My approach to interior design is unexpected, which seems to be the reason why my clients invite me into their homes.
My appreciation for taxidermy easily falls into the category of unexpected but truly my appreciation of taxidermy is similar to my love for vintage items, eye-popping statement pieces and the majesty of a beautiful creature.
Alexis Turner's Taxidermy (Rizzoli, 2013) is historical, romantic and curiosity-shop voyeurism. The chapters guide you to your particular pleasure -- Museums, Interiors, Freaks and Fakes, Art and Fashion -- and you'll either linger and admire the beauty of a particular image or quickly turn the page in shock to only return later for a second look. The duality of taxidermy -- the beauty and the unease -- is, in my opinion, why interior design should include a wall-mounted beast or a well-placed bird under a dome.
I have both a personal and a professional experience with taxidermy. As a child, I recall that my mother Barbara had a rooster in the house. I'm avoiding using the colloquial term "stuffed" to refer to taxidermy because there is so much more to the preparation than just the straw, wood wool or peat that is used to shape the form. As Turner writes, "The difference between the good, the bad and the ugly in taxidermy will depend on the skill and observation of the taxidermist." So mom had a rooster in the house. It was beautiful. It was commanding, posed so perfectly and brought a splash of color and three-dimensional sculptural décor into the room.
Fast forward several years and I was shopping for unique items to bring into my store. I found an incredible taxidermy bird from a dealer in High Point, North Carolina. It was colorful and exotic and I had to have it. Even if no one bought it for their home, I wanted to enjoy having it in the store. Isn't this how all retailers shop?
Little did I know that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts excludes the import of taxidermy. The Environmental Police swopped down on me like the great protectors they are, seized the bird and gave me a warning. The vintage antlers I had mounted to the wall were okay but my taxidermy bird was breaking the law. Apparently a customer had walked into my store and rather than admire the artistry of taxidermy felt compelled to report me to the police.
Alas, stocking Turner's book in the shop is the ultimate safe bet in helping to promote the beauty of taxidermy and educate those interested in its origins and current fascination. From hip restaurants and designer clothing stores, to hotels and private homes, people are fascinated with preserved animals and incorporating them in their interiors. Turner's book is the first to consider this medium as an art form. The renowned London dealer and collector showcases the very best of both classic work and modern contemporary pieces.
As an interior designer, I regularly consider faux or real animal hides, feathers, antlers and shells as part of my world of décor accents whenever I'm adding texture or color. Ultimately, nature's natural symmetry, color and beauty (even when replicated in faux), is stunning. The next step would be to incorporate a full-sized cheetah or stag or a smaller creature on a bookcase. Doing so will definitely create a point of conversation but that's okay since interior design should be noticed.
Check out the images from Taxidermy in the slideshow below.