#taximag #2 January 2015
Helloâ€Ś Welcome back. #taximag has received more enthusiastic feedback than we could have imagined. This has encouraged us no end and we are delighted to bring you the second issue of this quarterly publication. The first edition has gone to print and is available to buy on ebay in a contemporary A5 format. Thanks to Katherine Edden for her fabulous photography, to Marie Leggo for taking care of the layout and to Steve Kenyon for handling all aspects of the print run. Thanks also to James Cranfield, Daniel Hourigan, Karen Unrue, Joanna Shears and the mysterious Mothmeister for agreeing to being featured in this issue and on the cover. If you have any ideas for future issues of #taximag, please get in touch via email email@example.com. We would love to hear from you so please donâ€™t be shy. Watch out for #taximag updates on Instagram (http://instagram.com/curiouskanna) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/curiouskanna). Kanna. www.curiouskanna.com
Inside 4 - 13 The Cranfield Collection
46 -49 Dead Safari Diaries
14 - 19 A Shark on a Rope Ladder
50 - 53 Death is a Pre-requisite
20 - 27 This Collectors Life
54 - 55 Ox Tongue with Celeriac Remoulade
28 - 37 The Art of Protest 38 - 45 Death and Glory
The Cranfield Collection by Kanna Ingleson / Photos by Katherine Edden
James Cranfield’s eclectic sensibilities and collecting instinct started a long time ago. As a boy he kept an “interesting box” containing his mother’s hysterectomy stitches, his nana’s dentures, a friend’s milk teeth, sheep’s wool from some barbed wire in Cumbria, a tile he found in the woods and other “horrible, nasty stuff”. The interesting box also contained precious things, like a tiny ivory dice from his grandmother and a lighter made by his great grandfather during WW2. He kept these treasures in a cardboard after-shave box with handmade partitions and a ribbon to keep the lid in place. For his 10th birthday James’ granddad made a multi-tiered wooden box with lots of wonderful compartments for all his found objects. By now friends had started bringing him things. This included a decaying dog’s skull that James enthusiastically received before wrapping it up in his raincoat and taking it home. James’ mother Tina remembers coming home to the not so unusual discovery of a dead bird tied to their letter box in a bag, another gift for the young James from thoughtful friends. Every day James would find something new. Soon his attention turned to beetles, fossils and taxidermy that remains the focus of his passion today. Christmas of 1998 was a turning point. Until then he had been forbidden from accumulating things that would “freak out” his younger sister. That was now a thing of the past and James was allowed to have an ostrich egg, two birds of paradise heads (antique millinery pieces), a case of old moths and a fox stole. The floodgates had opened. And then it got out of control. The collection that James has accumulated since then belies the fact that he is only 27 years old. His taxidermy, entomology, fossils and curiosities have been made into a museum at his shop in Leigh-on Sea in Essex. James has a specific interest in Victorian taxidermists, particularly Hutchings of Aberystwyth, as he studied Zoology at the University of Aberystwyth and holds a Bachelor of Science with honors in the subject. Other than that, it is hard to find any specific trend amid his vast array of antique hunting trophies, huge unique cases that would never fit in a modern home, rare museum pieces, wet specimens, magnificent mammals and birds of various descriptions and anthropomorphic toads. He says that collecting is an addiction. It is this single-minded passion and persistence that has enabled him to establish a vast knowledge base, a celebrity studded network and a reputation as the man to go to for natural history specimens, artifacts and curioisties. James says he runs his shop to support his collecting habit. He explains that while he knows he will never be a rich man, he spends every day doing what he is most passionate about. And while that passion hasn’t previously manifested itself among other members of his family, mum Tina and dad Andrew have always supported James in direct and practical ways. James says he couldn’t have done it without them. And when you see Tina helping in the shop and Andrew lugging half the shop to yet another tattoo convention, you get the impression that this is no exaggeration. Follow James on Instagram @thetaxidermist and visit his shop and museum at Cranfield’s Curiosity Cabinet, 1193 London Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, SS9 3JB.
