Claremont’s self-taught taxidermist and tanner learns about the art form in the changing industry

Sitting in a colorful little workshop stocked with assorted scraps of hides and animal hides and skins, Trace Pocock knows many people may have a “bad perception” of her line of work.

But the Queensland taxidermist says the art is all about giving something a second life.

“We do this to preserve memory, to create something beautiful, to preserve history,” Pocock said.

“There are parts of the work that I don’t enjoy, but I love looking at the finished product, and saying, ‘This thing turned out really well.'” “

In her work at Claremont Taxidermy, Tannery, and Leathercrafts, Pocock works heavily with feral animals found dead or culled as part of pest control programs, as well as imported pest species.

Close-up of a woman's hands holding skin being stitched on a machine
Pocock taught herself to make leather as a hobby.(ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines)

I worked on it Everything from foxes and wild dogs to pet fawns, the hides of local cattle are often used for tanning and leather work.

“I take something that is a by-product of the meat industry that would otherwise be thrown away,” she said.

“I can change it and turn it into something that will last and be passed down from generation to generation.”

Self-made craftsmanship

After deciding to try her hand at leatherworking as a hobby several years ago, Ms. Pocock bought a used kit online and then taught herself the necessary skills through videos and online tutorials.

Then her tanning business gave way to her fascination with taxidermy and she began offering it as a service through her work.

A dark-haired woman sits at a desk with instruments and a sample of brown leather in front of her
Mrs. Pocock is a self-taught artist.(ABC Capricornia: Katrina Bevan)

And while she acknowledges that some people may be against the practice, Pococke sees it as a creative tactic.

“I like to think that perceptions are changing,” she said.

“We don’t go out and take these animals for the sake of art… My foxes are killed as part of pest control programmes.

“I like to think I’m taking something that’s going to be thrown away and giving it an extra life.”

A woman's hand holding a skunk
Mrs. Pocock works on this skunk in her workshop.(ABC Capricornia: Katrina Bevan)

Pocock said it was particularly appropriate to work in Claremont’s male-dominated leather industry, as the town was home to pioneer Rose Harris – believed to be Australia’s only saddler in the 1920s and 1930s.

“It’s such an honor to be in the same town as her…and I’ve been very fortunate to see and work with some of her hides,” Pocock said.

“She was an amazing craftswoman… It’s such an honor to follow in her footsteps to some extent.”

Mummified red fox
One of Pocock’s mummified feral foxes.(ABC Capricornia: Katrina Bevan)

A changing industry

In Australia, no license is required when working with wild or domestic animals in taxidermy, however, there are strict licenses required for any work with domestic animals, and they vary between states.

Vice-President of the Australian Association of Wildlife Artists, Gary Begg, said that as more women like Ms Pocock get involved in the industry, the scope of work is also changing and expanding.

“Women are doing more craft work, more experimental work,” Bigg said.

“Now it’s the remakes and the recreations… There’s no straightforward scriptural way about it. It’s going to take it to another level.”

Because of the nature of the work, he said, he “came with the territory” that there will always be people who don’t appreciate taxidermy as an industry or an art form.

“[But] Art is meant to make people think, and that’s exactly what this one does.”

Skull in plant pot
Mrs. Pocock also displays skull art in her work.(ABC Capricornia: Katrina Bevan)

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