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'Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?'
- David Attenborough -  

Flower Arrangement 4

So where does my weird & wonderful story begin? Well i was born in Essex in 1990 but grew up on the outskirts of london, typical normal childhood even if im an only child. I grew up with animals, my parents had cats, dogs & when i got to an age where i could handle responsibility, i had hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs & rabbits so animals were in my blood. We lived near Paradise Wildlife Park in cheshunt & my parents would take me to see the menagerie of animals & id be fascinated by them all. I must have been about 6 or 7 years old when the keepers at the park walked a lion cub out infront of me, i was absoloutly in awe. So live animals have been something ive grown up with but where does the deceased ones come into it? A primary school trip to Londons Natural history museum is the culprit. All the kids in my year (I think i was about 6Years old at the time) were going ape over the dinosaur bones or the fossils but when we got to the taxidermy halls, i was just drawn to it all. The other kids in my class found them scary, hid behind the teacher or wanted to move away from the cases but i just stood staring in amazement at the Lion, the tiger, The articulated human & horse skeleton & just drinking it all in. At that age i didnt fully understand what taxidermy was or what the process was, i just knew it was amazing & i fell in love. When we got round to the human anatomy section, i saw the preserved human brain in the jar (Still not sure if its real) & it gave me nightmares for weeks yet ‘stuffed’ animals didnt scare me. Growing up animals were a big part of my life, i felt animals understood me more than my school peers. I was always coming to the rescue of various abandoned or fallen baby birds. Surprisingly death was a massive fear or mine as i grew up. Whenever i lost a pet, i took it really badly, i couldnt process what had happened & it broke my heart everytime as every pet i had was literally my best friend. As a child, my dad did alot of work with funeral parlours on their hearses so death was always around, id see hearses quite often in my dads garage & i’d feel really uneasy. Id see the inside of a hearse through the glass & through the open boot & it still filled me with dread. I lost my nan & my grandad when i was 9, one to cancer & one to a heart attack, i took their deaths very badly for many years, i couldnt handle death or that death happens to everyone, it severely affected my mental outlook on death.

In my Teenage years i lived in Dovercourt in essex & boy, i was the odd one out at school. I didnt make many friends throughout all my school life, i was bullied for most of them. I was still terrified of death, i couldnt watch horror movies, they scared the living day lights out of me. I remember putting the TV on one night & The Autopsy: Live was on & c4 was the channel that was on at the time, i swiftly changed the channel & i felt so sick & scared by what i saw. When i reached a certain age, i realised my health was drastically different to my peers, it took 2 years to be diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome / Hypermobility Syndrome at the age of 14. Id zip my pencil case up in class & my fingers would pop out of joint, my knees would dislocate whilst i was making my way to class & seeing this, My peers took this as a weakness & it made me a target. I relied heavily on crutches to get around, they were often stolen by class mates & that just led to heavier bullying. At 15 years old, i left school. My health was failing, the school was rubbish at dealing with the bullying & my struggles to get around the school wasnt top of their agenda.

The years between leaving school & 2015 were dark ones, my health further went down hill, i was diagnosed with various related illnesses to EDS including Osteoarthritis & fibromyalgia. By this point, i had managed to accept my fear or death, i was able to watch horror films & not be bothered by it, i accepted death happens to every living thing on this earth & its not nesscessarily a bad thing. Throughout growing up, id see dead animals on the roads & be sad that they were there, that they had died & that they were rotting down but i always thought i couldnt do taxidermy as im such an animal lover that i couldnt physically cut into an animal even though it was roadkill. Around 2014 i started seeing more taxidermy articles online & how it was ‘making a come back’ & i was engrossed by all the pictures i saw of various bird & mammal mounts accompanying these articles. One day whilst i was out driving, i saw a roadkill wood pigeon on the side of the road, a little voice inside said ‘Pick it up, try it, see if you can do it’. So i pulled my car up in a safe place & picked up this wood pigeon & took it home. In the freezer it went & i set about getting what tools i needed to skin it & what i needed to do. I got my scalpel & i made the initial cut, i realised i could do it, i could physically touch & skin a dead animal, my fears had gone.

