Racing against the clock to get to the pickeling ! An Interview with taxidermist Kim Zoe Wagner

In anticipation of our forthcoming taxidermy courses in July  we have caught up with Kim Zoe Wagner who hosts the courses and had a bit of a chat about her profession, art and interiors.

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As lovers of taxidermy ourselves we always had in mind featuring bit more than pieces in the store. So a few years ago we were introduced to Kim and came up with the plan together to offer taxidermy courses and demonstrations in our Bristol store. The courses have gone from strength to strength and we have all met lots of lovely people and not only seen some final beautiful budgies. There has also been photos onwards from students on their next creations and have also taken the next steps to learn more from Kim one on one in her studio.

IMG_9922-aboutWe met Kim and instantly all got along, we have shared fair few Sunday dinners and beers! To be fair it was Kim that maybe really unknowingly pushed us into get a dog, Kim also has a Boston Terrier and after talking so lovingly about him and pointing out there is never really a good time to get a dog we kind of took the plunge. Man do we thank her for that, because Beecher is awesome!  Kim is meticulous in teach
ing taxidermy and wants every student to have the knowledge they need to go on when they leave. Teaching a traditional method of body building with wood wool and cotton binding also makes it very accessible.

Have you always wanted to be a taxidermist?

Not really. Originally I studied prosthetic makeup and my childhood dream was to work in labs to build aliens and animatronic creatures. After studying in LA I returned to Switzerland to find there wasn’t really any work and so I moved to London, where my sister was living. I did a few jobs, but again found it difficult to break into the prosthetic field and so my mom suggested taxidermy. It’s very similar because you’re working with anatomy and sculpting and creating lifelike creatures. In the end I preferred the job and stuck with it.

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What would be your tips to anyone trying to do it as a hobby or push on further and make it a career?

I think a course is a good place to start. I would recommend you find a good teacher with a few years of experience- have a look at their portfolio and more importantly, have a look at the work their past students are producing. You’ll quickly see who is legit and who isn’t. And then it’s all about practice. Try to get hold of anything to practice on and keep looking at your work with a critical eye. I’m never 100% satisfied with anything I make- I always aim to improve. In the end it’ll never look as great as nature intended it to look but it’s always good to strive for perfection.

The majority of the courses we have run with you in the past always seem to attract more women than men. Is this the same within the industry, if so, what do you think makes taxidermy so appealing to women?

There definitely has been a surge in women pursuing taxidermy- I very rarely get male students, even in my private classes. Why this is the case, I do not know. Maybe it’s just women catching up in a field that they’ve been deprived of in the past. I suppose there is a delicacy to preserving a small garden bird or a small mammal that perhaps some men would find difficult. I think generally there has been a trend to pursue craft traditions recently- maybe it’s because people are feeling far removed from working with their hands, since in their day to day life they are working at desks, on computer screens or staring into their phones and they are small cogs in a large machine that never really gives them the opportunity to see the result of their labor. Working in craft, you see directly the result of the hours you put into it, the manual labor that went into making something and it’s very rewarding. A lot of crafts are associated with women since in the past it was men who did the hard manual labor, and women were working on the more delicate crafts in the home. A lot of these new female taxidermists are working on delicate animals- on one hand this is maybe because it’s simply more practical to work on a small bird at home then to skin a whole stag- this would require a studio and quite a commitment. On the other hand it may simply be that women have a lighter touch and find small bird and mammal taxidermy easily accessible and less daunting than working on a large mammal mount. Out of my own experience, I need help to work on a large mammal because I do not have the strength to do it on my own. I think I would have been intimidated to walk into an all male taxidermy studio that was mounting big bears and stags etc. But working on small birds at home seemed a lot less daunting and more appealing because it didn’t seem as brutal as working on a large mount. Now that time as passed, I prefer to work on larger animals.

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Above – Anni was one of the first students to go on the budgie course in 2014. Anni has since been back to kim learning on a further one on one week course at Kims studio. You can see her work on Instagram @deadgoodtaxidermy

 

You’ve been assisting artist Polly Morgan for the last ten years, how has that helped you as a taxidermist?

Actually it’s eight and a half years now. I was very lucky to begin working for Polly because it gave me the opportunity to practice a lot. One of the first pieces I worked on was a coffin with hundreds of quail chicks coming out so we were doing quails chicks everyday for weeks- now I can do them in my sleep.

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Above – Carrion Call. 2009. wood coffin, taxidermy quail chicks by Polly Morgan

Do you see yourself as an artist?

