The documentary series American Hipster Presents has done a video on Beth Beverly, a Philadelphia taxidermist and owner of Diamond Tooth Taxidermy. Miss Beverly fashioned some pretty stunning hats including a chicken hat and a hat with an antler that curves dangerously close to the eye.
Check out Merel Bekking's graduation exhibition "Well they were already dead anyway," part of her graduation project from the School of Arts in Utrecht.
The idea for the series started when Merel began researching guilty pleasures. She interviewed a number of people, but one sentence stood out. One woman really loved to buy shoes, endless pairs of shoes. However, these shoes are made from leather and leather is made from cows. But she condoned her addiction by saying saying: "Well, they were already dead anyway," referring to the cows. In Merel's own words:
This sentence was the basis of the current series. Day-old chicks, residual material from the bio-industry, can be bought frozen for 2 euros 35 per kilo at your local pet store. You buy paint by the liter, fabric by the meter, and apparently chicks by the kilo. In this way, the chicks are not chicks anymore but they are turned in to material.
Extensive research preceded the current range of products. I was consciously looking for the tension between what you can do and what you can not do, between chic and tacky. In the series, there is a fashionable fur hat, despite of the very clear reference to the origin of this wonderful yellow fur. A classically stuffed chick refers to the dead, yet remains cuddly. Golden porcelain chick pendants are hung on necklaces which is a beautiful sight. However, for every pendant, a new chick was needed, so these are not as innocent as they look. The chick as a stress ball calls on both emotional and physical feelings.
At the Daytime Emmy Awards this year soap opera star Stacy Haiduk appeared with a cat purse. Apparently, Haiduk's character on the Young and the Restless is a crazy lady who thinks that her dead cat is still alive, and apparently this cat purse is made from her stuffed co-star. But I don't really know the details for sure, and, to be honest, I can't really be bothered to track down the straight facts. Let's just leave it at crazy.
If you must, read all about it here +
Berlin artist Iris Schierferstein's new shoes. Above is Hoofs (2005) with horse hooves and zippers. Below is her more recent Vegas Girl (2009) with cow hooves and toy pistols and Temptation (2009) with pigeons.
See more of Schieferstein's animal shoes at http://www.froschportmann.com/IS.html
Check out more hoof styles at http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/8/view/9050/hoof-shoe-success-continues.html
Check out the interview with Rebeccan Beachy about her rather unusual cat art including her cat hat. Yes, she made a hat out of a found dead kitten. Apparently the legs dangle down the back. But if you think that's a tad unnerving, take a peak at the cat marionette endowed with baby teeth a little further down the page.
Huh ... different. Very different.
If you're needing some help thinking your way through such feline crafts, make sure to read the comments below the interview. As ever, when it comes to dead animals, everybody has an opinion. Or maybe I should say, nobody is without a reaction. From deep disgust to aesthetic pleasure, nobody can look on a cat hat without feeling something.
And perhaps this is the point. Most of us don't see a dead cow when we look at a leather jacket. But we certainly see a dead cat when we look at Beachy's fluffy bonnet. Typically, we don't invite cows into our homes, onto our beds, or into our hearts. Unless you're a dairy famer, cows are an anonymous bunch. However, cats (at least for cat lovers) are something special. A lot of contemporary artists are using the bodies of dead cuddly loved ones precisely to highlight such inconsistencies in the ways we use and thinking about animals - the ways we put some into the "inedible friend" category and some into the "yummy yummy!" category and some into the "nice Barcelona chair" category. Making a cat into a hat most certainly crosses boundaries and so necessarily provokes strong reactions.
But still, I'm not sure I'd want to wear my cat (her name is Mary) on my head to make this argument more concrete. You?
Find the interview at http://gapersblock.com/ac/2009/09/30/the-cat-is-the-hat/
I love this photo of Guy Berube's office at La Petite Mort Gallery in Ottawa, Canada. Classy and chic yet with a rustic retro feel. Plus, a stuffed rooster... that's not something even I see often. But what's that strange monkey creature on the top left shelf?
From the Satorialist : on the streets of NYC
Tinkebell, the Dutch performance artist best known for killing her own cat and making it into a handbag (below) and a reversible cat-dog purse known as the popple presented an exhibition of her work at Torch Gallery in Amsterdam late last year.
