#taximag #3 April 01 2015
Hello… I was expecting you! The interest in #taximag continues to grow and this is one of the reasons that we now bring you more stories and pages than ever before. IF you would like to receive #taximag news and updates, THEN sign up here: www.hashtag-taximag.com IF you would like to buy print copies of #taximag, THEN go to ebay and look for ‘taximag”, IF you would like to be a #taximag reseller, THEN contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org IF you have a story to tell and would like to be featured in #taximag, THEN tell me all about it on email@example.com IF you would like to see #taximag continue, THEN please tell your friends! Kanna. www.curiouskanna.com
Inside 4 - 13 When Lucky and Crazy Collide
38 - 45 Curating and Creating
14 - 17 Viktor Wynd
46 - 49 Look before you leap
18 - 25 Conjured Creations
50 - 53 Creature Conforts
26 - 27 Dead Safari Diaries
54 UK GuildCon 2015
28 - 29 Nateâ€™s Mates
55 Tam Powell
30 - 37 Cakes to die for
56 - 57 Emilie Verity
When Lucky and Crazy Collide The Story of the Stoned Fox Story by Kanna Ingleson
During a time when everyone seems to be trying too hard, or not at all, this is a story of how opportunity sometimes doesn’t just come knocking, but turns up in a party hat and kicks down the door. If the mere mention of “Stoned Fox” doesn’t immediately result in any clanging brain bells, then go and Google it now. Adele Morse is the Welsh-born taxidermist responsible for this internet sensation. She is also a superstar in Russia. Adele studied art at the Royal Academy and has been a taxidermist for 10 years. Unwilling to waste imperfect specimens due to her ethical values, she occasionally works with animals that most others wouldn’t even consider having indoors. It just needs some imagination and, as you will see, Adele has enough of that for all of us. The Beginning The story of the Stoned Fox started the day a gamekeeper sent a dead fox to Adele’s studio. It had been in transit far too long and it had been caught in a trap, reducing its head to the size and shape of a bag of peas. With a Royal Academy course work deadline in mind, Adele started skinning the unfortunate fox despite every encouragement to the contrary. This was the first skin she had tanned and the further she got the clearer it became that this was turning into a total disaster. It was too damaged to stand up and that was just one clue. Cotton wool permanently up the noses of complaining studio colleagues was another. The more Adele tried to patch up the holes in the fox’s head the worse it got. With no fox eyes available (she didn’t quite think this one through), Adele had little to lose and used doll eyes instead. This just made everything more ridiculous than it already seemed. Having completed what she set out to do, Adele put the fox on a desk where it settled into a sitting slump. And that’s how it stayed for quite some time.
The Expedition Later on, again motivated by course work and imagination, Adele decided to join a cryptozoogical expedition up the side of a volcano, across a crater lake and into the muddy extremes of a Sumatran jungle. This would be in search of the often reported but yet scientifically undocumented orang-pendek. Adele wanted to be the one to finally photograph it and to recreate the creature using taxidermy and sculpting techniques. In case you are wondering, cryptozoology is the study of hidden species. The Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot are the ones that usually spring to mind but it turns out there are many rather less fantastical but perfectly real creatures out there just waiting for people to discover them. The orang-pendek is, in simple terms, an upright walking, undiscovered ape that has been seen many times but without the all-important concrete evidence. To afford the mandatory travel injections and some kit for the trip, Adele had to sell the fox. By now it had gained an unexpected but affectionate following among her studio crowd and had been the mascot at student parties. Adele admitted that by then she was sad to see it go, but not enough to miss the jungle trip. The Sale The fox made its first public appearance on ebay. The description accompanying the photo included the irrefutable phrase ‘he is not perfect but he does have a lot of character”. People started getting in touch. Lots of people. Some wanted a “buy it now” deal and some wanted to borrow or hire it. Still others wanted to use the picture of the fox on their social media streams and to superimpose it with other images in Photoshop. Adele is more relaxed than most about these things and let people use the image pretty much as they liked. While this was all going on a London-based DJ put out the word that he would play a set for anyone that bought the fox for him. A music producer in Manchester took note and won the bidding at £330. The DJ got his fox, the music guy got a gig, and Adele got the cash. On her birthday as it happens. The Interviews Adele’s inbox has had its fair share of strange messages, but this one said something to this effect “Everyone is looking for you and I have found you. Will you do an interview?” The sender, a Live Journal web geek with a nose for a good story, was the first to let Adele know that she was famous in Russia. He showed her pictures of the fox that had gone viral - easily a hundred of them. He also showed her a photo of his girlfriend wearing a custom made t-shirt adorned with a picture of the now famous fox. It was amusing and the picture ended up on Adele’s own blog. In Russia, Live Journal attracts huge audiences and lots and lots of people saw that interview. That’s probably why the Russian Metro newspaper came calling the next day. Adele agreed to a Skype interview from her bedroom while wearing a pyjama top and not much else. Her two cats sat on the bed behind her in a spontaneous yet bizarre guard dog pose. It only dawned on Adele that things were getting a bit weird when she saw at least 20 people behind the Metro interviewer who were almost hysterical with excitement at seeing her. They were taking pictures of the interview and calling their mothers. Realising that the Metro had a huge print circulation Adele invited them to publish a picture of her from her blog for the article – preferably one where she wasn’t wearing pyjamas. By mistake they used the picture of the Live Journal interviewer’s girlfriend who also happened to be the press secretary for the Leader of the Opposition.
