Taxidermy: Sustainable Chic or Complete Eek?

Is taxidermy too macabre for home decor?

Taxidermy, a Greek word meaning skin arranging, is something one might associate with cat obsessives or hunter-types that rely on hoofs and antlers to mount their egos. The collection of artistic taxidermy meanwhile, which was traditionally a rather Victorian pursuit, has given the practice a new pelt of cool thanks to antiquarians with a new vintage aesthetic and Lower East Side kids with a flair for the macabre.

My first run-in with a stuffed rodent happened in the West Hollywood apartment of a friend of mine whom I’ve long considered a style clarion. She’s an eco-conscious vegetarian and animal rights activist, to boot, who stopped buying leather shoes back in the early 90’s. That got me thinking: perhaps taxidermy should be considered from an eco point of view.

I reached out to Connie Reeves, an artist, florist and taxidermist in the UK who refers to herself as a Road-kill Romantic on her Twitter profile, for some insight.

“You could call it a form of upcycling, sure. Reanimating old objects and giving them a new life,” she explains. Connie is one who considers trophy taxidermy, “something that’s done to prove ownership over an animal,” a bit on the grotesque and weird side. Like the artist Polly Morgan, who works exclusively with animals that died a natural or unpreventable death, Connie also crafts her subjects from road kill remains and donated pets. She has a whole freezer full of them. “Twenty or thirty,” at last count including a Sparrowhawk that’s been in there for over three years.

“I’m just going to keep him until I’m ready.” The hawk was given to her by a friend who was very close to the bird, thus giving him flight anew must be approached delicately.

Thawing now is Connie’s next project: a baby mobile featuring a deceased seagull she was given by some friends. “Birds are my main subject that I come back to again and again,” she says. “I’m so enchanted by them and their freedom.” Her partridge Eugene (pictured below), is a personal favorite. “He and I go back a long way. He was saved by the gentleman who taught me how to taxidermy.”

Decorating with taxidermy – using a bird here and a rabbit there – goes completely against the look at the moment. It’s the anti-minimalist, using a mish-mash of patterns and objects to undecorate and celebrating a potpourri of objects as discrete and unique talking points. Taking us back to, sustainable chic or completely eek? It’s certainly reused…definitely recycled. Whether you love it or are completely repulsed by the idea of using taxidermy as décor, it’s a topic that is sure to liven up any dinner party conversation. Just wait until after the main course to show off your latest piece.


Images: James Coughlin for Diamond Tooth Taxidermy and Connie Reeves

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.