Friday, 28 October 2011

Stuff it

Is anyone else strangely intrigued by taxidermy?

I’m not alone on this as taxidermy seems to have sparked a lot of interest recently. To coincide with Halloween, taxidermist Amanda Autopsie is hosting Taxidermy and Tea this weekend. What does that involve? Well the clues definitely in the name. You can sip tea, eat delicious pastries and, er, learn how to preserve dead animals. Personally I think this event sounds quite  unique but it probably isn’t everybody’s cup of tea (pun intended). 

Not everyone’s comfortable with the idea of Taxidermy you see. On Run Riot Blog, Charlie Philips recently wrote; ‘Finding a dead animal and stuffing it for the titillation of passing trade or (worse) for your own entertainment is an insult to that creature. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t kill it yourself, it’s always wrong.

I love animals and must confess to having fallen in love with the stuffed animals in the school science lab (especially the Duck Billed Platypus)and later as a student I regularly visited Manchester Museum to gawp at their fine array of all creatures great and small. I was studying Literature not Zoology. Death is always a controversial subject but I like to see my gawping at these animals as appreciation rather than insult. If I was stuffed and people admired me and found me entertaining and I knew about it then I would be happy. But that is me and not everybody shares the same opinion on death, or life, or anything actually.I would also like to point out that I'm referring to animals who were found dead and were not murdered for aesthetic satisfaction or to be used as trophies or any other reason. This behaviour's very wrong

As a point of reference for those interested in this contraversial practise there's a great Taxidermy Museum in Llangollen, Wales and lots of critters in the very odd Curios Museum in Newquay. Then there's the people who can't bear to say goodbye to their deceased pet...

Taxidermy has certainly inspired some modern interest thanks to artists/taxidermists such as David Blyth, Polly Morgan and Annette Messager and the rise in popularity of nostalgic hobbies, crafts and vintage. It obviously helps that us Brits are a nation of animal lovers too. Taxidermy can now often be seen sitting alongside old treasure in vintage store windows or market stalls in 'trendy' areas like Manchester’s Northern Quarter and those bits of East London. On Mare Street in E8 you’ll find Heads and Tails, the UK’s largest collection of taxidermy in the country, has items available for sale or hire. I’m not sure I would buy but perhaps I would consider hiring for an Alice in Wonderland Themed Party maybe? That would involve Anthropomorphic taxidermy where stuffed animals are dressed as people or displayed as if engaged in human activities. Fun or mockery?

Just in case like me you find this creepy hobby intriguing here’s a bit of background…

Taxidermy is an ancient practise to protect  the dead from decay believed to ease the transition of the spirit between this world and the afterlife. The link with the after world meant that preserved bodies were seen as symbols of strength. Creepy, eh.

Taxidermy, like all creepy and controversial subjects, seems to tempt interest and inspire creativity. Like Halloween it’s a chance to experiment with the deathly without risk of death to oneself. Or maybe it’s just horrible. Or maybe a bit of a laugh?

If you agreed with any of those statements that means you’re a little bit interested now. 
Update: Went to Broadway Market and round a few Hackney thrift shops this weekend and saw a stuffed squirrel having evening tea, two stuffed cats and a mouse party for sale. 

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