By now the “Stoned Fox” moniker had gained traction for fairly obvious reasons and this was perceived as a political slur. Others saw it as an insult to the Russian people and rumblings of discontent emerged for the first time. The Tour Very soon Adele had accepted an invitation for a 2 week trip to Russia for a stoned fox “show and tell”. The trouble was, she didn’t own it anymore. With consent from the new owner and with the fox in her backpack she took two flights and finally landed at a tiny airport. Quite unexpectedly there were several TV crews waiting for her and the all-important fox. Having been in a back pack for two flights, it emerged all folded up and looking more demented than ever. Interviews went ahead and a translator helped everyone make sense of it all. Russian was already in love with Adele. Just before a scheduled press conference the next day Adele’s minders seemed jumpy to say the least. More TV crews had turned up than the room could accommodate. Journalists started shoving each other just to get in and stood on chairs when they did. The translator started shaking, she had never seen anything quite like it in 20 years of doing the job and was quite simply nervous. Adele was escorted out the back door when it was all done only to meet more photographers and determined autograph hunters outside. Adele had a lecture to deliver the next day. Tickets sold out despite costing more than a box seat at a football match. Two Siberian fans had taken just one day off work to make the 8 hour round trip to attend the 2 hour lecture. Adele later made an appearance at a supermarket where armed minders struggled to control the people who had turned up to see her and eventually escorted her out of the building behind screens for her own safety. Soon afterwards the fox was featured in a music video shot in a sex museum. Then came the stoned fox merchandise. However, fame always comes at a price, and soon there were some Russians, not in love with the fox, who started protesting in the streets rather loudly and others who stayed at home and sent hate mail, proper hate mail. The type we can’t talk about here. The Jungle Owing to this perfect storm of crazy and lucky circumstances the stoned fox continues on its viral voyage and makes appearances in new and different guises even today. Adele has been offered £18 000 for the original fox which is not much use to her since she no longer owns it. She has since made a few more to satisfy the demand, but not enough to satiate a still clambering market. Some of these can be seen on pages 8 and 9. As was the plan all along, Adele briefly swapped all of this for the quieter but no less eventful cryptozoological expedition to Sumatra. Accompanied by a crew of documentary film makers, totally exhausted and with leeches on her skin, Adele said she had thought at the time that there was a reasonable chance she might die. This was not an entirely unfounded fear since tigers had been seen prowling among them in their tentless jungle camp. But once encouraged to continue with the search after talking to locals who had actually seen the orang-pendek, the group later discovered the unmistakable footprints of an upright primate and some hairs on a tree. Laboratory tests on the hairs were inconclusive although at least one technician declared them not to be human.
The Aftermath So how do we explain Adele’s stoned fox becoming a global media phenomenon in a matter of days when experienced marketing gurus and social media obsessives do their best to get some viral marketing traction often with little result. It all seemed to happen quite by chance but it is clear to me that there are a few things that Adele does differently Unlike so many other artists, Adele did not slap a copyright notice on her pics and insist on having control over their use. If people wanted to Photoshop it or put it on a t-shirt – that was fine with her. She was willing to work with a theoretically unsuitable fox in the first place, and she persisted when everyone was telling her not to. Finally she did the Russian tour with very little information and with no idea of what was about to happen. In return for this laid back approach to marketing, a lack of pretention and perfectionism in her work, and a willingness to venture out of her comfort zone, Adele experienced the sheer craziness of the Russian celebrity status that played out all those months ago and continues to do so now. Maybe that’s why people like me have day jobs and people like her never will. What’s Next? The end result of this extraordinary series of adventures are some re-creations of the orang‑pendek which have recently been exhibited in and around London. They are based on a fascinating amalgamation of witness interviews, written statements, independent research, artistic interpretation and traditional taxidermy skills. Adele also has a new body of Stoned Fox textile work and continues to do taxidermy commissions, engage in artistic collaborations, teach taxidermy classes, and explore her artistic roots in fashion design. She is also pondering how best to document her Stoned Fox adventure for while the whole tale can be seen online there are at least three separate narratives depending on where you access the information from. And there is also one perspective missing - the one from Adele’s own point of view and the story of how it completely transformed her life for a few crazy months. Adele Morse is an extraordinary young woman who will no doubt continue to make her mark on the taxidermy scene on her own terms.
get in touch: email: firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @adeletaxidermy website : www.adelemorsetaxidermy.co.uk www.adelemorse.co.uk instagram: @adelemorse @stonedfoxofficial
Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders A book reveiew by Karen Unrue
There would have to be something special about a coffee table book for me to want to add another one to my already tall and teetering pile. Though full of beautiful pictures they are often a dull read and so tend to disappoint. Yes, Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders is a coffee table book and is filled with sumptuous photographs but here, thankfully, the similarity ends.
