The original Golden Age of taxidermy may have occurred during the Victorian era, but of late, interest has been growing in dead things artfully preserved for our delight and delectation. This revival, with its fresh spin on an old craft - is one of the specialities of the FOLKSPUN fashion tribe.
Like this amazing turquoise parakeet-festooned shoe by bespoke shoemaker Caroline Groves, who learned from a John Lobb-trained master craftsman in the Cotswolds. The claw is solid silver and the heel carved by hand, while the wings of the avian accessory are the ultimate in handmade...made by Mother Nature. However, this one-of-a-kind'ness isn't the only reason taxidermy appeals to the Folkspun tribe. There is also the memento-mori'ish element of death as well, as taxidermy artist Polly Morgan has observed. "I first thought of taxidermy when I was looking for art for my flat. The problem was, I didn't find anyone creating what I was looking for," she notes. "Rather than the traditional way of rendering them to look exactly as they had in life...I wanted animals to look dead."
So she quit shopping and began creating.
Morgan (right) recently teamed up with UK fashion brand Mother of Pearl which based the Fall/Winter 2013/14 collection of some of Morgan's pieces, including 2009's Dead Ringer, Still Birth (2010) & Bad Breath (2011). "Polly Morgan’s artwork dismantles taxidermy traditions and places her subjects in less expected surroundings," explain the brand's design team. "Her intention has never been to mimic the natural habitats of animals, as they are traditionally displayed, but to place them in less expected scenery. The scale and settings are often unnatural, but the animals are never anthropomorphised. Seeing them out of place encourages us to look at them as if for the first time: a rat sheds its association with horror and disease and can be rightly viewed as a beautiful animal."
As are we, both outside - and in. "Once you peel back the skin and see the body beneath, there lies a whole new world," continues Morgan. "By knowing animals, I now know myself, how I am put together, and understand the lumps and bumps under my own skin. It's frightening to realize how fragile we are. Now that I know where to aim," she adds, "it'd be so easy to chop off a hand."
Be sure to check out the PODCAST I recorded about taxidermy, the Folkspun tribe & even Innerspace, an awesome cheesy movie from the 80s starring Dennis Quaid:
Music: "Virtutes Instrumenti" by Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com
- Lesley Scott