A Shark on a Rope Ladder by James Cranfield / Photos by Katherine Edden
My father Andrew Cranfield grew up watching the original 1960s Batman TV series with Adam West and Burt Ward. His boyhood fascination with the caped crusader recently manifested into a series of bizarre and amusing photographs on his Instagram account @drcran1. All men are just big kids, and so when dad, now 52 years old, saw a new range of ‘adult collectable’ action figures based on the 1960s Batman, he had to have them. He bought his first at one of the many tattoo conventions that we trade at throughout the year, and soon he had them all, Batman and Robin, The Penguin, The Riddler, The Joker and Catwoman which was especially ordered from the USA! He started putting these figures into scenarios involving the taxidermy specimens in my shop and from my personal collection. All of his photos are carefully thought out, whether it is meticulously re-enacting Batmans struggle with a shark on a rope ladder (using one of the toys I stock at my shop, and a miniature rope ladder made by my mother), or seating all the figures on the backs of various bird specimens as if in a race, or Robin propping up a bar with anthropomorphic taxidermy toads. It is funny to see dad lying on the floor of the museum to get the right angle for a photo. It reminds me of when I played with Lego with him as a kid, only I’m now 27 and he is playing with the toys alone. Regardless, his photos and his Instagram stream gain new admirers and followers daily and bring a bit of fun and imagination with each new post. Stay tuned, same Batfan time, same Batfan page.
This Collectors Life by Kanna Ingelson
A “durante”. That’s the collective noun for toucan. I found myself looking this up after finding out that Daniel Hourigan has 12 of these at the heart of an impressive natural history collection. Daniel’s career as a special effects artist in the film industry recently brought him to London from Australia. He reluctantly packed up his collection back home only to continue the search and acquisition cycle where he now lives in the East End of London. Already he has a cabinet of curioisties and an assortment of bones, birds and meticulously labelled bits of ephemera made meaningful by the places they were found in and the stories associated with them. As a collector, designer, artist and dealer, Daniel enjoys discovering taxidermy that has seen better days and to bringing them back to their former glory. The art of restoration involves cleaning, sculpting, painting and presenting individual pieces to their best effect. His skills as a sculptor and painter are especially useful when it comes to casting noses or teeth and then colouring them to pass as the real thing. One of Daniel’s current projects is to build a mechanical metal sculpture of a bird in the Japanese jizai okimono tradition. To this end Daniel has created a maquette (a preliminary clay model) of a bird that looks and feels as though it is dead. Once completed, this detailed, articulated artwork will showcase Daniel’s technical and artistic ability in one challenging project. Daniel has been around art and natural history all of his life. Along the way he developed a specific interest in museum skins and prepared a few himself. He learnt what he could from Victorian taxidermy books and made the rest up as he went along. Daniel collects for inspiration. He says that you may not realize it at the time of acquisition, but accumulated pieces usually become useful sometime in the future. To see more of Daniel’s collection, follow @thiscollectorslife on Instagram.
The Art of Protest Who exactly are you? Born in the 1970s, we are Mothmeister. We can best be described as a twofaced anonymous alter ego based in Antwerp, Belgium. Most of the time you are looking at a male creature in the artwork and the photographer is usually female. Sometimes you’ll see more curves in the art and that means we have swapped identities. Both of us come up with the ideas and the styling. One could say we are partners in crime.
What is your day job? Creating an imaginary world is our job. One half of Mothmeister is the art director. The other half is a graphic designer and photographer in music and theatre.
Why did you choose to call yourselves “Mothmeister”? For our artistic name we looked for some kind of mythical creature that had to be half man, half animal. We liked the shape-shifting process that occurs when moths transform from larvae. As we transform ourselves all the time, we decided to call ourselves Mothmeister. Our Mothmeister logo is a death’s-head hawkmoth. These creatures of the night aren’t very popular. Most people think they are disgusting. We thought this was right up our alley as some of our creatures are pretty horrific too. Moths give you an unpleasant feeling. So do our pictures. Hopefully.
What is “Wounderland”? Our bizarre and surreal universe is called ‘Wounderland’. It is populated by weird and wonderful masked creatures and stuffed creatures. It is our Wonderland. But because a lot of people perceive it as an ugly world full of dead animals and disturbing masks, we call it ‘Wounderland’.