The Torch gallery offers this analysis of TINKEBELL's work:
"TINKEBELL. provokes by exemplifying the blind spots of modern society. She confronts a public that revels in being indignant about everything that has nothing to do with them, but at the same time is very apologetic about their own actions. She questions why millions of male chicks are brutally killed every day (often by throwing them against the walls of a barn) but she gets arrested for threatening to do the same in public. Why are people who openly discuss the lowering of the sexual age of consent treated as vile pedophiles, but are 'barely 18' websites intensely popular? By turning her own cat into a handbag she tries to show people their own hypocrisy about the use of animals for consumption and leather production. If anything, her works form a extreme incentive for the discussion of our morals and the way society is developing."
Any thoughts from readers? What do you think of that reddish fox-like thing being dragged down the street outside Cartier? Is she actually challenging hidden beliefs? Or are her goulish aesthetics too strong to provoke any thought beyond, "eww .. gross?"
A few unusual pieces from Alex Randall collection of taxidermy and lighting fixtures. Above "Rat Swarm" with twenty-seven taxidermied rats swarming together into a rat pillar in order to reach the globe of light. Below is "Duck Desk Lamp." Check out more at http://www.alexrandall.co.uk/
A few words on the new interest in vintage taxidermy. Open any home decor magazine and you're sure to see taxidermy - perhaps a trophy head, perhaps even a Victorian case of sea birds. At the very least, you'll probably see a modern reworking of the trophy head fabricated from some plastic material or carved from wood.
Surely this trend in taxidermy isn't new to you readers, but just in case here's a few comments from Apartment Therapy readers on the yays or nays of taxidermy here + http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/la/news/vintage-taxidermy-yay-or-nay-055802#comments. And while you're at Apartment Therapy, check out Michelle Enemark and Dylan Thuras' Brooklyn flat here + http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/ny/house-tours/-090422
So what is this all about? Why the new interest for taxidermy among the young and trendy ultramoderns? Perhaps because taxidermy is the ultimate anti-modern object.
Where serially produced, industrially manufactored objects have clean lines and smooth surfaces, trophies are intensely detailed and sensuously textural. If manufactured goods are endowed with a replaceable sameness, each piece of taxidermy - just like each and every animal, human or otherwise - is inherently, potently, uniquely itself. If modern objects self-consciously sidestep the moral weight of tradition and centuries old antiquities, vintage taxidermy resonantes with a deep history of times passed. But as always with taxidermy, the meaning of these pieces is ambiguous.
Old taxidermy is laden with a perplexed significance. If hunting trophies are typically displayed by the hunters who killed the beasts, these re-appointed pieces are usually of obscured origins. Where it came from, who killed it, how long it has been dead - all such storytelling is no longer significant. Rummaged from junk stores or purchased on e-bay, vintage taxidermy refocuses the attention from the hunter's prowess to the animal itself, to its strangeness, to its beauty. If vintage trophies make reference to a passed era when taxidermy was a regular household decoration item, they similarly speak to the enduring power of animal beauty. And these trophies although long dead and often older than their collectors are still intensely beautiful. No other household decoration holds the enigmatic fascination of an animal.
A recent article in the New York Times' Home and Garden section featured collectors with a deliciously decadent antiquarian aesthetic. And yes, taxidermy featured prominently. The loft of sisters Hollister and Porter Hovey in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is stuffed with all things outmoded yet highly stylish: taxidermy, fencing masks, natural history prints, pith helmets, and apothecary jars ... objects that exude a palpable nostalgia for another era long passed.
This is not the type of decorating style that you can just go out and buy. It is a style of passion. A lifestyle of visual collage. "It’s a stitched-together, bricolage world, an alternative world,” writes Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Collecting old things is a way of collecting the aura of a passed world or perhaps of collecting the passing of time itself.
But these are not just any sort of objects. These are intensely fascinating things. Faded patinas, gilding, whimsical details, furs and feathers, brass knobs, skeletons, aged maps. Each is inherently, potently unique, which - on its own - marks these things off from the endless stream of sameness characterising modern wares. Each object composing the eerie Victoriana aesthetic of Ryan Matthew's apartment is irreplaceable and irreplaceably strange, particularly his mummified hunting dog.
This is more than a "New Vintage." This is a statement of idiosyncratic individuality. Just as no two pieces of taxidermy will ever be the same (there are no copies in nature), no two apothecary bottles or Victorian pith helmets or vintage mirror will ever be equally the same. These lifelong collections express a love of texture and detail and the pleasures of beautifully, outlandishly, and outmodedly uniquely vibrant things.