I was picking up any good condition roadkill, at the time i was living on the Shotley Peninsula in Ipswich in Suffolk & there was alot of animals getting hit. I was watching youtube videos, i was reading so many google pages that im pretty sure i got onto page 32 at one point (I though google page 25 + was a myth!) & just researching what the process was, what the preservation was etc & off id go praticing on whatever i had managed to pick up off the road. Not going to lie, my earlier work was diabolical, i did so much wrong in everything that i did but you learn from your mistakes. Word starts to spread on the peninsula that i pratice taxidermy & various residents would message me with ‘Theres a dead such & such here’ or ‘This birds flown into my window’ so i carried on practicing, learning from each diabolical mount, researching, reading & watching youtube videos.

Fast forward to early 2016 & im laid up on strict bed rest due to major abdominal surgery to remove a troublesome gallbladder. Post surgery bought many complications which put me further back on my bed rest, i was going crazy not being able to practice, i was i bed, in massive amounts of pain with drains hanging out of me & all i can think is ‘I need to get back to taxidermy, its what keeps me going’ so i went back to watching youtube videos to brush up on what i had learnt so far, read pages of google results & bought the Ebook of Carl Churches guide to bird taxidermy. I was due to get back to the scalpel when i was delivered the news that there had been a Neuroendocrine tumour in my Gallbladder, a very rare form of cancer in an even rarer location for it to be. This did set me back some what as even though i was told it was removed, it was a massive shock & i couldnt process what had, what was happening & what would happen in my future. I tried getting back into mounting birds when my appendix decided to go septic so yet more surgery & yet more set backs, i just wanted to get back to what i loved doing. Whilst religiously reading various web pages, watching youtube videos etc was great learning curves & refreshers, it wasnt the same as the actual process but not only did these ‘endless’ weeks on bed rest improved my mount quality no end, it also got me through some very,very dark times.

Jump to 2018 & i married my soulmate Matt, we met before all my surgery & instantly knew he would be the one i spend my life with. Our wedding was anything but normal, we had 3 peacock mounts i did at our wedding, a male & female being behind us at the top table to represent us & a white male by the bar. Our guest tables were named after pheasants & we had mounts of each species of pheasant at a display for guests to see what table they were seated. Even the caterers were taking pictures saying ‘Ive got to tell my friends about your reception!’

Jump again to 2019 & im living in Trimley St Mary near Felixstowe with my hubby, our french bulldog, 4 bearded dragons, a cockatiel, 2 kakariki’s, a tankfull of fish, 6 ornamental pheasants & 2 one legged cockatiels. Taxidermy is now my full time job & i take on various commissions for anyone wanting a bird doing ( Aslong as its legal). Summer of 2019 has been filled with various shows & fairs to put my name out there. The response has been amazing & ive met some amazingly supportive people but at the same time you do also get the odd one or two who see taxidermy as ‘bad’. Things have changed drastically from victorian times when anything that moved was shot for taxidermy, its so vastly different now. I find fellow nearby traders at fairs will say to me ‘Before i met you, i thought taxidermy was ‘this & that’ but speaking to you,how you explain sourcing,the care you take in your work & pushing how much we need conservation out there has drastically changed my view on taxidermy’ which is what my aim is. I want people to see taxidermists arent big bad people who go around killing animals (Couldnt be further from the truth), i want people to see how we need to take wildlife into massive consideration if we want our future generations to see what we see now.

Im extremely proud to have been featured on the BBC news website along with 2 fellow female taxidermists about our craft. Taxidermy deserves to be seen in the light that its not horrid or cruel but vastly important for education & research for the future of the wildlife of the UK. In early 2020, ive been invited to talk at an event held at Colchester castle for Art, Science & Nature which will cater to Art galleries/collections, Museum Curators & natural historians which is an absoloute honour for me as it feels like i’m going full circle, like im 6 years old again & im stood in the natural history museum looking up at the taxidermy lion....

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