Those of you who are in any way acquainted with the world of Mr Wynd will not be at all surprised to learn that there is nothing dull about the text. He writes with revealing honesty, a dry wit, and unfiltered opinions, and even when he is sharing with us his extensive knowledge of the world of collecting it is never a dry museum tome. On the contrary, it is in varying degrees fantastical and macabre, beautiful and grotesque, irreverent and pornographic, and those who are of a prudish or fainthearted disposition should refrain from opening it. I read it in one gleeful sitting! If you have not yet had the chance to look around Viktor Wynd’s Little Shop of Horrors in Bethnal Green this book allows you to visit and peruse through such objects as a stuffed domestic cat, jars of celebrity poo (£5 a sniff) and a box he claims contains some of the original darkness Moses called down upon the earth. If you have already been there and would love a peek into the more personal world of its creator this book takes you into his home. Here, not only is there so much stuff accumulated that he has forgotten a lot of what he owns, but a Chilean rose tarantula called Jane lives in his bathroom and Barney, the bearded dragon has made the sofa his own. He admits that he will never be sated and that collecting is a sickness. In fact he goes as far as to warn us that if we, “..do not already have the diseased mind of one unable to limit oneself to just one of everything..” we should stay away from collecting”. He contends that the true collector is a rare beast, that true collecting is at the very peak of artistic achievement, and that private collections are the pinnacle of possibly all art forms. Who am I to argue? Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders follows in the tradition of the cabinets of curiosities that were to be found in the private rooms of 17th and 18th century gentlemen and shown to favoured guests. Filled with the strange and fantastical and replete with often-magical back narratives they illicited gasps of delight and raised eyebrows of surprise. In his book Mr Wynd tells us that “he wants to engage people, take them by the hand, lead them up and down the garden path whilst whispering in their ears”. As far as I’m concerned he achieves this and I enjoyed every minute in his company.
The oaccompanying pictures are from Viktor Wynds Cabinet of wonders which is available to buy.
Conjured Creations In conversation with Lucia Mocnay
I have heard you say that taxidermy saved your sanity. Please tell me about that. Ahhh yes, my sanity. I am a creative person by heart and I went on an unplanned creative hiatus for a good decade while I focused elsewhere. I helped my partner get his tattoo shop off the ground by creating websites, online presence and marketing, so still dabbled in creating, but didn’t create with my hands like I used to. Over about 5 years my living arrangements changed quite a lot, I became a mother of two young boys and had our geriatric dog pass away, then a new, super hairy, super excitable puppy entered our lives while my kids were still very little. All this youthful chaos used up my spare time and energy. Being artistically stagnant seemed also to cypher my sanity. Then once everything settled and the boys went off to school, I had a huge urge to create with my hands again and that’s when I decided to delve into the art of taxidermy. This new found passion revived my artistic spirit, gave me an outlet for all my creativity, and saved my sanity, so to speak :)
Why did you choose taxidermy as an artistic medium? At the time my inspirations were heading in the wunderkammer direction, I have always had a fascination with nature, dead or alive, and forever have been collecting dead specimens of beetles, feathers, crystals and seedpods. I am a huge collector. I found a grasshopper that I wanted to spread and frame so investigated further and this led to wanting to make larger specimens. My partner uses still life for his artistic reference so my pieces ultimately had a use that was beyond me, which drove me to further pursue it. Wanting to have a house filled with curiosities was an inspiration to start making it myself. In the past I had worked with bones and shells and other naturally found objects in my art, so taxidermy was like a step up from there, it wasn’t necessarily new territory, although a new medium.
Why anthropomorphic taxidermy? Classic anthopomorphic taxidermy seems to be a very European art form, stemming back a few hundred years, and being a female, I just squeal when I see cute things dressed up. I have been to many European museums when visiting my homeland of Slovakia and surrounding countries, and have seen some very old specimens on my travels. When I started making taxidermy, the anthropomorphic part kind of evolved out of me. I have been modelling for my partner for tattoo reference for over a decade and have a dress up box full of garments. When my partner was about to draw our taxidermy fox for a tattoo, I just naturally dressed it up for him, like I had been doing to myself all these years. Then I had all these new character ideas popping up daily so I decided I needed to create them all, as I was having to undress the one fox to redress it, and this sucked. That’s when I decided the army of dressed foxes would come into fruition.
Who or what inspires your work? Being born in Slovakia, I have early ingrown influences of artists such as Jan Švankmajer, who is a Czech stop motion animator/filmmaker. His scenes from Alenka (Alice in Wonderland) are just pure poetry in my eyes, especially the taxidermy-come-to-life White Rabbit and skeletal creatures roaming around bizarre dreamscapes. I revel in these sorts of images and I guess it comes out in my work. I am also heavily influenced by bygone civilizations dress, be it historic Egyptian, Celtic, Slav, Germanic, Native American; and hope to remind people of these cultures and their anthropomorphic legends so as we don’t forget where we came from. I cross my love of animals and taxidermy with the historic dress and end up with my creations. Two women artists who inspire me with their art and by their reputations, are Jessica Joslin, a bone, leather and brass mixed media artist, and Sarina Brewer who co-founded the Rogue Taxidermy movement. I came across them in the early naughties and have looked up to what they have achieved artistically and professionally over the last couple of decades. Both have absolutely stunning work and excel in their respective fields and I really admire the fact they are women leading in the art world.
