Harriet's uniquely fresh take on the traditional medium of taxidermy attracted us to her works instantly - who else has ever combined neon lighting with animal sculpture? We were absolutely delighted when she agreed to have a meeting with us, and even more so when she accepted our offer of representation with Contemporary Collective. Since joining a few weeks ago, Harriet's piece King, a delicate sleeping ermine stoat illuminated by a neon pink crown has found himself a new home, where we hope he will be much enjoyed.
Harriet has kindly taken some time out to answer a couple of questions for DegreeArt, about her work and inspirations, and future plans:
What first attracted you to working with taxidermy?
Since my first encounter with it at an antiques market with my mother when I was young. I was fascinated by animals so being able to touch and study specimens you wouldn't get the chance to in the wild was incredible. It’s the same reason I still love it today.
Who did you learn under?
George Jamieson. He lives in a restored tower on the edge of a woodland on the coast in Cramond, Edinburgh. It's the perfect environment to study animals. More importantly, he is an excellent tutor.
Where do you source some of your rarer animals? For example the ermine stoat used in King.
I actually bought him from another taxidermist. Sometimes we swap or trade our stock amongst members of the Guild of Taxidermists. Most other animals are road casualties. People will contact me if they find something and usually they post them or I go and collect them. I once collected a specimen from someone at Kings Cross station. Walking through the station with a dead Barn Owl in my rucksack felt very Horror Potter. All the animals I use are ethically sourced or are by-products of the pet and farming industry.
King, 25x25x25cm, Sold
What inspired you to combine neon with taxidermy?
I adore neon lighting just as much as I do taxidermy, it seemed obvious to combine the two. I love how trashy it can be, but mutually has a really warm temperature to it, it’s a comforting glow. My grandmother lives in Blackpool and I have strong childhood memories of going to the illuminations every Christmas so I guess it’s also nostalgic. It has an added bonus of helping to make my taxidermy more contemporary which is essential to me.
How do you feel your degree in Philosophy informs your artistic work, if at all?
It definitely did. I was consumed by the the art and aesthetics side to Philosophy and wrote my dissertation arguing the definition and value of it.
Dawn, 50x30x30c, £2,000
To what would you attribute the rise of interest in taxidermy over the recent years?
It’s hard to say, but it coincided with celebrities buying taxidermy artworks which focused a far larger audience than it had previously. That, plus the combination of a rise in Victorian era nostalgia. There seems to be a specific interest in Anthropomorphic taxidermy such as Walter Potter’s work. I’m personally not a huge fan of traditional work, I find it static.
How do you hope to develop your own practice in the upcoming year?
This year I’m focusing a lot more on the materials I use to mount my pieces. I’ve currently got an obsession with marble and cement. I like the Brutalist aspect of cement against something as fragile as glass. Adding an organic element bonds them together nicely.
Hebim, 25x25x25, £1,500
Harriet's first solo show is coming up in November at The Crypt Gallery in Kings Cross. Her new body of work aims to evolve and build on her current experemintation with lighting. If you are interested in Harriet's work, keep an eye out for more information about her show, and in the meantime have a look at her portfolio here.