Art & Design
Posted by Christine Miralles
19. Sep, 2011
Fionnbharr Pfeiffer put his studies on hold to fashion taxidermy animals into adornments such as rings, headwear and necklaces. Now working on his first collection that includes everything from sparrow bowties to rat head rings, Fionnbharr talks to Milk Bar about his unusual calling.
Milk Bar: How did your interest in taxidermy begin?
Fionnbharr Pfeiffer: For most of my childhood there was a stuffed duck outside my bedroom door and I was always fascinated by it. In terms of taxidermy as art or fashion I was inspired by an artist named Emily Valentine, who takes the familiar shape and structure of dogs and combines them with the colouring and textures of Australian parrots to create beautiful sculptures.
On my first day of studying bio-medicine I came across an injured grass parrot. I took it home to help it recover. The damage must have been considerably more than just a broken wing because it didn’t make it to the morning. When I looked at it I actually couldn’t justify burying such a beautifully coloured bird, it needed to be displayed and remembered. I had learned a lot about taxidermy in my course; all I needed to learn was the chemical and mounting process, which I guessed. I named her Simone and gave her to my girlfriend.
MB: How did you first come up with the idea to turn taxidermy into wearable pieces?
FB: I found another parrot, but this one had passed away a long time ago and its bones were exposed — perfectly intact and clean. So I took them home, gave them a further clean and had them lying around for a while. Then I decided, like the parrot, they needed to be displayed and remembered. The skull and feet became pendants for the first necklace I ever made. I have come such an incredibly long way since that.
MB: Your approach to taxidermy is quite ethical, in that you only use road kill.
FB: I don’t like the idea of something being killed for the sake of its beauty. Many animals that die by accidental causes are often found in near-perfect health — they haven’t lived past their prime. So when they are discovered, either by myself or others, I get the same feeling I did with my first taxidermy: I feel that they are too special to be buried or disposed of so I try to display and remember them in interesting and eye-catching ways to respect their lives.
MB: What are some processes involved in turning taxidermy into a piece of jewellery?
FB: It’s pretty simple, but time consuming. The necessary skills are learned in other activities such as sculpting and sewing. Now that I’m creating my own jewellery there are other processes like moulding and casting to consider, but it all pays off in the end.
MB: What have been some of your favourite pieces to create?
FB: I had my favourites, the rat head ring is very popular and I still like it a lot but I’ve started work on my first official collection and am continually designing and working on things that I love.
MB: What are you currently working on?
FB: I am working on my first official collection which is more than 70 pieces. I was approached by an investor who wants to help start the label. So my pieces are much better quality and I get to be more creative. It’s really going well. I’ve made some really unique things incorporating antiques and one off taxidermy. I’m keeping it a surprise.
MB: What are your hopes and plans for the future?
FB: I just want to be able to make things that people enjoy wearing and owning. It’d be nice to one day be able to collaborate with some of my favourite designers both here and overseas and further my skills. In an ideal world I’d like to live in Stockholm and send designs to friends to create. But, it’s early days yet.
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