What do your children make of it all? Good question! They flip between wanting to dress my works-in-progress themselves, to being freaked out by the staring animals on the walls in the house. My boys are both inquisitive and scientifically minded, so enjoy a collection of beetles and bones. They often go into my studio and fiddle with whatever they can find lying around, so I give them empty animal forms and they make their own punk creatures. They love that I work with carving knives and that we have all sorts of interesting art supplies at home. My 9 year old, Loki, (named after the Norse God of Mischief and living up to his name) is starting to work with my tools and creates his own skull and snake designs for dad’s tattoos. He also reads kids spooky stories, so once the sun goes down he has a vast imagination when it comes to the taxidermy eyes looking at him. We play fun pranks together, the other day I wedged a full size taxidermy hare upside down into our ceiling heater outlet, so the hare looked like he was possessed and was standing on the ceiling. Loki almost.... almost fell for it. Later, he tried to prank his little brother by tying a steak knife onto the hare’s hand and moving him into a new position with dramatic lighting shining on it. Mars though, (named after the God of War) who’s 6, is tough and isn’t fazed by it much. One thing though, I don’t like inviting the boys friend’s parents into our house, in case they freak out about the choice of decorations we have!
Tell me about your recent exhibition and how it went. I was actually part of two group shows that ran concurrently recently, and they were both great. One was centrally located in Melbourne as part of the Midsumma Festival and was titled ‘Somewhere Between Sleeping and Walking.’ It had my more mythical creatures in it, and was really well received. The other, had a family of 6 foxes at Manyung gallery on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula. The gallery is a beautiful old building with a quaint sculpture garden and eatery attached, and the show was called “Coastal with a Twist”. Somehow unconsiously I had the exact number of foxes displayed there as is in my immediate family, my parents, 2 sisters, one brother and myself. I didn’t do it intentionally though the characters quite seemed to fit, a Poet for my brother who is a lyricist, a Showgirl for me (ha), A Huntress for my hot headed sister, and a cute girl for my littlest sister. A Gangster father figure for my dad, and a Seafarer’s Wife for my voyaging mum. It spun me out a little as I saw them all lined up on the wall with my family there to celebrate the Opening, such unconsious coincidences that fell together in the end.
What’s next? I’m working on some bigger pieces this year and have plans in place for full size animals and larger heads. I have a bunch of costumes and ideas all ready to go. I’ll be visiting more civilizations and different millennia. My partner will help with some larger work as he is itching to get involved, as he also misses working on 3d pieces. He was a sculptor in the past and created bone art and large scale hybrid beasts, so together who knows what we can create. Other than that, I’ll be working for a gallery to create an animal form to reproduce for other artists to decorate. And more shows, commissions, and more photo shoots.
Who takes your photos? My close friend, Aglaia Bolis, who is a photographer, takes the artistic photos connected to my work. Together we collaborate on scenes where the taxidermy and I model the era the taxidermy piece is representing. We have a series titled Anthropomorphic Ancestry which began a few years ago and has followed my taxidermy foxes in time. Aglaia does photography and post production, and together we plan the scene and find props and costumes. We usually stop for the summer and begin again in winter when the time feels right to collaborate again. The next phase should start shortly as it’s been a while between shoots, but we may change things up a bit for the next series. Our last shoot had an air of Greek mythology to it, Harpies and Goddesses and such, Aglaia being of Greek heritage must have summoned the pantheons to come into play on the day, as many aspects that ended up emerging out of the photographic work weren’t planned, and all ended up hinting at a Greek ancestral tale.
Why do you think there has been a taxidermy revival? Well, I have a theory as to why it’s so popular, and it’s due to it being lost for many decades, making the heart grow fonder..... you see, in the 80’s, taxidermy was outcast and made super uncool as people became conscious of the plight of animals and media launched huge anti fur campaigns. Much of it was based around hunting/farming and wearing fur jackets. There was global talk of ethics and endangered animals, and so taxidermy went down in popularity in a big way. It was hidden away in storage rooms in museums and was virtually unseen for decades.... until now. Thirty years later, this new generation of cyber-native young adults haven’t grown up with it around them and they are just discovering this whole new world of taxidermy, that’s alien and foreign to them as it’s been hidden away. It’s like discovering a genre of music that’s been lost in the past, like obscure 70’s rock music if your born in the 90’s. And many older people haven’t seen it around the traps either for the past 3 decades, so it’s been sparking interest as it’s been remembered and reminisced upon. Now that there are new ethical ideals which allow the monitored use of animal skins that would have otherwise been thrown away, and a waste not, recycle, upcycle rebellion going on, ethical taxidermy is becoming accepted once again. It was taboo and now the taboo has been lifted, and now many people are working artistically within the medium to create never before seen compilations, though doing so in an ethical manner. It’s OK morally to like it once again, and as it’s been “lost” for so long, it’s new and exciting for everyone once again.
