Bugging out: Brooklyn insect expert makes dollhouses for bugs

Stiched together: Daisy Tainton crafted this lovely scene featuring a knitting beetle and you can too, by attending her workshop at the Morbid Anatomy Library.
Photo by Daisy Tainton

As an entomologist and a Brooklyn resident, Daisy Tainton knows a thing or two about bugs.

And she will be sharing some of that knowledge in a workshop at the Morbid Anatomy Library on Feb. 1. She will not, however, be teaching the bizarre life-cycles, or the peculiar habits of Earth’s six-legged denizens — the lesson is far stranger than that.

“You’ll get to learn how to prepare your own insect and, by the end of it, you should have a finished diorama,” said Tainton, who spent sevens years at the American Museum of Natural History as their senior insect preparator.

That’s right, Tainton’s Morbid workshop is about making dioramas — with bugs!

Tainton will provide each of her diorama hobbyists with a farm-bred beetle, a box, and lots of little doll-house props to create a still-life scene featuring a moment in an anthropomorphized bug’s life.

Furthermore, she will instruct her students in the small-scale taxidermy skills required to get the bugs in the proper position, and to keep them stuck that way.

“We walk people through steaming, softening, and repositioning them, and then you have to create an armature to pin them and dry them in the position you want,” she explained.

Dung beetle: Just because it is dead, it does not mean a beetle cannot be domesticated.
Photo by Daisy Tainton

Tainton’s own dioramas, of which she has made dozens, feature beetles and other bugs in all sorts of domestic scenes — such as knitting, making love, or reading the paper on the loo.

She said the whole concept came from her love of dollhouse props, and also her disdain for the dolls they are made to complement. Basically, she would rather have a preying mantis sipping out of her tiny tea cups than a plastic girl.

“I don’t really like human dolls, never did,” said Tainton. “But I like dollhouse items, and I handle a lot of different types of insects, and I realized they would fit.”

Humans have a long history of anthropomorphizing animals, said Tainton, and she considers her work with bugs to be in the same tradition.

“Little anthropomorphic displays are something that’s pretty common especially in children’s books and things like that,” she said. “Kids love them too.”

Learn to make bug dioramas at the Morbid Anatomy Library [543 Union St. between Bond and Nevins streets in Gowanus, (718) 243–1572, www.morbidanatomy.blogspot.com] Feb. 1 at 1 pm. $75.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
High, apple pie hopes: This beetle will enjoy his apple pie — for all eternity — courtesy of diorama-making entimologist Daisy Tainton.
Photo by Daisy Tainton

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