No- I’m a taxidermist. My work is to preserve animals. If people would like it displayed in a certain manner, then I can do that. I also arrange birds in frames- however it is not art if it’s in a frame. My work is merely done out of fascination of nature and appreciation of natural beauty and trying to preserve that. I do not create the animals- nature has done that for me, so I do not see too much creativity in it. Perhaps a little; you can decide how to mount it and what scenario to mount it in, but I’m not sure I would consider that “creative” and in my opinion that is not art. Art requires a concept, an idea, a language, a meaning, a certain something- an instinct of some sort, a different way of thinking- taxidermy on it’s own is not art. That does not mean that it shouldn’t be valued equally- some taxidermists have an impeccable skill that took years of hard work to perfect and they can display mounts artistically and cunningly and one could say there is an “art” in achieving this.

Where do you get the animals from that you work with?

Mostly from gamekeepers, aviaries, vets and pet shops. And people with large windows and cats. I do not use anything that has been killed for the purpose of taxidermy.

How do you find the demonstration evenings at Dig Haushizzle and how do they differ to the full courses you do on the budgies the following day?

The demonstration evenings give you an idea of what it involves to taxidermy a bird- the demo is included in the price of the budgie course, which takes place the following day. It’s helpful for the students to get an understanding of what is expected from them in the day course. The idea of the day course is for people to learn how to taxidermy a small bird and theoretically with the knowledge from the course, they could go on to attempt their own mounts at home. I like to keep the classes small (maximum 5 people) so that I can really focus on everyone and make sure everyone leaves with a nice mount and solid knowledge on how to taxidermy a bird. We do not skip any steps and I teach people the exact same method I use myself. Some people come to the courses because they really want to learn how to do taxidermy and they go on to make nice mounts, while others just want to spend a Sunday working with their hands, learning a new skill and get to bring home a lovely bird at the end of it.

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You’ve been commissioned by people from many different warps of life; artists, fashion designers and seasoned collectors. What’s the most challenging piece you’ve completed?

There are different challenges involved with every commission: working on a goldfinch is challenging because it’s so small and you’re working on a tiny scale that’s incredibly fiddly and if you’re having a bad day and aren’t feeling too patient, then it can be infuriating. One the other spectrum you have the challenges of working with large animals that are mainly upper body strength challenges as well as the time pressure- it’s takes a long time to deflesh a hide the size of a stag and you’re working against the clock to get it done before it starts slipping. Then you have structural challenges- like when I was working on a head piece for Pam Hogg and we were trying to fit these enormous crows on a small leather head piece and they had to be sturdy as well as fit the visual expectation that Pam had. And then another challenge I had was working on an albino peahen and I found I kept getting the white feathers dirty and having to rewash the damn thing so many times- it was a relief when it was completed and still white! I’d say most animals present certain challenges- the worst thing is if you have an animal that is rare and not fresh. When I was working on the baby giraffe in Bahrain with Polly it was a very unique opportunity to work on this type of animal and we noticed it started slipping around the face because it takes a few days for an animals of that size to freeze and while it’s freezing, it’s already beginning the process of decay and then it was a race against the clock to get it in the pickle before we lost more fur. Thankfully it was only a little bit and it was fixable.

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Quail Chick by KZW Taxidermy available at Dig Haüshizzle – £165

What is your interior style and do you have taxidermy at home?

I’m not sure what my interior style is- I like patterns and colors. I don’t like clutter and useless ornaments- I’d rather decorate a room with wallpaper or a beautiful upholstered chair. And I do not really have any taxidermy at home- I have an armadillo lamp, a little antique turtle, and a snake sculpture by Polly, but that’s about it. I’m not a collector, I do not collect anything, I don’t really see the point. And I’m paranoid about moths, so I don’t want anything in the house that can attract them- hence the featherless and furless taxidermy. I’d love to own a pangolin though- that would be a little dream come true!

 

Thanks so much Kim for your time and look forward to seeing you in Bristol in July!

Follow Kim on Instagram @kzwcustomtaxidermy

www.kzwtaxidermy.com

 

READER DISCOUNT on Taxidermy Demonstration 16th July 2016 – when booking the demo add in the code KZWTAXIDERMY to receive  a 25% discount

The upcoming courses are on the 17th and 24th July for more details and to book your place on the course head over to the Dig Haüshizzle website

 

 

 

 

Monochrome Home-Book Review

Monochrome Home Book Review.

Ok so the title monochrome home, elegant interiors in black and white. I must admit that before opening this book I kind of judge it… not by its cover but by its title. I had a rigid idea of monochrome and the tag line reenforced it, elegant interiors in black and white. I thought to myself, black! as in dark jet black and white as in skirting board brilliant white. Two hugely contrasting colours, how can they work in an interior? Flicking through the first few pages it instantly came obvious that monochrome was branching out to every shade between those two main colours, black and white. Indeed if I’d had flipped the book over and read the blurb on the back I would of been aware of this ‘ elegant interiors in black,white and all the shades of grey in-between.