There are many more women involved in taxidermy now. Why do you think that is? I read a really good analogy of why, figured out by Sarina Brewer, who I mentioned earlier. I think she is onto something. She noticed that women are working on the more smaller, crafty types of taxidermy, not so much big hunting game, which is largely a man’s sport. She said men have the inbred hunter gatherer in them, while women the nurturing aspect, so women are now coming in and collecting already dead animals, be it from road kill, gifted deceased pets, pet shop deaths, etc, and “nurturing” them back into something arty, rather than the animal being a death in vain and rotting to nothing. I think she hit the nail on the head here and I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Taxidermy artists seem to be bad at marketing their own work. Why do you think that is? In order to be noticed and become successful at anything in this internet age you can’t just be an artist and have a craft, you also need to have photography skills, be a decent graphic designer, keep up with online media strategies, use marketing tools and also, you have to have the time to put into all these things, as well as excel at your own art. So possibly many taxidermists being more interested in “old world” crafts are less inclined to delve into the above skill sets, and therefore have a harder time getting their stuff out there globally. I was lucky in that I have been mucking around with computers for half of my life, and acquired these skills on the side for my partners business so could apply it to myself when the time was right.
What’s the most important thing that other artists need to know about marketing? One important tip I can give, is, you need to get your work out there, and newspapers, magazines, blogs, all media outlets actually, need news. They live and breathe on news and seek it daily. If you have something newsworthy or original to share, contact them. Many magazines have submission sections on their websites. And if you do contact them and they don’t reply, don’t take it personally. Myself being on the receiving end of a billion emails regarding different matters, I understand that the time of day/year and the amount of work the receiver has on at that very time is a factor that comes into the equation, making a difference to if you receive a reply or not. If you send an email on a Wednesday morning when people are more in work mode, there may be more chances of a reply than if you send it on a Friday afternoon, when they are thinking about the weekend, and it can slip their mind. In this technological world of Smart phones you can read emails while on the run and it may not be the best environment for taking things in and getting back to people, speaking from experience. Timing is very important, I think, and we are all humans trying to deal with crazy inboxes. So try again in a little while, or try someone else if no reply, don’t take it personally, and don’t give up.
get in touch: www.conjuredcreations.com Instagram: @conjuredcreations Studio photo (right) by www.aglaia-b.com
Dead Safari Diaries Story by Karen Unrue
Living in a medium sized London flat with a zealous collector of taxidermy may not be all fun and games but I must admit that fun has been had and games have been enjoyed. Let me give you a for instance. Across the main road from us is a large and ornate Victorian cemetery and on warm summer mornings, as we have no garden or balcony, I like to take my mug of coffee and sit there in the birdsong and dappled sunlight before beginning my busy day. On one such morning whilst sipping coffee on the precariously tilted stone home of a Victorian gentleman I came up with an idea that made me smile. Before I go on let me first reassure you that I am respectful of the long forgotten dead and, for some reason, particularly fond of Jeremiah Westcott, who, as he no longer has mourning relatives to attend him, I like to think I’m visiting. The idea that made me smile grew out of the fact that one morning as I sat silently among the graves I was lucky enough to see a vixen and her three cubs emerging from their set hidden in the undergrowth and watch them playing in the grass. Day after day I returned to the same spot with my camera but never saw them again. I so badly wanted a picture of the foxes among the gravestones but began to realise it wasn’t going to happen. Then I remembered we had a full size Victorian fox standing in our living room! The next morning at 6 am (because I may be bonkers but even I didn’t want to be spotted by too many people carrying a fox down the street) I placed him carefully in a black bin bag. He was, however, a much larger animal than I remembered and his tail did not fit in, and so I emerged from our flat clutching a bulky bin bag out of which festooned a large, bushy foxtail. Once off the street, through the magnificent stonework entrance to the cemetery, and in the shadows beneath its large oaks and elms I removed the fox from the bag. Even though long dead and stuffed I think he was as surprised as I was that the two of us were outside together in a graveyard. For the next hour I had great fun positioning and photographing him in various settings and was really pleased with the results. I finally had my fox in the cemetery photos and to the untrained eye he looks very much alive. Emboldened by the success of my taxidermy excursion I had another idea that also made me smile, and soon I was back at the flat collecting our flamingo. This time I didn’t even bother with the black bag but carried the whole long legged, long necked pinkness of him nonchalantly across the road under my arm. So there you see, as I said, there is fun to be had and games to be enjoyed with other people’s taxidermy.
