Edinburgh-born taxidermist George Jamieson’s fascination with his craft started at a young age.
A creatively inclined child, Jamieson began collecting stuffed birds to paint and sketch. As a reward for passing his 11+ exams, he was given a taxidermied golden eagle.
It wasn’t long before Jamieson decided to try it for himself and armed only with advice from the Royal Museum of Scotland he started experimenting after school with dead sea birds he found on the beach at Aberlady Bay.
He said: ‘My desire to do taxidermy was to create the illusion of life using the original animal’s skin, modelled in a lifelike manner. This appeared to me to be the most honest type of wildlife art.’
Shortly after university Jamieson became the first Scottish commercial taxidermist to gain professional membership of the Guild of Taxidermists.
For larger mammals, such as foxes and badgers, Jamieson creates a fibreglass model formed from a direct casting of the carcass, and for smaller creatures, such as stoats and squirrels, a papier-mâché body is cast and clay used to build up muscle structure before the skin is attached.
For birds, Jamieson often creates a body from wood and uses wire to shape the wings and tail into a lifelike manner – often in flight to best display the bird’s wing feathers.
For Jamieson, the setting is just as important as the animal itself and he will go to great lengths to ensure that everything is as natural and realistic as possible.
Commissions for larger exotic mammals, many of which require a special license to conform to strict laws regarding the cause of death – such as big cats – often come from zoos and museum wildlife displays to serve as an educational tool.
As a member for the Department of the Environment, Jamieson must keep careful records of specimens received and abide by these strict regulations. For example an owl can only be mounted if it has been a road casualty.