I have tried to address basic questions as well as give information on my process and viewpoint on ethics. If your questions are not answered here, please send me an e-mail enquiry.
Are you a Rogue Taxidermist?
No, I'm just an artist who personally practices taxidermy (the messy part) as my primary medium.
You can join their "association" as a Working Member for a fee and benefits include promotion of your work on their website and in group shows. Their definitions of "taxidermy" and "taxidermist" are extremely broad: the work doesn't have to contain any natural materials and the member might be buying all of their materials on eBay and putting them together with hot glue. Current Working Members run the gamut from fine and original artists, such as Jessica Joslin and Jeanie M, to makers of crafty rubbish, ambitious copy-cats and goth concept vampires.
Taxidermy has been weird since it was invented. The notion of re-representing animals has a built in imaginative imperative. Many illustrious practitioners have followed their muse into fantastic and bizarre works. Like any other art form, practically everything has been done; all we can add is our contemporary cultural overlay. This is not particularly "rogue".
I have been so busy that I haven't had time to make pieces to put up for sale.
Any restoring or repair under taken must be done sympathetically and with respect for the integrity and age of the piece. A delicate balance must be maintained so the level of restoration doesn't overwhelm the charm of the original work.
A taxidermist not experienced with working on Victorian taxidermy should be approached with extreme caution.
Uncased mammals can usually be sent to me for restoration and be returned by post.
Cased pieces can be sent at your risk but must be returned by hand or by some form of courier service which will guarantee that the parcel will be transported carefully and in an upright position. Shaking a restored case can loosen habitat materials and break the old wire which holds specimens together and to the groundwork.
For certain delicate or large pieces arrangements might be made for me to do the restoration on site.
How long will it take?
Generally, pieces will be finished within 1-3 months.
Do you make a lot of these?
No. My creative process is slow and thoughtful. I am not spitting these out in assembly-line fashion.
I avoid some of the modern taxidermic devices, such as pre-made manikins (animal shaped forms) that skins are fitted over, that most commercial taxidermists use to increase productivity.
Clients can rest assured that they will have a piece that is of exquisite beauty and of some rarity.
Is your work available through any stores?
Not at present.
How do I maintain my piece?
All cases that I construct are designed to open easily for any periodic cleaning and mount maintenance that might be needed. Follow the rules for most art works: Keep out of direct sunlight and avoid extremes of temperature and humidity.
Where do you get your specimens?
I acquire specimens from licensed fur dealers, licensed trappers, food suppliers and pet breeders who have accidental deaths or necessary euthanasia. I also work with antique mounts. I will not mount, buy or sell any protected and/or endangered species or otherwise illegal specimens. This includes wildlife road kill in the state of California.
How did you get interested in taxidermy?
My grandfather started collecting taxidermy as a boy in Australia. His collection was passed on to my uncle and then to me in 1983. My mothers and father were also collectors of natural history specimens. My father once made a mask out of a zebra head. Being surrounded by these aesthetics surely was an influence. I I bought my first piece of taxidermy in the late 1960's, started using animal remains in my assemblage pieces in 1981 and had my first pet taxidermied in 1984.
On hunting and trapping:
I used to have issues with the idea of hunting and trapping until I learned that if the populations of certain species were not thoughtfully monitored and controlled, countless animals would suffer painful deaths through starvation and disease.
The majority of hunters pride themselves on "clean kills". To cause an animal unnecessary pain and suffering is considered shameful.
Although it may be more "natural" to just let nature take it's course, I am happy to live in a society where there is intervention when suffering becomes an issue. Natural habitats ARE dwindling and must be preserved, but this is not the only factor. Species extinctions occur naturally as well.
On animal "rights":
While on the surface animal "rights" seems like a great concept, it does have fundamental problems. The animal rights movement wants animals to be treated like humans, ignoring the fact that animals ARE different.
For instance: I don't love dogs for any (falsely) perceived human qualities, I love, respect and celebrate them for their dogness.
Unfortunately, organizations such as PETA have done far more damage to animals than good. But then, their agenda is not concerned with welfare, but "rights". There is a critical distinction! For more information go to NAIA on my links page.
I do pets on a case by case basis.
Pet taxidermy was not uncommon during Victorian times, but does present special problems. I believe that our cultural bond with certain domesticated species (ie: dogs and cats) is so strong that they just never look right when taxi'd unless done curled up with eyes closed. My work is very Victorian in style and uses Victorian techniques. Your pet will look like a Victorian specimen and it's spirit will remain in your heart, where it belongs. If you have higher expectations of accurate representation you would be sorely disappointed. That said, I have no interest in doing pets in sleeping poses.
A note on "Whimsy":
While the majority of the novelty work being done today is often described as "whimsical", I feel that these works are missing the necessary element of the fantastic. One would almost expect to find them in the Hallmark shop...
While there is a place for squirrels done up as football players, golfers, super heroes, etc., I personally find them distasteful. The majority of these pieces are knocked out specifically as Novelties and Gag Gifts. I think their charm and humour is short lived.
I am strictly opposed to stooping to this level of banality with my own work. "Whimsy" is used so often to describe this work that I fear the true meaning of the word is becoming obscured and would be suspicious, and somewhat nervous, if my work was described as such.
Credits and Thanks:
Edgar Allan Poe, for the beautiful script font; Man Ray, for his photo, Le Violin d'Ingres; Mike Madrid, for the gift of the beautiful print showing the taxidermy work of H. Ploucquet (c. 1851, shown on the Grotesque Beauties page); Charles Wilson Peale, for the painting, The Artist in His Museum, used as the Garage Sale roll-over image used on the home page; Michael Yap, for helping me get my feet wet; and Jere Sofka, for souping up my computer mid-stream and getting me a zip drive. (5 weeks of work with no back up, yikes!)
Additional thanks to Kathy Holmes and Dave Savinski, for "forcing" me into the 'Age of Computers'.
A special thanks to my boyfriend, Mark Carolan, who was emotionally neglected during the 8 weeks that it took me to tweek this site. You're the bee's knees and I love you.
My most profound thanks and deepest love goes to my "true" mother, Sue Sellars, who was surely the greatest unconscious influence on me, giving me a life-long love of sow bugs, pickled specimens (she's got my tonsils!) and the smell of turpentine. I am so fortunate to have you in my life again... update.
Background images found, altered and/or collaged from free clip art and antique prints by T.S.R. As presented on this site, all images are copyright protected.
A Case of Curiosities is dedicated to my son, Nilo. The good things in life don't come easy. Gambatte!
was designed on a Macintosh Performa 6116 (oy)
with Dreamweaver2 and Photoshop4