Nate’s Mates Story by Nathanial Johnson
I have always made things. The materials that I have worked with are always determined by my surroundings and more specifically what jobs I’ve held at the time. One job I had as a teenager was at a sawmill so I learned to carve using the scraps that I brought home from work. I later used junk that I found on the street and in alleys on which I did paintings. Eventually I got a job at a carpentry shop and wood again was my material of choice. After a number of years I left my job to stay home and take care of my two daughters. This world was full of house cleaning and trips to school but maybe a bit lacking of inspiration by way of materials. It was during these trips to the schoolyard that I met the mother of my daughter’s classmate who was doing a lot of work with wool. She schooled me in the craft of needle felting and I was hooked. I was not really fond of a lot of the fuzzy cuddly things that I discovered when researching what people were doing with this amazing and versatile material. Wool reminded me of the animals that were raised on the farms that I lived around and worked at growing up. These were not always fuzzy or cuddly places. It was there as a child I came to learn the realities of imperfection and also death by way of these animals. It is these realities that I have steered the direction I have taken with the needle felted specimens. In terms of my process I guess it starts in most cases with loose sketches done from images of real taxidermy or specimens that I have mined from library books as well as live and dead farm animals I’ve photographed at a friend’s property nearby. Next I pick appropriate colours of wool roving, often dyeing it to achieve the effect I want, and roughly layer it to the shape. Then come’s the needle. The felting needle with a barbed end I push into the layered wool knotting it and tieing the fibers tightly together. This allows me to create definition and detail by condensing the wool and adding additional layers by repetitively needling the form till it begins to resemble a fuzzy version of whatever animal oddity I intend to make. Wool as a material and the soft appearance that create an interesting juxtaposition. I like how the wool being an animal fiber that is removed from the animal leaving it alive is being pushed and knotted together into the shape of an animal that has died. In the same way taxidermy is the remains of an animal that has died and is being crafted together to appear alive. Obviously taxidermy is a significant resource and inspiration for me.
get in touch: email: email@example.com instagram: @sonofjohnson
Cakes to die for Story by Kanna Ingleson
Annabel de Vetten is a taxidermist, an amateur magician and a professional cake artist who always manages to leave you wondering: “how did she do that?” She first pulled this off as a sculpture student and a taxidermy enthusiast when she created a two-headed pheasant that briefly fooled the BBC into thinking it was real. This illusion is at the heart of any good taxidermy and it is a theme that keeps occurring along Annabel’s creative journey. More recently, during a visit to the Pathology Museum, Annabel’s husband commented that one of the anatomical exhibits looked just like one of her cakes. Annabel realized that it actually was one of her cakes on show and the illusion had been executed yet again. Like any good “overnight success story” this one has been a while in the making. Annabel had forged a career as a full time painter working in a pop art style that was quickly copied and mass-produced. This prompted her to move into the more lucrative custom market where she painted portraits of professional magicians. During this time she created the cake for her own magic-themed wedding and the orders started coming in. It got to the stage where Annabel found herself wondering whether she would rather fulfill the next cake order or take on another painting commission. Cakes won the day and “Conjurer’s Kitchen” emerged. Annabel’s clients usually give her a broad brief and leave the creative ideas up to her. One of these was Lindsay Jameson who recently commission the Walter Potter inspired “Death and Burial of Cock Robin” cake to celebrate the opening of Mousquerade, a Camden-based shop that specialises in anthropomorphic taxidermy. While Annabel’s cakes are created for eating, some clients have kept them as a permanent reminder of their special event. Annabel really cares about creating cakes that taste as good as they look, so rest assured that it’s not all “smoke and mirrors”. get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org www.conjurerskitchen.com
Curating & Creating A way of life
Story by Kanna Ingleson/Photos by Katherine Edden James Kirkby and Debz Thompson are both artists who collect things. They had their first date visiting an old asylum and they now run a household occupied by three three-legged cats. Perhaps that gives you some idea of what they are about. But its only when you visit their Surrey home that you get the full picture. They create and curate natural history curiosities and it is everywhere to be seen. Taxidermy, wet specimens, prosthetic eyes and anatomical models occupy all available space, with a huge curiosity cabinet forming the centerpiece. Picture that alongside real and imaginary animal skeletons articulated by James and shadow boxes created by Debz. These boxes contain natural artifacts including the bone fragments of tiny creatures once eaten and later discarded by owls. The boxes themselves are hand-made and the artistic detail hidden on the back of the piece is as important to Debz as what is on display inside. This all sits comfortably alongside a cabinet full of radioactive uranium glass. Under the black light that they have installed, it becomes eerily luminous, emitting a variety of colours including bright green. This certainly isn’t a conventional household and, as you have probably gathered, neither are the occupants. James thinks that the resurgence of an interest in such things has a lot to do with the lack of a vibrant youth culture and a need to differentiate ourselves from our parents. Without the stimulation and intensity associated with the early days of punk rock and rock and roll, we are choosing to look to the past to define who we are now. Debz thinks that this is all an antidote to modern technology-driven living. This has caused us to become removed from the natural world over time. The culture of collecting and art and crafts is a way of getting back in touch with nature and with ourselves For Debz, it is also about dealing with mortality. “The more I deal with my own interests, collecting, hobbies and art - especially that which involves taxidermy and bones - the more I become aware and comfortable with my own mortality and that of other people, my animals and the wider natural world. “I am a maker. I love the natural world and never grow tired of its complexities and surprises. I use some of it to create something else instead of letting it go to waste. Question it, debate it or even hate it I have achieved something just by creating”. get in touch: facebook @putrifiedcorpse instagram @putrifiedcorpse
