Boxing Wilhelmina

In late November, I was luckily enough to squeeze into one of The Observatory’s taxidermy classes. I ended up creating this lovely lady rat, Wilhelmina. I was expecting to be very squeamish about the whole thing – playing with dead things has always been a taboo when growing up, I avoided dissection in science classes during high school and the closest I’ve ever come to touching something’s guts has been removing a gizzard bag from a whole chicken. Sheltered from squicky things is a bit of an understatement. But I’ve always been interested in biology and taxidermy especially of late, so off I went with my partner in crimes, Numidas Prassarn, to class.

I couldn’t access my camera during the actual dissection since I didn’t want mouse gore on it, but the process of skinning her was actually incredibly clean, thanks to copious use of borax & some very delicate work with an xacto blade. The guts are all held together by a thin membrane, so if you don’t pierce it, everything is held together in a nice mouse-y sack. We broke the leg bones to keep the fingers & toes intact & to get the body bag out of our little friends. The skull stayed intact as well, though we had to clear out the brain. It is SO TINY that I didn’t even realize I’d cleaned it out. The eyes are tiny map pins that pierced the actual eyes & took their place. That part actually made me the queasiest, because I cannot stand the idea of needles going into eyeballs.

Wilhelmina now resides on my shelf. Her fingers lost a lot of their plumpness as she’s been drying out. I need to give her a good brushing as well. But I would love to do more classes like this & play with actual articulation and standing poses. It’s a fun combination of sculpture & animation as you stick armature wire into the arms & tail to recreate the skeleton & provide support. I adore it.

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