Now I love exhibitions! particularly art. There’s something dynamic, unique and visually pleasing to enter a room to view an exhibition. A mystery. A surprise. A new experience. An invitation came from the wonderful teachers of my school to vote at the Exhibition of Faux taxidermy. When you see the works you’ll understand the nature of taxidermy, inspired by the creative French artist Anne-Valerie Dupond and her exquisite , amazing pieces.
The students ( 14-15 years) were asked to work in collaborative teams with a goal and design brief that challenged them to use materials from op shops and upcycled to make an animal that was both sustainable and creative. All the taxidermy heads were mounted on boards from their backyards to garden sheds etc. This weekly class involved decision making, planning, organising, discussion, practical sewing and overcoming obstacles along the way. An artist’s statement was written by each student to describe their process. And then finally, an invitation to the staff to come and see.
Feathers, buttons, felt, old bits of lace or fabric were used to create their fun animals. Hannah’s Deary Deary piece captivated me with its wide eyed deer, sticks collected in the backyard for antlers and glasses made from wire, flowers from the op shop. Both aesthetic and recycled, Hannah felt proud of her successful piece that exuded charm and humour.
Another loveable piece was the zebra. Created and stitched by Charlotte, the mixture of textures from fur to felt, the recycled and upcycled materials, the thinking outside the box, spray painting toothpicks for the zebra’s whiskers, this girl has achieved her goal to a high degree. She says, ” Whilst collecting old clothing from around the house, reusing objects to mount our taxidermies on and using op shop materials, we have each had an aspect of recycling in our assignments. My inspiration to create the taxidermy was the beauty of the zebra and aiming to capture that. Whilst creating this product, I learnt the design processes.” Doesn’t his put a smile on your face? Isn’t it refreshing to see home made and whimsical creations? To bring your talent to the fore.
I was interested in Sarah’s statement about her rabbit inspired by her holiday visits to see her cousins in Victoria. She says, ” by using recycled materials, I have reduced landfill, as the grey fabric is from an old bed sheet and the patterned fabric is from a second hand shirt. Even my backing board is an old cork placemat. All of these materials would have otherwise added to landfill. My goals were to design and create something original, something I made from scratch.”
Sarah’s skills challenged her mind to think outside the box. By testing her sewing techniques and brainstorming new ideas, her grey and blue rabbit, called “Hop to it” allows the viewer to enjoy her design process. Amy also took her deer piece to a new level when she selected denim and brown cotton towel with antler sticks to bring people’s awareness to the killing of deer during the hunting season.
Now this brings me back to me and my grandmother role. I love sewing and once spent many hours doing crazy patchwork, applique and embroidery. I also love visiting op shops and hunt them down with a keen eye. So it’s natural for me to have in my house a button collection, a drawer full of ribbons and threads, a box full of buckles and bits, a cupboard full of precious materials, gathered over many years and given by friends and family.
I have made button heart gifts and hand made owls using felt and
When my grand kids visit they enjoy playing with the buttons and ribbons decorating the house. Perhaps when they become teens, they will come searching for that vintage piece of Aunty Mag’s dress or blouse that is perfect for their project. I hope they do come looking.
Saskia used her grandma for inspiration to make her giraffe head fossicking in her house for the right fabrics, a shared experience for them both. How proud her grandma would be to see the end product made up from her patterned materials hidden away unused and now repurposed beautifully. Collaboration is worthwhile and practical in the classroom or away from it. And surely learning to overcome obstacles ( drafting, zigzagging, size problems, selection of suitable material etc) is part of the journey from idea to end result.
As Valerie Dupond knows with her menagerie of taxidermist heads, the personalities of animals is an” interesting ground for me. I love to give human expressions to my animals. They say a lot about humanity.” Let me know what you think about the exhibition and the distinctive work made by these students at Flinders.