Work by James Kirkby
Work by Debz Thompson
Look before you leap A buyers guide by Alexander von Westenholz When I was about eleven I found a shabby book on a shelf at home called “A Boy’s Guide to Survival”. It showed you how to stay alive if you survived a plane crash or some other equally dramatic event. In this book there was a chapter on how to skin small animals and I was hooked! I had grown up around stuffed things, they had always fascinated me and I now thought I would do it myself. There was nothing in the book about practical taxidermy, but how hard could it be? I shot a squirrel with my air gun and laid it out on the kitchen table, sharp knife in hand and chapter open. And that’s as far as it got. Practicing the art of taxidermy wasn’t for me, but not so many years passed before I started buying and collecting. As with collecting anything - time, experience and a gut feeling count for a lot. But taxidermy, it seems, has more than its fair share of pitfalls. I only really deal with Victorian and Edwardian cased birds and trophy mounts but the same rules apply to modern items. It is very easy to buy bad taxidermy. Buying good quality, like anything, takes a bit of practice. The rise and rise of buying online does not make things any less tricky and I honestly think this is the single most risky aspect of modern day taxidermy buying. There is simply is no substitute for getting in the car and going and seeing something in real life. Of all the things you can buy from photographs, taxidermy is one of the easiest to get wrong and I have made countless errors in this department. If you are going to buy this way then there are a few simple rules. Most importantly, you must trust the source you are buying from to the extent that you can return an item if you are not happy with it. Once you get to know a vendor, spend a little more time on the phone. Make sure you ask if the piece is as nice in real life as it looks in the photo, and find out if there is anything about the condition not apparent on the photo that you should know about. A pair of stonechats came up recently in the West Country. In the online auction catalogue the male looked really nice, but I couldn’t really make out the female from the poor image. A low estimate made me think I might leave a low bid and see what happened. After ringing the saleroom and requesting more photos it turned out the female’s head was missing. Enough said! When buying taxidermy, I narrow it down to the three main factors that most affect price and desirability. I will keep it short and simple.
Condition This is most important. The main threats to the animal or bird are moth and beetle. Feathers and fur on the floor of the case is always a tell-tale sign. I sometimes give the case a light but firm shake to see if anything loosens, (but not always in front of the vendor!) Don’t be completely put off by old insect carcasses in a case. A 150 year old case that might have been “got at” could still be quite clean and could benefit from some light restoration by someone who knows what they are doing. It may seem obvious but sunlight is a major damaging factor to both fur and feather and can affect colours irreparably. How many “snow” leopards or “white” tigers have you come across? Species Even the plainest of species can look wonderful if mounted well with good groundwork. But as a general rule, the more exotic or rarer the species, the more desirable it is. We are all well acquainted with the arguments surrounding Victorian methods of acquiring such species. These pieces already exist and, whether or not we forgive our ancestors for the manner in which they were collected, many of us are happy to acquire them now. I bought a beautiful pair of yellow wagtails recently and inside the case, proudly written in ink, it said “Shot at Newgall, 1852.” The paradox is how sad the thought of shooting such rare birds seems today.
Taxidermy law can often seem complicated when it comes to trading the more exotic and rare or endangered species. There is plenty of guidance online (eg CITES and DEFRA) but step carefully. Paperwork often applies especially after 1947 and it is important that you do your homework. Taxidermist
As with paintings, sculpture and furniture - in fact all forms of art and collectable items - knowing the creator of the piece ultimately brings the greatest prize. A beautifully mounted peregrine falcon is a wonderful thing, but a beautifully mounted peregrine falcon with a “Peter Spicer and Sons” label may well quadruple the value or more. It is always nice to find a label or a plaque. Sometimes these are obvious and sometimes not. It might turn out to be someone well known and widely documented. It could also be someone of whom very little is known but the piece might be equally well executed, if not better. Remember, a Rowland Ward label on the back of the shield of an antelope shoulder mount doesn’t always make it so. Conversely, listen to those who know. Many cases by well-known taxidermists bear no mark or label but can often be attributed as confidently as an unsigned painting might be attributed to a well-known artist. Collecting Taxidermy really is the most fascinating and rewarding business. There is something about studying and enjoying a treasured acquisition that is somehow different from admiring other forms of art. Happy buying!
get in touch: web: www.avwantiques.co.uk twitter & Instagram: @AVWAntiques
Creature Comforts Story by Kanna Ingleson
“Taxtiles” is the creative intersection between taxidermy and textiles. Animal skin is used in all sorts of products such as coats, bags and rugs, so why not combine the two? It also gets people thinking as to what is “real” and what is fabric.