Read the whole article here + http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/30/garden/30prewar.html?pagewanted=1
See more taxidermy advertisements here : http://blog.modernmechanix.com/category/animals/taxidermy/
In light of recent comments from readers (see below), my next few posts will try to get to the heart of why particular pieces of taxidermy are more offensive to some than other uses of animal. Hunting trophies seem a good place to start. Let's call this one: Hunting Trophies versus Belts: Which is more ethically icky?
When most people people think of taxidermy, especially those who dislike the practice, they think of hunters' trophies: severed heads of animals killed for sport, attached to wooden plaques, and mounted on the wall over the fireplace.
Why do trophies elicit such strong emotion, even in meat-eaters? Disgust is understandable from vegetarians, animal-rights activists, and any community who believes that there is no excuse to kill an animal. But for meat-eaters, jello-eaters, and anyone who owns leather shoes, belts, or bags the reaction is less straightforward. What is the difference? A steak, a belt, a trophy. In all cases an animal has been killed and refashioned. And yet a clear distinction exists in contemporary opinion: trophies are worse, ethically speaking. Why?
It could be argued that trophies are more appreciative of animals than leather belts since trophy heads strive to capture some semblance of the beast. Belts, which are nothing but strips of cured, tanned, dyed skin, don't look anything like an animal. The animal has been reduced to a bit of utilitarian material, easily discardable, completely disassociated from the animal it once was. And in this sense, trophies potentially highlight a hypocrisy: if you eat meat or wear leather,what makes trophies so additionally abhorrent?
But this isn't the way debates usually go about the moral merits of belts versus trophies. The reason? It is the particular way the animal died that offends, not the product that is made afterwards. Leather belts are typically made from the hide of cows that have been raised specifically for their utilitarian benefits to humans (meat and leather), which is to say, leather belts are the products of cold, anonymous killing. The death is planned from birth and conducted in a sterile space with machinery invented precisely for the purpose. Trophies, on the other hand, are the products of passionate, hot blooded killing. Someone has specifically sought out the opportunity of killing an animal, and the trophy head is a remembrance of that experience. Belts are not remembrances of anything: not of the cow, not of person (or machine) that killed the cow, not really even of the belt manufacturer. Belts erase everything about the cow, its life, and its death. Trophies bring it all into focus.
Then again, a degree of respect is always due to the dead. Parading or desecrating dead bodies is as morally reprehensible as violating the living. That is, just because we may eat an animal, does not mean we want to see its death memorialised. And this begins to get us closer to the heart of contemporary dislike for trophies. It is not so much death that offends but the blurring of animal with a personal human significance. The animal's death is bound up with a personal narrative of triumph: the two are inseparable. Trophies exist because they embody a significant personal narrative. The animal is remembered because it put up a battle, a worthy chase, but ultimately fell to the hunter’s weaponry, skill, and violent desire. Such passionate desire makes many urban dwellers queasy. And any memorialisation of the outcome of this desire is necessarily even more queasy-making.
But still, if you eat meat or wear leather, an animal has also died. Does it matter how it died? Or who did the killing? You tell me.
British vegetarian and artist Reid Peppard has created a rather distinctive series of animal jewellery. The works use animals that were either killed on the roads, by Peppard's cat or bought frozen from pet stores where they are sold as snake food.
Peppard creates mice necklaces, winged headbands, and mouse-head cufflinks as sort of "found" object jewllery.
Not sure what to think? Here are Peppard's own words to describe the pieces:
RP/ENCORE challenges our attitudes towards fur, leather and waste. In a world where leather is worn with out question by most, and replaced by un-biodegradable plastics by the rest, it is ironic that the image of an animal preserved using taxidermy is still enough to cause widespread outrage and fist banging. It is for this reason I taxidermy the prolific, consequential vermin result of London’s excess. A member of the UK's Guild of Taxidermists, I use both traditional and alternative methods of taxidermy to preserve and embellish creatures that are widely thought disgusting and unnecessary. When they become sculptural headpieces, necklaces and cuff-links, the specimens cease to be waste and become objects to behold. RP/ENCORE makes use of the city’s leftovers.
Contact Peppard at www.reidpeppard.blogspot.com
In the second edition of his Practical Taxidermy: A Manual of Instruction to the Amateur in Collecting, Preserving, and Setting up Natural History Specimens of All Kinds published in 1884, Montagu Browne thoughtfully adds a short section on jewellery and household items. He notes that "society demands that objects of natural history should not all be relegated to the forgotten shelves of dusty museums, but live as 'things of beauty and joys for ever'" as broaches, earrings, paperweights, and tabacco boxes. Hence the new alliance between the goldsmith and the taxidermist, resulting in "a thousand ingenious combinations of nature and art."
