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News / City Life

Quit your job, become a... taxidermist

Quit your job, become a... taxidermist
Andy Parsons

David Leggett, 67, taxidermist and auctioneer at Catawiki

Do you do weird taxidermy, like two frogs playing snooker?

‘The nearest I’ve got to that were two moles attached to bamboo rods, being pushed up and down on a canal boat for a Grolsch advert.’

What other stuff have you stuffed?

‘I’ve done a couple of wandering albatrosses. They have an 11‘ 6 ‘‘ wingspan and a head the size of a small dog. I did one for the British Antarctic Survey that’s hanging in a museum on Georgia, one of the Antarctic islands.’

That is ace. How did you get this job?

‘I’ve been a taxidermist since 1981. At the time I was working in local government and taxidermy was just something I did on the side. When I started there was no such thing as the web, so I had to locate shops within driving distance where I could take work on a regular basis to sell. Nowadays you can publicise yourself much more simply.’

What's a typical day for you?

‘I’m an online auctioneer for fossils and natural history two days a week, but I still look after Ripley’s taxidermy exhibits in Piccadilly. I go twice a year to clean, spray and repair them. Also I work at the Powell Cotton Museum in Kent, which houses the largest private collection of taxidermy in the UK. They’ve got a full-sized giraffe, elephants – you name it – and I clean and restore them.’

Does the work get quite, er... gross?

‘No, no, no. People have this view that a taxidermist is going to be wearing wellingtons, an apron and be blood-mired up to his elbows, but it’s not at all like that. All you’re doing is removing the skin. You’re not doing a post-mortem.’ What are the ups and downs of taxidermy? ‘The best and worst bit is the handover to the client, particularly when it’s a pet. If you get that wrong, you get it really wrong.’

Hours: 50-60 hrs p/w

Starting salary: £175-£375 for a small to medium bird

Qualifications: None necessary

Or why not become a tube controller?

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