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One thing I picked up on early on in the book was the way a dark object can be placed against and equally dark backdrop and be engulfed, disappear almost completely, but light the object correctly and it comes back to life as the shape of the object reflects the light. I nice trick to play around with at home.

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Plenty of the photographs have an abundance of texture to them, this is added but branches, dried leafs, paint sheets or even the depth of a thickly woven basket.

The book is split into two main sections, Monochrome Palettes and Monochrome Homes. I found it easier to look through the homes section first even though it comes secondary in the book. Its easier to digest and it got me engrossed. After that moving on to the palettes section explains why the images of the homes works so well.

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Its written in a open, conversational way and coupled with the sleek photography it really works well. Each image has a small write up explaining to the reader what to look out for, why something works well in the photo. I really enjoyed the book, it opened my mind to the world of monochrome interiors and by the end of it I could really appreciate why so many homes that we deliver stock too have adopted this style, its really versatile and is a lovely canvas to work around.

The Weeks Pick -Distorted Reflections

georgianmirror2This week we have had in a beast of a small mirror. Its one of my favourites its hard to photograph it and get across exactly what it look like. The mirror is a normal flat mirror but the frame has a convex glass to it so it almost looks like the mirror dips in. It’s like a weird look into another dimension. Its a Georgian piece in an ebonised frame but it had got me thinking about these wonderful small mirrors.

The other week we had our first visit to the John Soane’s Museum, which firstly I would totally recommend. We have been meaning to going for years, but on wandering to meet friends we pretty much stumbled upon on it. Across the square was a house so fantastic it drew us closer until we realised where we were heading. We were rather late on meeting our friends but got to spend a bit of time just enthralled and mainly gawping.

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Why I mention this place is the vast array of small convex mirrors adorning the walls and ceilings. There were even really quite small ones all in often symmetry all around the rooms. They draw the eye and obviously give you a distorted view back of the place you are in adding extra mystique.

A few more convex mirrors in situe

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love these huge ones in Homes and Gardens.

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They look great over consoles and fireplaces. This is not really our style but works really well together.

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I just like in this one how the small mirrors have been galleried with the antlers

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The mirror is good, but the Westwood wall paper made me add this one!

Ok they just look great as singles or in sets but I have definitely got my eyes out for some teeny ones.

// Cassie

 

 

 

 

 

At Home – Our Interior style

This week our home has been featured by the fantastic Design*Sponge, recently it also made an appearance to in Homes and Antiques magazine.

We have a one bedroom flat in Bristol and we have been here for 6 years. It is not finished and never will be as there is always new ideas to try or amazing things to be found. We love Bristol , it’s fantastic place to live and a fantastic place to set up a small business as well as having some amazing houses!!

Although our flat is small we are very lucky to have the high ceilings, large windows and original features that can be seen in many houses across Bristol. I think our flat is what inspired us really to start our business and man has it been a fun thing to do.

You can see the full post on our home by Design*Sponge here.

Our home is basically and extension of our store it’s everything we like in one place.

Our Home

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Above is our living space, we love it. It is dark and inviting and always a great place to return to. If we had to change one thing in here it would be our wall lights. We have been looking for so long now for them nothing but perfect will do! They are all in slight weird places and could do with a major move around.

The alcove really makes the room, we have painted it so many colours until finally stripping it back, it turns out thats just what was needed. There is a beautiful original harlequin pattern that just shows through the layers of paint. The coffee table is the first major purchase Edd and I ever made together and I am sure will come everywhere with us. Its made up of original and pretty rare letter press blocks.

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The Hotel Negresco banner was bought for the shop, but it never left our home. We don’t keep many items that we find, stock for the shop always has to be the number one priority but a nice trip to Nice to check out Hotel Negressco wouldn’t go a miss!

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We designed our small but lovely kitchen with the expert help of carpenter Lee Jennings. The worktops are all old iroko school science benchs complete with plenty of graffiti and holes for Bunsen burners. We hunted for these for a while as they needed to be slightly wider than normal but the guys at Glastonbury reclamation came up trumps!

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That carpet bag! I bough that bag in Brugge in 2005 on a trip around Europe with Edd a few months after we met. It is pretty broke now, faded and tired but I like it even more.

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This photo is an illusion, our table is rarely this tidy and there is no way croissants would normally hang around that long! The beautiful flowers are by Ruby and the Wolf. The taxidermy deer heads were purchased as a pair about 8 years ago and date to the late 1800’s. They’re a little moth eaten but they fit the space perfectly.