“The opposite of the pla What is your work all about?
the real old ones (stuffed with hay and newspapers), the misfits and the deformed. We do this because it’s a lot more rewarding giving those ones the make-over they deserve, reincarnating them into new proud personalities. After a while we started renting them out for shoots via dekrengloopwinkel.be, a kind of stuffed casting agency. Some of the animals became filmstars and photo models as they featured on tv and in music videos.
We portray our anonymous selfies as a protest against two things. Dominant exhibitionism versus voyeurism (social) media. Plus there is massive paranoia about masked people. Masks often equal crime. The fear of terrorist attacks has led to the loss of our privacy. Public surveillance systems constantly expose our face as a common thing. So we want to hide ours.
Taxidermy is often considered creepy, immoral, and disrespectful to animals. However, nowadays more people see beauty in the remains of animals that have passed away. We also see taxidermy as an art with a lot of respect for the animal.
The mixture of ugliness is a reaction against the overdose of beauty in the media. Wounderland portrays creatures and stuffed animals that are rather the opposite of the planet’s most perfect face.
What is your interest in taxidermy and where does it come from?
What inspires you? Our inspiration comes from our own imagination, dreams and nightmares. Most ideas are born out of instinctional gut-feeling, rather then out of rational thinking. Of course we’re also influenced by other forms of art (photography - sculpture - video - music - cutting edge fashion).
One of us had a hunting uncle who shot a deer and mounted the trophy on the wall, holding the gun that killed him at his feet. As a little child I was endeared and shocked at the same time. I was horrified by its’ sad destiny. Today I still have a strong aversion against ‘hunting trophy’ taxidermy, animals killed and mounted for personal honour and prestige. But at the same time I was attracted by the beauty of the dead animal. During her childhood my girlfriend was fascinated by the amazing taxidermy dioramas in the African museum in Brussels. She later discovered a book about the wonderful world of Walter Potter and fell in love with the cute Victorian critters.
Our favourite artists using taxidermy in their work are: Les Deux Garçons (adorable, fragile animal sculptures) - Polly Morgan’s wonderful world - Julia Devill’s jewel pieces - Pascal Bernier’s wounded animals - Amanda Sutton’s steampunk critters - Lisa Black’s mechanical taxidermy - Belgian Berlinde De Bruyckere (probably very controversial in the UK, because she uses a lot of horses in her work).
Years later - in the early 90’s we visited an exhibition of Edward Kienholz, whose sculptures and environments involved a mix of junk and taxidermy in a way we had never seen before. Being poor students at the time, it inspired us to decorate our home ‘Kienholz-style’ – all second hand.
We love wandering around in Natural History Museums, full of victorian taxidermy cases, Curiosity shops (like Viktor Wynd’s Little Shop of Horrors in London – since transformed into a museum) and Wunder Cabinets (full of deformed animals or hoaxes like the fuji mermaid).
Taxidermy was very unpopular, coming from dusty attics and moist cellars, so dirt cheap. People who inherited pieces threw them away as worthless junk. We rescued them from the garbage and gave them a new life. We dressed them up as fairytale personas and showcased them proudly in our interior. Since then our collection has become an addiction. Our living room became a giant Wunderkammer, a stuffed zoo and an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
How do people respond to your work? The imaginary world of Mothmeister is one of a ‘love or hate’. As most of our creatures involve taxidermy and therefore are ‘provocative’ we have quite a few haters. Some people think we kill animals for entertainment which is absolutely bullshit. We respect all animals, alive or dead. Others think what we do is disgusting, horrible and ugly as hell. We take that as a compliment.
Nowadays we still have the same rule: we only adopt or buy the pariahs, the imperfect, the scruffy, mouldy, moth-infested ones,
anet’s most perfect face” If people don’t react to your stuff, it means it’s worthless. Controversy is in our DNA.
