Alexis Turner told us to Get Stuffed!
We talk to an author and creative taxidermy enthusiast, Alexis Turner
Creative Chair has thus far straddled many creative disciplines but today we’re looking outside of the box at taxidermy in this exclusive interview with Alexis Turner.
Alexis Turner owns a showroom in London that looks like the casting call for ‘Life of Pi’ and he’s recently published a book exploring the weird and wonderful world of taxidermy.
Hi Alexis Turner, firstly could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I studied Law and History of Art at University. After graduating, I worked as a packer at Asprey’s, the Bond St Jewellers.
Then I had a variety of jobs including DJ’ing at high society balls and parties, presenting a weekly live pop music TV show, designing a wine bar and finally becoming a Director of a Recruitment Consultants in the late 80’s. I finally decided that I wanted my own business, where I could take holidays and long weekends without asking, a sort of semi-retirement at the age of 30!
I’ve ended up working much harder than I imagined, driven by the need to provide for my wife and four children. But I do love my business, which specialises in hiring high-quality taxidermy and natural history props to the Film/TV/Photography industries as well as for shop displays.
What first sparked your interest in Taxidermy?
I grew up in the 1960’s/70’s when taxidermy was deeply unfashionable. But my parents
rather liked it and we had an antique Tiger skin rug in the hall and a Lion head behind the front door.
My bedside table was a cased Arctic Hare and a large cased pair of Merlins looking over a nest stood at the end of my bed.
My parents dragged me around Antique shops and country houses at weekends, and I was always immediately drawn to any taxidermy. It was typical childhood fascination, but I never shook it off!
Taxidermy is often described as a dying art, would you agree with that and if so, why do you think that is?
Certainly, it was looking like it might be a dying art until its recent comeback. Although there were plenty of professional and amateur taxidermists around there were few under the age of 40 until it started to become fashionable again.
The impact of the art world’s use of the subject has meant enormous interest in learning the craft. Taxidermy was very much a male preserve in the past, but now it seems that there are more women showing an interest.
Have you ever tried your hand at taxidermy?
Never! I don’t have any interest in actually doing it. I don’t have the stomach, although it is not as gruesome as people think.
It also requires tremendous patience. I’m not very practical either; I can’t even hang the mounted heads on the wall of my showroom!
Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming book?
It’s a journey through Taxidermy and the preservation of Natural History, from its beginnings to the present day. Although very informative, it is designed to be a stylish modern interpretation that brings the subject into the 21st century. It is packed with incredible images from the worlds of art and design, as well as historical pieces. It is a beautiful book, with an eye-catching front cover depicting a work by artist Daniel Firman, an elephant standing on his trunk!
Your book showcases examples of Taxidermy that range from the awe-inspiring to the absolutely bizarre, but what is your favourite piece of Taxidermy?
It’s very difficult to choose a favourite. And many favourites I sold a long time ago. But I have always been excited by the odd and unusual pieces from the Victorian era, the ‘miniature’ dogs, freaks of nature and the anthropomorphic frogs playing billiards, etc. I have had so many over the years; I just wish I hadn’t sold them as I’d have an amazing collection now.
The diverse art of Taxidermy is one that divides people’s opinions. On one hand, it can be used for historic preservation and on the other, it can be used to turn someone’s dead cat into a helicopter. Some of the examples in your book are quite evocative and some even a little disturbing but do you think there is a right or wrong way to practice the art?
I don’t think there should be any limits on its use as long as legal and ethical guidelines are adhered to. I’m not a fan of modern, tasteless examples of squirrels on motorbikes that litter eBay. They are neither clever nor amusing, just tacky. I think the diversity of taxidermy today is what keeps it interesting and relevant.
And finally, if you died and were reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?
“This is the Day” by The The