Our bedroom is a bit of an experiment for us with brights. We love dark interiors however we do have a lot of very bright pieces of art and without enough wall space they needed a little space to speak for them selves. So we gave white a try and we love it, the contrast with the black floor that runs throughout the whole flat works perfectly. Black and white, an age old combination!

We love to collect! It started really with art prints, then we have the antiques, the broken clocks, the Vivienne Westwood and the books! The thing with collecting you never know when the next thing will come up, I don’t think you could sell decorative antiques for a living and not collect yourself. Like I said, we cannot keep as much as we like but we get the thrill of buying something awesome all the time and then you get to sell it too and see it in its new home. Thats one of the best feelings!

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We love working on projects like this and I loved the interior styling for the shoot and making sure every bit of the flat looked perfect! It’s great because quite a lot has already changed since this shoot a few months ago. The photographer is Matt Somerville a great friend and not to mention a great photographer ! Matt lives in Vancouver and man we have fun on his visits and do we work each other hard ! We have done buying trips, shoots, delivers and obscene drinking games and party’s all in one day. Plus our favourite van game – van wave. Matt is a great landscape and portrait photographer and also specialises in Weddings this is his first interior shoot and man did he impress us !

 

The three of us below having some of the best times in Portland –

photo from mattsomervillephotography.com (but this one actually taken by Amanda Biggs)

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The Weeks Pick – Instrumental Decoration

Instruments are beautiful and often expensive things. Obviously made to make beautiful music with but sometimes whether due to being broken or just looking freaking amazing they become more decorative objects than musical.  Kind of moving on from the home with a grand Piano that no one can play, instruments (and there cases) can be highly decorative and can also be re-purposed into different things.

We have had a few decorative instruments in the past and have a few in at the minute but these Double Base cases really spurred me on to write this. They are for transporting the double base, the are huge heavy and cumbersome but they look great. Yes you need a bit of space, I  suppose you could double them up and store things in them, but really it just looks nice.

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Occasionally we have bought instruments that people have bought to use which has been really great! From trumpets to Tuba’s and to more recently this fantastic Ebonised Harmonium. Which made me feel immediately like a member of Arcade Fire even if I couldn’t move, look at all comfortable or really play anything on it.

Continue reading “The Weeks Pick – Instrumental Decoration”

The Weeks Pick – Workbench Style

workbenchRight I have decided I need to do some weekly feature on the blog to help make it more manageable and keep me focused.  “The Weeks Pick” will feature one of our favourite new piece’s from our store Dig Haüshizzle. We will also show many styling ideas and in a inspiration/moodboard fashion will show how such a piece can work in different settings and maybe even have different uses.

Continue reading “The Weeks Pick – Workbench Style”

Interior Inspirations – 23 spaces all about the Green!

House Plants

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 17.02.59This is not something I claim to be an expert at. I am a beginner and it has gone wrong a few times  but I can help but keep feeling our home or the shop for that matter just needs a few more plants!  Im sat writing this in the store with 15 plants I can see from the desk and still thinking just a few more.  I do love an abundance of plants anyway but I find  they really help to bring out all the colours in our pieces. Dark old wood against bright fresh green really lifts pieces and gives them extra life. I use them all over our flat but didn’t notice until recently spending three days photographing the flat with the wonderful photographer Matt Sommerville how each photo really was lifted by the plants. Matt already with a hefty few plants of his own kept pointing this out to me in the photos and we ended up bringing in a fair few more. I know I am slow on the uptake, I think its because I finally have a few house plants that I have kept a live for a few years, even though our actual garden advances are slow. Our interiors style is pretty dark and generally a bit muted, from dark worn ebonised wood to tarnished silver plating.  Although all together it looks balanced the splashes of green really helps to give it all a much stronger look.

Continue reading “Interior Inspirations – 23 spaces all about the Green!”

Merch Not Models

We have wanted to get some cotton bags for the store for a while now. Mainly because we wanted some ourselves and it would just be awesome to see some people with them. After a bit of a refund from the council from overpaying our rates it meant we could do something not totally necessary. So we have some.

The bags are £5 and are available here .

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Catching Up and Changing up

IMG_4517So yes things have been a little quite on the blog front. We have been busy and its kind of taken a sideline as these things do. However actually enjoying writing it and having lots of ideas means we have given it a bit of a new look that should hopefully be easier to navigate will have more to see and will be in a separate style to main Dig Haüshizzle website. Also I think this new look makes the thought for us of writing blog posts a little less daunting. So here we go this is the Haüshizzle blog. Sister to the Dig Haüshizzle store. If there is ever any questions or anything you would like to see from us just let us know.

So what has been going on in the mean time?

Continue reading “Catching Up and Changing up”