What are some of your favorite pieces? A very old hornbill bird, with sticky greasy feathers on the edge of decay, found in a dark corner of an antique shop. A few years ago we knew a taxidermist passed away and his daughter wanted to get rid of the whole collection. Most of the nice stuffed animals were already sold. But luckily there were some dusty, decaying leftovers, the misfits. Pets that got stuffed in such a horrible way people didn’t even recognise them. These freaky ones were right up our alley. Once we bought an antique stuffed horse from a tram museum in Amsterdam. Unfortunately we had to sell it again due to lack of space and it ended up as part of an artist’s sculpture. A whole family of mice had been living in the bowels, so we were happy to be rid of it. Another gem is our baby zebra, bought on a second hand website. We had to put the poor fella in quarantaine for several weeks as it was crawling with insects. And even a small zebra did not fit our freezer to kill the parasites. Most of them are stuffed the old school way what makes them even more precious and vulnerable.
Do you do commissions? A while ago the talented London based fashion designer Polina Yakobson asked us to collaborate. We immediately saw a similarity. She thinks out of the box. Her fashion is out of the ordinary. Brutal in a way. The raw animal materials, the burnt leather skins, the yak fur.
What is the creative process? Are the pictures sketched out or do you improvise? On the scene improvisation would be quite impossible as we’re not always wandering around the world masked, dressed up with a trunk full of taxidermy. So: our pictures are sketched out, not in a rational but a intuitive way. Bellyproof. Before we do a shoot, we do go location hunting. Either physically or via Google Earth. For our collaboration with Polina we went shooting in England on the day the UK’s terror threat level had been raised to ‘severe’ due to conflicts in Iraq and Syria. As we were shooting near a nuclear plant at the Dungeness coastal wasteland, littered with old fishing boats and rusty train rails, the armed police was patrolling. Apparently, we were acting so suspiciously, we got chased away. So we moved to a giant World War II espionage sound mirror on the British coastline.
Exhibitions? Half a year ago we started with our first exhibition in Brussels, soon followed by a second one in a small gallery in Dendermonde. A few months ago our work was shown at the Photoville 2014 Exhibition in New York. By the end of February 2015 there will be an exhibition in our hometown Antwerp. And from the end of April until mid June 2015 we’re part of another exhibition in New York. There’s more to come, that’s for sure. We just need to know how to network.
How can people get in touch with you? Follow Mothmeister on Instagram Buy prints and postcards via mothmeister.etsy.com Or drop us a message via firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s different from what we mostly see nowadays in fashion. Because her clothes fitted our imaginary world we hopped in our car in the middle of the night, stuffed with masks and animals and went shooting for three days in England. Quite hectic but extremely fun to do. Apart from Polina, we do get proposals from music bands wanting us to feature in their music videos but until today we haven’t done so. We only collaborate if there’s a match. If it fits our style.
Death and Glory by Kanna Ingleson In the days before taxidermy was relegated to back rooms, Joanna Shears spent more childhood hours than most in museums. Combine that with a fondness for “putting weird stuff on her head” and sense of the great occasion, it was just a matter of time before she starting staging events and dressing brides. With “terrible videos” as her prime source of information while learning taxidermy after a stint in Japan, Joanna’s first mounted piece, a mouse, was dreadful but recognisable. This was all the encouragement she needed. Things have moved on a lot since then and Joanna now successfully combines taxidermy and costume design under the banner of her London based company “Death and Glory”. With a background in fine art, costume making and art direction, she brings originality and innovation to her work. She uses a mix of original taxidermy and repurposed vintage pieces to create stylish and wonderfully over-the-top designs. Joanna thinks taxidermy is back in fashion because it encapsulates an era of curiosity shops and side shows. “It’s reminds us of a time of craftsmanship and magic that’s provides an antidote to our modern, slick, superefficient modern world”. Taxidermy has become more popular among young women in the last few years. Perhaps not surprisingly, weddings are now being themed along these lines. Joanna was recently hired to repurpose a spectacular white winged bridal headdress and to create a bouquet comprising a rabbit head and skull, mouse, goldfinch and fox tail. The goldfinch was one of two that died after flying into a window and so Joanna mounted the second one as a matching buttonhole for the groom. Consistent with the wedding theme, Joanna’s favourite piece in her personal collection is a 130 year old pair of birds that both died on the day their lady owner was married. The lady in question thought it was a significant co-incidence and had them preserved and mounted, perhaps as an attempt at blurring the distinction between life and death and to mitigate any bad luck. As Secretary of the UK Taxidermy Guild Joanna spends a lot of time and energy encouraging and facilitating high standards in taxidermy. The Guild membership profile has changed over the last few years and now includes younger hobbyists and many more women. It is a place where novices can meet, discuss and get information and feedback from world class taxidermists. These experienced professionals are more than happy to teach what they know and to encourage others to join them in this technical and creative pursuit. Joanna can be contacted for costume commissions of pretty much any description and by anyone wishing to join the Guild. Go to www.deathandglorytaxidermy.com
