If you have ever been into the shop or browsed our website, you’ve likely seen the wide selection of professionally mounted butterflies, moths, and other insects we offer. The art and practice of spreading and mounting insects is called Entomology. The scientific study of insects, a fine branch of zoology, dates back to the 16thcentury, but exploded in popularity in the 19thand 20thcentury with many notable figures finding their way into the hobby – think Charles Darwin and Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre, two infamous naturalists.
If you have ever wanted to learn the art of rehydrating dead insects, mounting and spreading them, and ultimately mounting them in a frame for your own collection, you are in luck. Every couple of months we offer workshop classes on entomology. Taught by store manager, and yours truly, I guide you through mounting butterflies and beetles and give you the know-how to practice the art on your own, at home, in just 1.5 hours time!
Included in the class fee (besides your seat) are: a hydration chamber, mounting board, pins, glassine paper, and multiple insects and butterflies to take home and practice on your own. In the class itself, we mount three moths and/or butterflies, and two beetles of varying size and species. This covers the ‘favorites’ of the bug world and collecting, but we also have an arachnid Halloween-themed class coming up in October where you can learn to mount scorpions and spiders for more spooky fun! We cover the materials we will be utilizing and get straight to work pinning those butterflies and beetles!
I now own my own business working with Lepidoptera, Dream Wings Jewelry (also carried in the shop), and work at Curious Nature a few days a week, but I got my start mounting butterflies and moths in my mom’s garage. I oversee the mounting of our special moth and butterfly specimens, as well as making more ornate and dramatic displays that eventually get put out for sale.
The most rewarding part of teaching these classes every couple months is seeing how excited every student is to learn. Watching someone’s love and admiration for nature bloom is what we strive for here at Curious Nature, so this class is a sure fire way for me to witness it first-hand.
Besides that, each student somehow manages to surprise me with their natural skill, even if it’s their first time trying out the hobby for themselves! When I first started out, without taking any classes and trying desperately to learn on my own, there were many trial and error evenings where my butterflies were ripped and falling apart, beetles were losing legs right and left, and my spiders were floppy and overhydrated! Yikes! Luckily I have learned my lesson enough times that I can now show you how to mount your insects with little-to-no damage, even if you have no prior experience!
What are you waiting for? Seats are limited! Sign up here for our August 14th class.
If you have ever had a passion and appreciation for taxidermy but have never known where to start exploring the art on your own, Curious Nature’s taxidermy classes are the perfect opportunity!
Our next class will take place on Saturday, April 1st from 10:00am – 5:00pm (with a one hour break in between). Doug James from Frank James Artistry will be teaching our introductory class in bird taxidermy using European Starlings. Starlings are an invasive species in the United States and cost thousands in crop damages a year; many are culled throughout the year through government programs. Rather than let them go to waste, we try to utilize them in some way as a gesture of respect. They are beautiful birds, and males are black with iridescent purple, green, and black feathers. And what’s cooler than owning a taxidermy starling? Owning a taxidermy starling that you can say you made yourself!
The class will cover preparing your frozen specimen, skinning and fleshing, washing, drying and finally stuffing which includes forming and sculpting your own body form and wiring the feet and and wings of the bird, depending on what position you want to display your bird in. We will finish the class with posing and fluffing feathers to get your bird as lifelike as possible.
All materials are included in the sign-up fee, and students will leave with their finished bird and a new appreciation for the art of taxidermy. Who knows, you might like it even more than you initially thought and be tempted to take more classes that we offer and work on rats, squirrels, or chipmunks. These classes are a great way to get started on the basics, and we often have repeat students practicing their new abilities from prior classes on tiny mammals and birds alike. Not to mention, being in a room full of like-minded and curious individuals is a cultivating and interactive environment to receive tips and pointers on how to advance your newly learned skills.
Do not wait to sign up! We only offer a handful of taxidermy classes per year, and seats fill up quickly. No prior experience is necessary, so don’t let the thought of not knowing anything about the art beforehand detour you! To sign up and to read more about our classes, visit www.curiousnatureshop.com under the ‘classes’ tab or click here. If you miss the bird taxidermy class, or would prefer to try your hand at another small mammal, our next taxidermy class will take place on May 6th, 2017. To register for that class, click here.
Three students from our first ever bird class at our old location on Roosevelt and 7th Street.
