The Helpmann Academy’s Fellowships, supported by the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation valued at up to $20,000 each allowed me to spent three months in London establishing connections and networking opportunities to further develop my skills in taxidermy and jewellery making. As well as 3 weeks travelling around Italy getting immersed in the art, religion and the culture.

The purpose of the Helpmann Academy’s fellowship was to do as many courses I could do due to the lack of workshops that are available in Australia. Not only did London offer the huge range of workshops needed to develop my skills, it also has a rich history and culture that I was eager to immerse myself in. Over the previous year, through travel and research, my curiosity with death had grown. How different cultures and religions deal with death differently, currently and in the past fascinated me greatly and I wanted to further my research by delving further into the art and rituals of death and mourning.

Over my 11 weeks in London I partook in 19 workshops, which consisted of doing 15 different taxidermy animals along with 4 specialized jewellery classes. Out of all the animals my favourite, yet most challenging was the last animal; a fox cub. I had never imagined that after such a short amount of time that it would be possible for me to confidently start and finish it in 2 days. Another highlight was learning the art of working with reptiles, which is a different technique all together. This confidence I have come back with has inspired me to push myself in a new direction by working on some sculptural pieces combining both passions and new skillsets; silver smithing & taxidermy.

Due to London’s rich history there are so many museums, all special and different! Any spare time I had I would visit a museum and would spend hours just wandering around. A few favorite museums that I visited were “The Grant Museum of Zoology” which was the first museum I visited. I was so surprised and excited to see they had floor to ceiling glass cabinets filled with skeletons and specimen jars.

“The Welcome Collection”, is a museum and library, displaying an unusual mixture of medical artifacts and original artworks exploring "ideas about the connections between medicine, life and art".

“The Natural History Museum in London” is a natural history museum that exhibits a vast range of specimens from various segments of natural history. My favourite section of course was the zoology rooms, which contained Victorian display cabinets of the different kinds of bird claws. I also loved looking at the extensive range of taxidermy.

I even had the amazing opportunity to work in the museum alongside Phil, an acquaintance I made, and who does the restorations, cataloguing and specimen cleaning.

I would really like to thank the Helpmann academy for these amazing opportunities.

#oliviadrydenjewellery #WixBlog

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