Mickey Alice Kwapis

taxidermy & craft

This page is intended for my students; however, if you've stumbled upon it somehow please feel free to use the information I have provided. Bear in mind that some of it will only make sense to people who have taken my class.

CARING FOR YOUR MOUNT:

  • Please give your piece ample time to dry/cure/harden. Three weeks should do it. Remember that you need to prop your animal up and pose it using props you have on hand at home (using books, wires, etc), otherwise it could end up looking like a lump. If you need help, PLEASE contact me. If you remove your pins and props too early, remember that you risk features like the paws/arms and ears wrinkling.
  • Do not allow your mount to dry in a humid area like a basement, kitchen, or bathroom. Bedrooms, dining rooms, closets, and living rooms on high shelves are your best bet.
  • The shape you pose your animal in is the shape in which it will dry. If your mount is not drying the way you would like it to, place something underneath or around it like a cup or some books. If the lips start to separate, use clear tape and stick it to your skin or pants before you put it on the fur to make it less tacky.
  • Pets love to eat taxidermy, so plan ahead. Don't leave anything at a level where your cat or dog could chow down on it.
  • Do not allow bugs, namely moths, near your taxidermy piece. Prevent damage by using products from Mount Medix or Van Dyke's. Clean and preserve your mounts regularly to prevent any type of infestation, especially if you live in an area with lots of bugs. (Texas and Florida, I'm lookin' at you!) Additionally, if you do not live in a country where taxidermy solvents are available, moth balls that kill insects (rather than "deterring" them) are very helpful and should be used! Hovex is the brand used in Australia. American and Canadian students can choose from an array of brands. You may also wish to keep your mount, once it is completely dry, sealed under glass to prevent insects.
A small rabbit I did on commission a few years ago.

A small rabbit I did on commission a few years ago.

WORKING ON NEW MOUNTS:

  • Make sure you check all local, city, state, county, national, etc. laws to make sure that nothing you are doing is illegal. I am NOT responsible for anyone making illegal choices - don't be dumb and you should be fine. If you need a taxidermy license, GET ONE. It's worth the investment.
  • I buy my mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, chicks, and quail from Rodent Pro. I deal in other furs and specimens on Taxidermy.net HOWEVER I always check to make sure the seller has proper permits, that the location where the seller is shipping from allows said animal to be sold and shipped legally, and that the animal is legal to possess and work on where I live.
  • Anyone who has taken my classes has heard me say 902,349,832,409,093 times not to cut through the abdominal lining. If you want to do this, it's totally your choice - but working carefully makes things a lot easier and a lot less stinky. The same holds true for skinning animals with scent glands like foxes, but especially skunks. Don't puncture a skunk's scent glands - you're sure to regret it.
A cow skull I scrubbed clean in my laundry tub. It was left unattended in a field and was stained with algae.

A cow skull I scrubbed clean in my laundry tub. It was left unattended in a field and was stained with algae.

 

CLEANING BONES
There are many ways to clean bones. Here are some tried-and-true methods. Always wear gloves. Wash your hands afterwards too, don't be a nitwit.

  • Maceration - bury the intestines in your yard so bugs can eat them. Insects and underground bacteria need food too! Put the carcass in a nylon bag and submerge it in a bucket of water outside and AWAY from your house for a few weeks. If the water gets so dirty it stops being see-through, replace it with new water for another few weeks until the bones are clean.
  • Plastic bag method - put your carcass in a black plastic contractor bag with a few bricks on top to hold the mouth of the bag closed enough that animals can't get in, but open enough for insects (especially flies) to get in. Maggots and flies are way better than dermestid beetles because they're free, they show up on their own, they leave when they're done, they're way less temperamental, and they eat anything, regardless of whether it was dehydrated beforehand. After about a month, rinse everything out of the bag on your driveway.
  • Dermestid beetles - if you really want to try this pain-in-the-ass method click this link for an extensive tutorial. I don't recommend it but it could work well for other people - just bear in mind that this method must be done inside, beetles need their own room or closet, and they smell like the Grim Reaper's breath in the morning.
  • Bone cage - a method much like my own plastic bag method, except, y'know, for people with more time on their hands who want to clean bones on a regular basis for professional reasons. I don't have a bone cage because I'm terrible with power tools and I don't have a backyard. My apartment building-mates think I'm weird enough without me putting carcasses in our communal strip of grass in our parking lot. The bone cage method (at least, the mainstream version of it) was developed by artist Jana Miller, and you can get details on her website.
  • Crock-Pot method - bury the intestines in your yard, put the carcass in water with a bit of Dawn dish soap in a Crock-Pot OUTSIDE on the lowest possible setting. Start early in the morning and let it go until the meat is all cooked off. DO NOT leave this unattended. Unplug it if you want to leave your house. Don't cook your own food with this Crock-Pot unless you want residual rotting animal flavor.

Rinse your bones thoroughly after all of these methods. You can whiten them using regular hydrogen peroxide from the drug store. Submerge them overnight, drain the liquid, and voila!

I have created a blog post with a round-up of other bone-cleaning tutorials if you would like some further reading.

If any past students need clarification on any of these things, please email me. If you are not or have not been one of my students yet and would like to be, you may email me as well. My email address is hello@mickeyalicekwapis.com. Thank you!

Mickey Alice Kwapis is a Chicago-based taxidermist, jeweler, and person who does a lot of stuff. All site content ©2011-2017 Mickey Alice Kwapis and Niche Lab LLC. Questions? Use the contact form.