Taxidermy: Art Of Stuffing Animals Dead Trendy
The Victorians were mad about stuffing dead animals, and the craze now appears to be making an unexpected comeback.
Classes teaching the basics of taxidermy are proving popular, with students in London signing up to learn how to prepare, stuff and even dress dead mice.
Organisers at Hackney City Farm say they are putting on more workshops to meet demand.
One of the students, Anita Hempenius, who is a teacher by profession, said her son bought her a lesson as a birthday present.
"He knew I'd love it ... I studied science in the first place and I'm really interested in animals and things, and I also like doing art so the two combined seemed perfect."
Taxidermy tutor Margot Magpie believes the surge in popularity might be something to do with renewed interest in Victorian style and attitudes.
She said the process appealed to all kinds of people.
"I think a lot of people sit at their desks all day and they want to get out there and try something new and so there's that novelty to it - to getting your hands dirty in doing something kind of technical but also artistic," she said.
The dead mice used in Ms Magpie's classes come mainly from batches of reptile feed.
Strict laws in the UK mean practitioners are not allowed to use specimens that died in "suspicious circumstances".
One emerging trend among budding amateurs is that of anthropomorphic taxidermy, which basically means dressing animals to look and pose like humans.
But professional artists like Polly Morgan, who has exhibited alongside the likes of Damien Hirst, thinks the art form is now in danger of becoming "gimmicky".
"Some of the classes are trading slightly on the shock factor and the gore factor and I think that's a bit of a cheap shot really, particularly when people like myself and other traditional taxidermists have spent quite a long time trying to show these animals in a sensitive light."
It seems the fascination with taxidermy is not just affecting those who want to create it.
Vadim Kosmos, the manager of curiosity shop The Last Tuesday Society in east London, which claims to count several famous celebrities among its customers, says sales are up.
"There's definitely been a rise in customers recently - very female dominated, which I put down to two things; Alexander McQueen and Damien Hirst in the year 2000 re-contextualising taxidermy as an art and fashion movement rather than a dusty thing you find in an old hotel," he said.
The neo-Victorian trend may not be to everyone's taste, but the newfound respect for taxidermy might just see the practice promoted from weird and ghoulish to inspiring and perhaps even "modern".
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