Apparently we’re no longer content to just have animals in our homes curled up in their dog beds or in frozen family packs of chicken thighs—taxidermy and other dark animal imagery is popping up everywhere in design and art for the home.
Artists and designers are creating decorative objects that raise questions how we relate to nature, decoration, craft, and history, often by contrasting the darkness of taxidermy with the warmth and familiarity of traditional materials and techniques.
Ohio designers Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis of Future Revival’s work uses modern technology and traditional techniques to explore the darkness of “taxidermy and natural order.” Their porcelain wolf lights are both cheerful yet dark, based on a kitschy antique mall wolf head find, slip cast in porcelain, and filled with a mouth full of brightly colored candelabra bulbs.
Shauna Richardson’s “Crochetdermy” also combines dark and light elements with its use of a familiar craft in an untraditional application. Instead of taxidermy’s usual direct use of stuffed and preserved animals, Richardson’s work uses animal materials, though less directly—she crochets animals out of wool and mohair yarn. Her crocheted animals contrast the cozy familiarity of home crafts with the slightly creepy edge of taxidermy in their well-executed realism.
Like Shauna Richardson’s Crochetdemy, Frederique Morrel’s needlework taxidermy also combines a traditionally warm, feminine craft with the darker, more masculine craft of taxidermy. Covering taxidermy molds with found vintage needlework and using real antlers, the French company makes each piece by hand, giving forgotten needlework that was once used functionally new life as decorative objects.
The contrast of the real and surreal aspects of Kate MacDowell’s porcelain sculpture highlights the beauty, sadness, romance, and fragility of the natural world. With realistic bodies and imagined aspects in pure, fragile, white porcelain, her animals appear to be preserved in relationship to both their cultural and environmental contexts. Taking on issues of environmental threats and our relationship to our “destructive practices,” the artist creates creepy, yet meaningful sculpture.