a child or friend we may almost look up to heaven
and compare notes with angelic nature, may almost say, I have a piece of thee
here, not unworthy of thy being now."

By the end of the 20th century the popularity of hair art has faded, though thousands of amazing pieces still survive in our museums and antique shops. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Morbidly fascinating...

Whilst browsing the internet for new taxidermy related books to tickle my fancy, I have recently discovered this little gem. 

Laurent Bochet's '1000 Degrees Celsius Deyrolle' documents the aftermath of a wildfire that ripped through one of Paris's most beloved taxidermy shops. In the wee hours of 1st February 2008, a four-alarm fire raged,  1000ยบ C: Deyrolle documents the aftermath with hauntingly beautiful images of the shop.

The owner of this 200 year old boutique, Louis Albert de Broglie, gave Bochet - a close friend - carte blanche to capture it all on film. His only challenge was making sure his twisted and disfigured subjects lasted through their photo session. Working quickly, Bochet set up a makeshift studio on-site. In the harried two weeks following the fire, he shot close to 300 photographs—from eviscerated goats and roasted butterflies to liquefied canisters and sooty minerals.

After nearly two years renovating the space and rebuilding the collection, Deyrolle recently reopened his new and improved digs with a pared-down yet still remarkable collection.

A wonderfully unusual book, beautifully capturing this tragic event. If you are ever crossing the channel to visit Paris I'm sure the shop itself would be well worth a visit: 

46 rue de Bac 
75007 Paris, France map
tel. +33 (0) 1 42 22 30 07

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Squirrelling away down in Hackney...

Well what a day we had on Sunday - our very first squirrel taxidermy class took place down at the wonderful Vintage Patisserie in Hackney.

Everyone did amazingly well and with a little hard work and creativity, we had a fine set of squirrels by the evening. I love seeing the different styles people choose to go with, from a sleepy little fellow in a natural pose.... a disco dancing squirrel, looking a tad festive with his bauble!

Everyone was quite rightly proud of themselves once they got through the slightly gory bits, and onto the fun part of sewing them back up and making them all cute and fluffy again.

Can't wait for February now to see what the next class brings. There's still a couple of spaces available for any of you who might like to join us.....head to the website for full info & booking:

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 21 January 2013

A slice of taxidermy history

Martha Ann Maxwell (1831-1881)

Image: Taxidermy Innovator Martha Ann Maxwell

The splendid photograph above shows Martha Maxwell who was the first female field naturalist who acquired and prepared her own mounts. It was rare for a woman to show interest in such things, I really admire her spirit going against convention and following her passion.

She became inspired after seeing a local taxidermist at work, and began practicing skinning her own animals at home. She was an skilled hunter who developed new and modern procedures to skin and mount the remains of animals. Her work soon developed and she became an incredibly talented artist - it was her work that initiated the basis of modern taxidermy. She proudly exhibited her collection of preserved birds and animals at both the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and Colorado Agricultural Society Fair in Denver. 

Martha remained a vegetarian all through her life.