I have always found taxidermy disconcerting but a new wave of artists and designers is turning my distaste into desire. This turnaround comes at a time when oversubscribed classes in London and New York are teaching taxidermy techniques to enthusiastic groups from a variety of creative disciplines. In fact, taxidermy has been enjoying an unexpected renaissance over the past few years, transforming it from a craft once associated with hunting trophies and macabre Victorian curios into a cutting-edge form of art.
Artists - many female - such as Polly Morgan, Kate Clark, Kelly McCallum and Lisa Black are creating incredible works and completely altering my preconception of what taxidermy can represent. Their work makes me consider issues associated with life and death, and the delicate nature and beauty of animals. There is a focus on honouring and celebrating the creatures used, which is far removed from the whimsical dioramas beloved of the Victorians.
Currently, I am obsessed by the lighting pieces of Alex Randall, whose work resonates with my love of the theatrical. Randall started incorporating taxidermy into her work in 2008 but admits: "I never expected the use of taxidermy to become as 'in vogue' as it has.
"I believe a large part of the reason taxidermy has become so popular is due to the backlash against minimalist interiors. Because of that there is a trend to rebel against flat-pack furniture and white walls and to create something richer and more textural."
Her first piece, Pigeon Pendants (pictured here), was initially created for a fashion retailer. "I was creating a light installation for the Ted Baker store to work with their London street-scene theme when I thought very quickly of using pigeons. I did a bit of investigation and discovered that these, among other animals and birds, are regularly culled or discarded after licensed shoots. They are wasted, which is such a shame," Randall explains.
Part of my previous reticence about taxidermy related to the mystery surrounding where the animals actually come from and how they came to die. But there are now strict laws controlling which animals can be used and Randall is passionate about sourcing animals ethically.
"Taxidermy is no longer wasteful or about the egotistical status of the hunter, but created out of a desire to not waste. As long as animals are not killed for the purpose of art or for sport, then they can and should be enjoyed as conservation and works of art in their own right."
Randall's lighting creations seem to have little to do with death at all, instead appearing to be full of life and dynamism, something she is consciously aiming to achieve. "All the animals I use are in motion; none of them are stagnant or sleeping, they are all actively engaged with the lamp. I do not wish to make them appear dead or for any sort of sorrow to be attached."
And, indeed, in Randall's hands the fusion of taxidermy and lighting creates awe-inspiring interior statements. "Lighting is the ultimate stage for truly beautiful products. It is something we use every single day, something that we need and something that we should cherish - not only for its usefulness but also for its inherent beauty," she says.
* Victoria Redshaw is the managing director of the trend forecasting company Scarlet Opus.
For more information, visit www.trendsblog.co.uk and www.scarletopus.com. To see more of Alex Randall's lighting, go to www.alexrandall.co.uk.