Taxidermy: cool or callous?
PUBLISHED: 15:07 05 June 2014 | UPDATED: 15:09 05 June 2014
This month, antiques expert Ali Heath looks at the growing popularity of taxidermy
For the last year, as with the popularity of skulls and animal skeletons, we have also seen a rise in demand for stuffed animals, both real and faux.
Whether enjoyed underfoot, mounted on the wall or as an adornment to decorative displays, the look has transfixed the antique and interior fashionista with aplomb and is also hitting the high street with insatiable interest.
It is a subject and look though that sparks very lively debate about whether cool or callous…
Under the skin
Taxidermy (taken from the Greek for the arrangement of skin) is the art of preparing, stuffing and mounting the skins of animals, especially vertebrates, for display as trophies or for other sources of study.
It can be done on all vertebrate species of animals, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.
The practice of taxidermy is not new and has in fact been used for centuries. Founding natural history museums were reliant on taxidermy as a means of illustrating habitats and animal structures in life-like scenes.
Today though, taxidermy is not just about the study of a creature in a curiosity cabinet or a trophy statement on a hunting lodge wall, but increasingly about decoration.
Fashionable designers, stores, homes, galleries, bars, restaurants and all those deemed as ‘cool’ in the world of interiors are adopting this look and choosing schemes that include taxidermy as a central part of their design. The trend has grown steadily and is enjoying a peak in coverage with global interior press interest.
If you are looking to explore your interest near to home then a trip to London to view the Natural History Museum will inspire you with some of the oldest and most comprehensive collections of natural history in the world, including many specimens collected by Charles Darwin.
Also, a visit to London Taxidermy (by appointment only) is a stunning source of antique and contemporary natural history for both prop hire and purchase.
Locally, many of our major antique monthly markets, such as Sunbury, can be great hunting grounds for some real taxidermy gems.
Friend and faux
However, if the former living works of art leave you cold then faux alternatives may be more your style.
Local designer and recent winner of the Great Interior Design Challenge, Sarah Moore, could prove tempting with her vintage fauxidermy woodland creatures made from antique tweeds, Welsh blankets, reclaimed cashmere and hand-loomed fabrics – all unique works of art.
The jury is out still with many as to whether taxidermy is sophisticated or repulsive. Whatever your view, it is certainly making a comeback and looks certain to set the antique and interior stage alight for a while to come.
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Ali Heath is the owner of Plum (see plumlifestyle.com / blog.plumlifestyle.com). To contact Ali about styling and writing commissions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org