Techniques for Wrapped Taxidermy Forms

posted 2024 Mar by Allis Markham

How do you craft a personalized taxidermy form? At Prey, our work often involves specimens that require custom-created forms, whether due to protected status or unique commissions requiring extra detail and care. To create a custom form, we use a centuries-old technique known as wrapping, which involves creating a sculpture and inner armature that goes beneath the skin.

Beginning with a carcass tracing to outline the overall shape and individual limbs, we utilize wood wool, thread, and a water spray bottle to sculpt shapes mirroring the anatomy and movement of each specimen. Though time-intensive, the results are undeniable. Unlike commercial forms with predetermined poses, wrapped forms offer flexibility to adjust the pose and flow of the piece even after the skin is on the form. This method is applicable to animals of all sizes, from a rat to a mountain lion (although wrapping a mountain lion may require more than just a weekend and a boat-load of wood wool). We highly recommend beginners start their taxidermy journey with wrapped bodies so they get a feel for the anatomy that brings life to the final piece. To assist you in embarking on your wrapped body taxidermy preservation, here are some key ideas and tricks to get you started.

1. Find an established wildlife artist whose work inspires you  

In the world of wildlife sculpture, finding an established artist whose work resonates with your artistic vision can truly improve you own skills. Beyond admiring their pieces, studying the creations of a skilled wildlife artist can offer invaluable insights on how to balance both the anatomy and artistry that is found in taxidermy. Engaging with their portfolio can serve to teach you how to properly express form, movement, and expression in wildlife art. By immersing yourself in the work of these talented individuals, you not only gain inspiration but also hone your skills and refine your own artistic voice. Reference is key.

2. Build in layers and refine your technique

You want to spritz the wood wool with water from a spray bottle to help mold it into desired shapes and work in layers. As you build up the form, you can refine the details as you go. Pay attention to the contours musculature of the specimen. Your technique will improve as you create more sculptures, but expect to refine your shapes as you are creating forms. As this is in an additive sculpture technique, you can practice creating shapes and form using similar materials such as clay to build your muscle memory for sculpting anatomical structures with wood wool.

3. Start with small specimens

Wrapping bodies is a foundational skill for any taxidermist. While working with small mammals is cost-effective, it is also a way to practice and refine your sculpting skill before moving on to larger projects. It can be less intimidating to work on smaller animals rather than feeling overwhelmed by the size and complexity of larger specimens - when working with larger mammals, you may need to work with a welder to create complex armatures. With small mammals, you can use wire and focus on the craft of creating the form. Since small mammal projects generally have a faster turnaround time compared to larger animals, you can accelerate your learning curve and skill development.

4. Work your way up to short fur specimens 

Overall, wrapping forms for a specimen with short fur in taxidermy requires a high level of skill, attention to detail, and patience to achieve realistic and lifelike results. A bobcat will have finer details compared to a skunk. Achieving a lifelike appearance requires meticulous attention to detail when it comes to sculpting the more visible smooth texture. Since short fur has a smoother texture compared to longer fur, imperfections can be more noticeable. Underlying muscle structure tends to be more visible as well, which requires skillful manipulation of the form to accurately represent the animal's anatomy and body shape in a taxidermy piece. We recommend beginning with animals like skunks or raccoons before moving on to short fur specimens.

5. Fail fast and practice patience

By beginning with crafting smaller custom taxidermy mounts, you have the opportunity to learn rapidly through trial and error. We recommend beginning by producing multiple iterations of individual limbs for one specimen and choose to move forward with the best one. This allows you to progress quickly, allowing yourself to learn quickly from your mistakes and not focus on the first attempt of a limb. You can always cut the thread on a discarded wrapped limb and reuse the wood wool material on a future project. By "failing fast", you can cultivate a better understanding of your own hand skills, refine your sculpting skills, and embrace the mistakes to better inform your future projects. It will be hard to get it right the first time, but practicing patience will allow you to embrace the learning curve and develop as an artist.

6. Put together multiple taxidermy mounts of the same species

There are countless advantages to working on a series of mounts of the same species. Not only will it allow you to practice and refine your techniques, but it will gradually improve your proficiency and efficiency. Working on multiple specimens of the same species provides the opportunity to identify areas for improve and track your progress over time. You can learn from your mistakes and successes, continually refining your techniques to achieve better results with each mount. Comparing your work across multiple specimens allows you to identify areas improvement and track your progress over time. After doing a series of one species, you will be better equipped to tackle the nuances and challenged presented by the next species you work on. This will help develop a deeper understanding of the diagnostic traits unique to each species, enabling you to approach future projects with greater confidence and precision.


Mastering the art of wrapping custom taxidermy forms to create lifelike animal mounts is a journey that requires dedication, patience, and a commitment to continual improvement. By following our tips and embracing the principles of practice, observation, and patience, you can elevate your skills and create stunning, museum-quality mounts that capture the life of the animals you work on. Remember to start small, fail fast, and never shy away from challenges, as each one helps you grow and learn. With perseverance, you will undoubtedly succeed your endeavors as a taxidermist.