We're helping you to bring home the great gift you or a loved one have been eyeing this holiday season with our newly implemented layaway plan! Have you been lusting over our bull giraffe skull? Or our vintage taxidermy Caribou? Perhaps you've been longing to bring our red fox, or tiny marmoset home with you? Well, if you have been dying to take any of these special, high dollar items home with you, our layaway plan is here to brighten your day.
Outlined below are some of the simple details.
Items $400 or less: 50% deposit plus tax. Payments of the remaining 25% plus tax must be made every 2 weeks on the specified dates agreed to by you and Curious Nature.
Items $401.00 or more: 30% deposit, plus tax. Payments of the remaining 35% plus tax must be made every 2 weeks on the specified dates agreed to by you and Curious Nature.
Once the item is paid for in full, it will be ready to be taken to its new home: just in time for the holidays! Don't miss out on your favorite item and contact us here today to start your layaway plan.
We have been working extra hard putting new ideas and activities together for all of our loyal customers! In the next few months before the brunt of summer hits, we plan on bringing in new products, hosting at least 2 more classes, and putting on a mother’s day gifting event.
Entomology, June 11th
Learn how to spread and pin butterflies, beetles, and more insects. Price includes specimens and all materials, and you leave with all of your spread insects ready to frame once they dry. **Sign up as early as you can to ensure seating availability!
Bird Taxidermy, May--?
We are still determining an exact date for this class, as our owner will be in the process of moving into his new house, and we are working on sourcing birds. From what we know now, the class will most likely be using pheasants, quail, starlings, or pigeons. Stay tuned in for more updates, as this will be a class you will not want to miss!
We are planning to open up a new club, Taxidermy Club, that is! This day will be reserved and available only to students who have taken a class with us in the past. For a small fee, we would open our back room to you and set you loose to work on your own specimens, or perhaps one we provide to you like a mouse or rat! If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please let us know, we would love to hear from you! Email email@example.com and let her know what you think and mention any ideas you might have. She will be hosting the Taxidermy Club days, since she is also a learning taxidermist! And its always more fun to work on projects like these with other like minded people. :)
We have so many skulls and models for still life paintings that it seems like a waste to not bring it all back to life through art, whether that be with paint, graphite, or pastels. Let us know if this is something that might be of interest to you, or if you know some models who would like to come in to pose with skulls and other items we have in the shop. If you have any suggestions feel free to call us, stop by the shop, or email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can keep you on tab for updates.
Mother’s Day 2016 (May 8th)
Mother’s Day is just around the corner and will be here before you know it! why get your mom the same boring flowers you get her every year? Spiff it up with tillandsia and gems! We will be setting up a build-your-own terrarium station in the shop before the holiday so you can put something special together for mom with glass terrariums, a large variety of airplants, gems and minerals, and much more! We will announce more specific dates when we have everything prepared, product wise! J
At Curious Nature, we find new things very exciting. That’s why we work day in and day out to bring you thrilling items as often as we can, to keep things fresh and different. Customers often find that when they come in after a week or two, everything looks renewed, with new items placed neatly in with the others. Being able to find something you hadn’t seen the last time you were in is pretty fun, in our opinion. Here are five of our January favorites!
- Decomposition Journals and Notebooks
Each decomposition book is made with 100% post-consumer-waste recycled pages. With a variety of themes like Celestial, Spirit Animal, Under the Sea, Wood grain, or Honeycomb, there’s a notebook to suit any style or taste. The front and back inside covers feature black and white sketched and adventurer’s notes so you can be inspired to start your own exploration of the natural world (or your intensive notes from chemistry class). Use them for hiking observations, lecture notes, ideas and inspiration, to-do lists, or pretty much anything that comes to mind. The opportunities are endless (especially with prices starting at $4.99)!
- New Wet Specimens
While we have always had a fairly large selection of wet specimens, this month we have expanded our collection to carry a multitude of new species we haven’t had before. Some of these include starfish, mini crabs, chicks, large diaphanized snakes, and even a lamb fetus—just to name a few. As an avid collector knows, sometimes these newer products can go quick, so don’t wait!
3. Coffin Plates
We have actually had these five coffin plates for a few months now, but few people know what they are unless we tell them! Coffin plates went out of style in the early 1900’s, when coffins were replaced with caskets. They were usually made of soft metals like lead, silver, copper, or pewter. It also became a tradition later on to remove the plates from the casket before burial for the loved ones of the departed to keep as a sort of momento. The five plates we have are all antique, dating back as far as the early 1920’s and two of them (‘At Rest’ and ‘Our Darling’) are from children’s coffins. Today, they are must have pieces for any collector of momento mori.