Death and Glory photo credits in order of appearance: Joanna Shears wearing the Death + Glory fox hat self portrait â€˜The Bride and the Taxidermistâ€™ featuring the Death + Glory antler headband, fox fur bow tie, sheep skull and Billy the squirrel Kerrie Mitchelle Photography Edwardian inspired shoot featuring Billy the squirrel and sad guinea pig Photography by Joanna Ritchie Joanna Shears wearing the Death + Glory fox hat and veil self portrait
All the animals featured have come from natural or accidental deaths
Dead Safari Diaries Enter the freaks by Karen Unrue Unveiling the latest stuffed acquisition to disbelieving friends who may collect nothing more exciting than beer coasters would, for most collectors, be fun enough. Living in a London flat that’s filling up with taxidermy like popcorn in a hot saucepan would, for most collectors, be satisfying enough. But for Kanna collecting is an addiction so there is no such thing as enough, and her years as an investigative crime reporter gave her an appetite for the unusual and unexpected that is insatiable. So what next? In 2010 a kitten with wings flew into her collecting net at the extraordinary Brading Museum auction in Dorchester. A coveted piece, and the darling of the auction, she bid against a fascinating cross section of the collecting fraternity in order to acquire it. Soon hairy trouts and Jackalopes sat alongsid e our more pedestrian pieces and amused our friends. But Victorian hybrids and taxidermist pranks were, it turned out, merely a gateway drug. She would soon be introduced to taxidermy’s “Drink Me” potion and enter the “through the looking glass world” of The Freaks. Now, a freak is not something imagined and created by the taxidermist to fool an unsuspecting public. It is an altogether different beast. A freak is a genetic puzzle that nature has put together badly and is a gift to the taxidermist with a penchant for the bizarre. The first freak that made our house its home was a two headed calf, just the head, or heads, or two heads in one, I’m not sure how you describe it, mounted on a wall plaque. Then came a second two headed calf, why anyone needs two I have no idea. But more unnecessary still, in my opinion, was the entire body of a two headed calf up on its four legs although it had been still born and never drawn breath. I was not a fan. I couldn’t see them through Kanna’s eyes. You see I had drunk the potion too but it seems it just made me sleepy and I wanted out of the Rabbit Hole.
Death is a Pre-requisite by Danny Kingston
If you ever get the chance to visit an abattoir, you should go. Now I realise that this is a tough proposal for many people. It’s not like recommending Disneyland Paris or the latest Michael Bay flick. And I totally appreciate that for many, personal principles may not even allow or entertain the thought. But if you do eat meat, then you really should go. If you are interested in food, in anatomy, in the processes of butchery and in confronting the fundamental reality of what you eat i.e. that an animal must die first; then you should absolutely and most definitely go. This is the reason why. I went to one based up in Aberdeen in Scotland a few years ago now, having been invited to a commercial plant by a well-known supplier of gourmet meats. There was a curious agenda going on, one that sought to highlight the complexities of the meat industry but the overriding message was that all abattoirs are different. Some are good, some are not so good and the quality of meat will only be as good as the quality of the staff. Animals such as cattle are easily affected by stress and this can have a huge impact on the flavour of the beef they produce. Therefore, as part of their final journey, it is extremely important that they remain calm and happy and the abattoir plays an integral part in this. As I walked around the different sections, witnessing blades flash back and forth in the cold, on carcasses big and small, the degree of professionalism on display was certainly impressive. However at the time, I didn’t realise that the tour was being conducted in reverse (it had to be, for reasons of health and safety) and that we were slowly making our way, from room to room, to the business end. Namely the ‘Slaughter Room’. I can’t remember what hit me first, the warmth or the smell but my stomach flipped when I realised what was coming up. My guide asked if I was ready and I nodded and so in we went. The room itself was cavernous and bathed in yellow light, steaming hot and full of buzzing and clanking. Cattle were herded in through one corner, held in place, braced by the neck and then moved behind a wall. It was hard to hear any discernible shot or bolt but no sooner had the cow entered this concrete curtain, it reappeared once more. Hoisted upside down and attached to a conveyor system by its ankle, throat gushing blood.