This is the world according to Becky Dick, a final year decorative arts student. Her focus is on UK based animals and birds and, to this end, she persuaded taxidermist David Keningdale to show her the basics last summer. Learning and honing her own taxidermy skills has taught Becky more about anatomy than any book ever could, and this has both informed and transformed her 3D work. Becky explains that she uses taxidermy methods to create animal textile sculptures. The traditional wood wool bind-up method used to simulate the shape and muscle tone in mammals can also be used in textiles. Fabrics can be used instead of wood wool, and wire can be incorporated into the forms for sturdiness. Becky says “I have been experimenting with different combinations of textiles and taxidermy. Some pieces are mostly made from animal skin with only some textile, while others are textile based with some skin.” Having to be knowledgeable in both taxidermy and textile design is challenging enough. Translating it all into a viable business requires a new set of skills. Becky wrote a comprehensive business plan as part of her degree, and for me that’s the difference between her and many others out there who are trying to make both a living and a name without one. Initially Becky’s business will run three product lines: cushions embroidered with a textured sparrow hawk motif, textile trophy heads and sculptural animal textile pieces. Becky’s degree show is between 29th May and 6th June 2015 at Nottingham Trent University in the Newton Building, 10-5pm daily. The animals used in her work are all roadkill casualties or unavoidable deaths from wildlife centres. get in touch:
web: www.beckydart.com email: email@example.com
UK GuildCon 2015 Story by Kanna Ingleson / Photos by Mike Gadd
The UK Guild of Taxidermists encourages and assists aspiring taxidermists to improve existing skills and acquire new ones. The annual conference is the highlight of the Guildâ€™s activities and this year attracted an interesting cross section of professionals, hobbyists, collectors and artists, all united by an interest in taxidermy and the laws that govern it.
The conference is great for listening to talks, seeing demos, networking, meeting on-line friends face to face and getting feedback from the professionals. To get that feedback you first have to enter your pieces for the annual competition and two of the people who have inspired me to enter a bird next year are Emilie Verity and Tam Powell.
This was Emilieâ€™s second year at the conference. This time she was awarded a first and a third place in the Amateur Bird Category and she collected the prize for Most Improved Amateur. Tam Powell, who is entirely self-taught and a first-time entrant, was awarded a second place in the Amateur Bird Category. Both Emilie and Tam were introduced to taxidermy as children, both have made it their business to learn what they can, whenever they can and both aspire to achieve accreditation by the Guild. I invited them both of them to tell their stories in the hope that that they would inspire you too.
Tam Powell I first learned about taxidermy when I was around five years old when my mum took me to the Manchester Museum. They had a wall of birds and other animals from all over the world and I remember looking at them over and over, wondering how it was possible.
During most of my childhood I would collect things, including dead animals that would eventually be left in the back yard and forgotten about until only bones were left. I remember launching a rabbit foot out of my bedroom window because a maggot flopped out of it. Despite reading about taxidermy and regularly looking at mounts in the famous taxidermy.net forums, I didn’t actually try any taxidermy for a while. I eventually attempted to stuff a magpie’s head with a load of wood wool from a wine box. That was almost ten years ago now and I still can’t remember why it was only the head!
I completed my first bird in early 2014, then joined the UK Guild of Taxidermists and attended my first conference shortly after that. The guild has given me a lot of inspiration so now my plan is to work towards accreditation. I would like to have a go at everything, maybe even a fish! One of my dreams is to mount as many different types of bird as I can, so I can learn more about the species and how they lived. I am completely self-taught in the sense that I have used whatever resources I can find, including Carl Church’s bird book. I also have a pile of old taxidermy tuition videos that I plan to watch soon.
Emilie Verity The first time I can remember learning about taxidermy was at a young age whilst watching 101 Dalmatians and being horrified by the evil taxidermist Mr Skinner! It only re-entered my mind much later after seeing the taxidermy revival unfolding on my social media streams and after my Grandma gave me a Spicer fox mask. I work as a registered veterinary nurse so life and death is a part of the job. One evening a beautiful tawny owl with severe head trauma was brought in to be euthanized. That little owl turned a light bulb on in my head. Taxidermy! I thought it was such a lost opportunity to wrap him up and cast him away in clinical waste only to be cremated, so I asked if I could keep him. To my mothers horror he stayed in her freezer for a while until I came across Dave Hornbrook who does one-on-one taxidermy tuition in Guisborough. My family thought it was very odd for me to want to learn about taxidermy as they know me as a great wildlife and animal lover. I however saw it as an opportunity to bring creatures back to life so they could be admired forever more. I persuaded Dave to let me learn on my tawny owl instead of the usual carrion crow. I set off on my taxidermy adventure and Dave the tawny owl was brought back to life. That’s when my family began to think differently about taxidermy. Over the last year and half I have practiced whenever I can. I joined the Taxidermy Guild, purchased Carl Church’s wonderful Basic Bird Taxidermy Manual and since have had some great tutorial days with him. I also have a local taxidermy pal Izzy Rochester. We both learn from each other and we are always asking each other’s advice. We also occasionally get together in Izzy’s shed to each put a bird together. I continue to learn so much from the birds I mount and am currently on my 29th. I have found being a member of the Taxidermy Guild invaluable. From the fantastic yearly conference which I have attended twice, to the great website and forum. My goals are to continue taxidermy as a hobby and gain skills in different areas, but my main goal is to become an accredited member of the Guild of Taxidermists in years to come.
photo by Emilie Verity
K A Curious Kanna Publication www. curiouskanna.com #taximag
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