- Copper-plated Jewelry
We have begun experimenting in even more of our own in-house production adventures now with copper formed jewelry. The process is much more scientific than one might assume off the bat, and involves a positive and negative electric current to plate the metal to an item. We so far have dabbled with small skulls and jawbones, seahorses and a starfish, and we successfully created rings out of raw opal that turned out much better than we had expected! All of these are one of a kind, not to mention undeniably fashionable.
We now have a variety of dried and preserved corals in stock, for those who need a splash of ocean life in their curiosity cabinet or collections. From lettuce coral to Red Pipe coral, there are quite a few larger pieces to choose from. All of them add a lovely accent to skulls, wet specimens, or mounted insects with their natural architecture and color. Our personal favorite is the Open Lettuce Coral, which measures a whopping 15” wide!
Taxidermy is, as many collectors know, a true form of art. Taking a dead animal and bringing it back to life in sculpture form takes talent, patience, and an eye for the natural world. Personally, I never thought I could taxidermy anything; I was afraid of the gore involved and the technical aspect of skinning and wiring, preserving, etc. After taking one of the taxidermy classes hosted by Curious Nature and Katie Innamorato this past September, I was surprised by just how much I learned, as well as how decent my finished piece turned out!
I participated in the European Starling mounting class. Starlings are an invasive species of bird in the United States, introduced to Central Park in the late 1800’s by Eugene Schieffelin, President of the American Acclimatization Society, whose goal was to introduce every bird species mentioned in works of William Shakespeare to the States. They have now cultivated such a large population that they are considered pests in many cities and cause damage to crops every year, thus resulting in culling operations initiated by the government.
Birds are widely regarded as one of the more difficult animals to articulate in taxidermy. This is nothing short of intimidating to hear before going into a class with no prior experience. We began the class by thawing our frozen birds out. We ran them under warm water until they started to become more mobile. Soon after, we began the skinning. Before you shy away at the thought of this (as I did at first) think back to any experience of dealing with raw chicken: if you’ve handled that, you can handle this. We used our scalpels to peel back the skin and feathers and pull the main meaty part of the body away and out of the bird, as this would be sculpted with wood wool later. I would say the worst part of this step was breaking the wing bones and leg bones from the hips—a bit tricky! (You keep the leg and wing bones as a guide for wiring later).
With bird taxidermy, the original bird skull is left in the finished piece, which requires you as the taxidermist to get out anything that could decay i.e. the eyes and brain. This also sounds much worse than it really is. Bird eyes have an uncanny resemblance to blueberries, and since they had been frozen, the half thawed brains looked sort of like red jelly (yum). After a while, the whole process felt reminiscent of being in science or biology class, learning all of the inner workings of an animal.
And then we began the wiring, the part that I personally struggled with the most. For support and to position your bird later, you need to insert thin metal wires through his wings, feet, and neck. We left quite a bit of excess on these wires. First off, it’s not half as simple as it sounds. Sticking a wire though a bird wing and following the path of its bone while trying to not rip through the skin but get it in deep enough for it to stay was pretty difficult (I ripped my bird’s wing skin, but sewed it up at the end). The feet were quicker to wire, as they pop out the pad of the bird’s foot and runs much smoother than the wings. Once all four wires were in, we were faced with the new challenge of trying to position a skin puppet with wires catching on anything and everything and getting tangled up with each other. I was frustrated with this, but once we had modeled a body and neck with cotton and wood wool, it was smooth sailing. Sewing the skin up where we had made our incisions was surprisingly the easiest part of the process. This probably had to do with the fact that we were almost done with our pieces at that point also, so I was pretty excited. We mended any tiny holes we had made in the skin, and completed the stitching. Then, we mounted our birds on a temporary base to position them. Mine ended up working well with his wings spread out, and by the end of the class, I was very proud of myself and the bird I had brought back to life (see photo below). Knowing that taxidermy can easily end up looking botched and terrible, it was wonderful knowing that with Katie’s help, we all went home with beautiful new pieces that we made ourselves!
At the end of the class, I was mentally exhausted. It had been scheduled to run 1:00pm-7:00pm but we didn’t end up finishing until 9:30, so it was about 8 hours in total. Overall though, I had a ton of fun working on this project with other like-minded people. We laughed, joked, and learned together, and that was pretty special.
Be on the lookout for the next time we host taxidermy classes, likely sometime next year! After taking one myself, I highly recommend them to anyone looking for an introductory course to the art.