For earrings, Browne suggests two leopard claws mounted as "miniature Robin Hood bugles." Beetles also make dramatic adorment for the ladies ears. For broaches, the heads of hummingbirds with "their throats wrapped with a fillet of gold" are very handsome as are the feet of various species of grouse of owls capped with silver or gold such as the one above. Pins for "the sterner sex" could be made from the teeth of foxes or dogs.
For ornamental household items, horses hooves served as snuff boxes, inkstands, and paper weights, deers' heads as gas chandeliers, and monkeys, bears, ibises, owls, and eagles could be set up as either dumb-waiters or lamp bearers. The shells of tortoises - if lined with silk or metal - were wonderful tobacco pouches, and the long wing bones of albatrosses made strong pip-stems. Browne's strangest (and now most gruesome) ornamental taxidermy suggestion involved newborn kittens and puppies. "Kittens or puppies of a few days old, if nicely marked, can be stuffed and mounted on a piece of marble for paper weights, or on a red cloth for penwipers."
Published in 1860, Art Recreations offers itself as being a complete guide to all the womanly arts including pencil drawing, oil and watercolour painting, moss work, papier mache, feather flowers, shell work, magic laterns, enamel painting, hair work, and taxidermy. When it comes to taxidermy, the authors waste no time with pleasantries. The chapter begins bluntly: "Take out the entrails."
The bluntness continues. The entire explanation of taxidermic procedure consists of the above page and only one other paragraph. After the entrails and brain are removed and the skin is dry, the skull cavity and the entire fleshy body (the little bird is not skinned) is then to be filled with a mixture of salt, pepper, and alum. The bird should be hung in a cool, airy place first by the feet (so that the body may be impregnated with the salt) and then by a wire passed through the bird's beak until the bird "appears to be sweet," which I assume means until the bird no longer smells of decay. Perhaps the common judgement of the dainty Victorian lady needs some readjustment.
If you're wondering what "hair work" involves, let me explain. Simply put, hair work is the art of creating decorative flowers from human hair. The authors claim that the hair must be "hair from the head of living person," which is the be plucked and brushed as smoothly as possible and tied in bunches. Then begins an explaination that I can't really follow but involves twisted wire, a bit of whalebone, and knitting needles. "Practice in this art," I am assured, "is of more value than precept.
For a $2000US, you can purchase an item listed as Mountain Lion. Closed Mouth. Boone & Crockett Scale Mounted on your sports helmet. With cape or Tail as options from Attila the Hun Custom Ski Apparel's online gallery of helmet covers. Using the finest pelts, the Chieftan Hun Taxidermist creates truly original custom pieces. In fact, the Hun requires clients to send in their helmets to ensure an exact fit. Besides the rather spectacular cougar displayed here, available animal options include Alaskan Timber wolf, wolverine, cross, silver, blue, or artic fox, and coyote.
Attila the Hun also sells fur trapper hats with tails attached, mitts, headbands, archery quivers, belts, key rings, and yes, the fur bikini, available in either beaver or otter fur. Although not properly taxidermy - no beaver head appears anywhere it shouldn't - a fur bikini is just too noteworthy not to take note of. According the website: "the beaver bikini is a Hun exclusive and sure to be an attention getter." No doubt. The bikini is one-size-fits-all ("if it doesn't fit you, you probably shouldn't be wearing it anyway"), costs about $150, and weighs 2 pounds.
Check out the Hun: http://attilahelmets.com/8.0.html
If you are going to wear a kilt, you'll be needing a sporran to hold all those bits and bobs that fill up your trouser pockets. And if you're going to wear a sporran, it better be one of Craigie Originals' animal mask sporrans. Although located in Florida, Craigie Originals produce a variety of sporrans and leathergoods for the noble hearted Scotsman, but few items of their items can compare to their animal mask sporrans.
Perhaps you'd like this badger sporran complete with two well-clawed paws and six brass bells? It'll cost you $490. Or maybe a crocodile or beaver sporran? Craigie Originals has even endured the aroma of making sporrans from skunks. The company also makes less elaborate (headless) pieces from plain fur.
The animal mask sporrans cost between $400 and $500, but considering the splash you'll make at your party, they're well worth the cost. In addition, any of the sporrans can be made into a purse or bag for the ladies with the addition of a leather shoulder strap.
If a sporran is quite your style, how about a Davie Crockett style raccoon headpiece or a raccoon rug? Check out all of Craigie Originals' one-of-a-kind items at: http://www.sporrans.com/index.html