Stuff and nonsense: The fashion for taxidermy is growing apace, but professional artists worry about 'ghoulish' amateurs having a go

 

Once, stuffing a guinea pig for pleasure was considered mildly eccentric. Now, the craze has become so popular that even leading practitioners say it has got out of hand. Polly Morgan, who made taxidermy fashionable 10 years ago with her zany displays of birds, says she has become "uncomfortable with the direction taxidermy is taking", saying it is "ghoulish and macabre to stuff animals for kicks". She thinks that young people are "glorifying or sexualising" dead animals.

Ms Morgan's comments come as more people are learning DIY taxidermy than ever before. The latest trend is for anthropomorphic taxidermy, in which the animal is dressed in human clothes. A new course on guinea pig stuffing begins today at the Hackney City Farm in east London, costing £95 for a six-hour session, dead animals included. Students will be taught how to skin, prep, preserve, mount and position the animal, and are asked not to bring any dead animals of their own, as "ethically sourced" guinea pigs will be provided. They are also "invited to bring additional miniature items with which they might like to dress or decorate their new friend".

Margot Magpie, who teaches the course, says she is having to put on more classes to meet demand. "There's an obsession with Victoriana right now, and with steampunk, and this fits into that," she says. "There's an obsession with death and reinventing things." She has noticed an appetite for craft work among young professionals. "For people who sit in offices all day, there's something appealing about putting on rubber gloves, taking a scalpel, and learning a manual skill. You are taking something lifeless and turning it into something personal."

Julie Johnson taught herself anthropomorphic taxidermy simply by looking it up on the internet. "I used to knit, but had to look for something different when I got arthritis in my thumb. But if someone had told me, five years ago, that this is what I'd be doing now I wouldn't have believed them." Her speciality is dead mice. Recent works include a Pierrot white rabbit, ballerina mouse and a sailor rat. "I used get my dead mice from pet shops, which sell them for snake owners. But now I prefer to use road kill. It's amazing how many dead animals there are around once you start to look." She used to be scared of dead animals, but now sees them as her "little friends".

But Ms Morgan, whose works fetch up to £85,000, says the rise of amateur taxidermy has become "gimmicky". "I'm all for people learning, and I'm not trying to protect myself. I just wish people would learn properly. Unfortunately, the more popular something becomes, the less people feel they have to put into it to get noticed in that craft."

Taxidermy has even become a focal point for socialising, she adds. "These classes that have popped up are like club nights – they're a way to get people down to bars or restaurants. I think it's not particularly tasteful to fetishise taxidermy in this way. You see these young women with corpses draped round their necks, almost glorifying and sexualising it. It's a shame."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory