A unique hobby: Halifax man turns roadkill into art
Doug Hillman of Halifax is a self-taught taxidermist who has sold dressed, stuffed animals online for upwards of $1,000 each.
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Walking down the hall toward his Halifax apartment, Doug Hillman stopped in his tracks before opening the door.
“Sorry about the smell,” he warned Tuesday. “Yesterday I was boiling walrus bones.”
Inside Apartment 25, framed posters of Frankenstein and pictures of human anatomy cover the wall.
Across the room, above his desk, hangs the pelt of a zebra and the heads of two mounted reindeer.
Beside it, a stuffed coyote, rabbit and seal.
On a hook in the corner of the room hangs a white lab coat he wears while working.
Hillman is a self-taught taxidermist.
His bachelor apartment is filled with the skeletal remains of cats, lizards and rodents.
Other decor includes a stuffed duck wearing a handmade suit bearing a rose and a raccoon outfitted in a grey hoodie.
“I found out I had a knack for dressing up small animals,” Hillman said.
He can’t really sew, so he glues pieces of fabric together. He sells the stuffed, dressed animals online for upwards of $1,000.
For the past seven years, Hillman has made a hobby out of turning roadkill into art.
“Until recently, I didn’t call myself an artist,” he said.
Growing up in Cape Breton, his father was a butcher. Hillman would often search the woods for cow skulls that his father had thrown away.
“I kind of got the love of nature through that ... For me, that’s what the skeleton kind of meant.”
The skeleton is an amazing thing in general, he said. “It’s like nature’s puzzle piece.”
When Hillman performs taxidermy, he does it very quickly, so as not to spoil the animal remains.
First he skins the animal. He washes it up before cleaning the skin with borax, which helps dry it out. Then he molds the shape of the body from tinfoil and covers it with thick wire.
The head of the animal is sculpted out of foam. He puts it all together and slides the skin over the body. He sews it up as best he can and then pins the face in position until it dries.
“The smaller the skeleton, the more intricate it is,” he said.
“I try to bring the dignity back as much as I can.”