Watching twitches, ticks and kicks, the last vestiges of an animal’s nervous system firing before finally shutting down is not pleasant but one by one off they went, turning into another distant corner and when they re-emerged, they would be completely still. And their faces would be missing. Such is the efficiency of the machine, cheeks and tongues are removed before dismemberment truly begins. That was the most disturbing part, watching these huge hulking bodies swing around with pink, elongated skulls, eyes bulging. The rest of the process happened amazingly fast though. Organs and guts are eviscerated at speed before blasts of water move in. Skin is stripped, legs are gleaned, heads finally topple and each beast is sawn in half by a huge industrial buzz saw with clinical precision. After which an inspector steps in to check the spinal cord and to look for other anomalies. It is then stamped, marked with a ticket containing details of breed, its origin, the farmers’ name, the abattoir, the time of day it was killed. I haven’t really gone into enough detail about the whole process really, largely because it happened a long time ago now but I do remember marvelling at the fact that nothing was left to waste. The offal room for instance teemed with all manner of innards, valves and glands, destined mostly for a voracious market in the East. Buckets of bile were headed for the detergent industry, cloven hoofs for glue factories. The actual slaughter men, dressed with hard hats and heavy plastic aprons were grim faced and fairly anonymous actually. Any other detail is, alas, now consigned to history though and currently sits deep inside my head. Given the graphic nature of what you have just read, you mighty rightly say “Well, I can understand why!” Anyone could put off meat for life after that. However, the one thing that still stands out from my visit to Scotland was the efficiency of the act and how cleanly and quickly everything was done. Of course, it was just one visit, to just one abattoir. But as a foodie and a carnivore, I feel better for witnessing the thin line between life and meat. It helped me to decide. This is why, if you ever get the chance, that you should do it too.
Ox Tongue with Celeriac Remoulade (serves quite a lot depending on the size of your tongue, the ox tongue I mean) Ingredients - serves 4 1 Ox Tongue, approx 1.5kgs 1 carrot, chopped 1 onion, chopped 1 leek, chopped, 1 celery stick, chopped 1 bouquet garni (parsley, thyme and bay) for the remoulade 1 medium sized celeriac, sliced into matchsticks with a mandolin (if you dare) or with a sharp knife 1 egg 2 tsp white wine vinegar pinch of salt and pepper 250ml rapeseed oil (I used Farringtonâ€™s Mellow Yellow) 1 tbs of capers Method As ox tongue is usually cured, itâ€™s a good idea to soak overnight, changing the water once or twice during that time. Place in a stock pot with all the chopped vegetables and bouquet garni and cover with water and bring up to a gentle simmer on the hob. Leave to softly bubble away for 3 hours, keeping an eye on the pot to top up water levels when necessary and to skim any funky scum off the surface. Take the tongue out and leave to cool completely, placing in the fridge overnight if necessary. Peel the pale outer skin off completely, revealing the dark pink tongue underneath and trim off any fatty bits. For the remoulade, crack the egg into a bowl and add the white wine vinegar and a pinch of salt and whisk to blend. Then slowly and steadily pour a stream of oil into the bowl, whisking all the while so that everything starts to emulsify and thicken, speeding up towards the end. The mayonnaise doesnâ€™t have to be Hellmans thick though, a nice loose, torpid consistency will do. Throw the celeriac matchsticks in, mix, taste for seasoning and leave to steep in the fridge for an hour. To serve, slice the ox tongue thinly and arrange on a plate with a dollop of remoulade to the side. Scatter all over a liberal sprinkling of capers.
K A Curious Kanna Publication www. curiouskanna.com #taximag
Printed copies now on Ebay for £3 (Click anywhere on the cover to buy)