Friday, February 11, 2011

Interview with a Taxidermist!

Me: So, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I have to say, when I think of taxidermy and women - well, I guess I just don't.
Me: But if I did think of taxidermy and women - I would have expected you to be some po-faced goth. You're absolutely not,  - but - tell me - do you worship the devil?

Beth: I worship at the altar of good fortune.  Taxidermy has traditionally been a male-dominated craft (however behind every successful taxidermist I'd bet my salt you could find a nimble-fingered wife scraping fat and stitching up rugs) but times have certainly changed.  That couldn't be more evident than in the alterna-taxidermy scene where  women like Sarina Brewer dominate.  But no – no devil worshiping.

Me: I didn't really think you did. But I'm still not removing this cross.

Beth: Suit yourself.  Just don't let me catch you wearing Uggs. 

Me: Too late! You went to school in the Poconos - was it like the movie Deliverance?  Were you afraid for your life?

Beth: I was living in a mountain house which belonged to my two friends Warren and RJ (it's actually been featured in Elle Decor  and Shelter Pop ).   The property was an old pig farm and I had plenty of land to roam around as well as an empty farmhouse where I could rehearse my aerial dance routines (I’m a trained aerialist as well as a State- and Federally-licensed taxidermist). 

Beth:  I think I can safely say it was nothing like Deliverance (although I've never actually seen that movie) - but  I did develop a real soft spot for contemporary country music.  As for the people, I found the kindness of strangers permeating every facet of everyday life there.  I felt completely safe and at ease.  Nighttime could be a different story, however – when you're completely alone, living in the mountains and you hear coyotes just outside, it can be slightly unnerving.

Me: You were brave! I think that some people would believe that taxidermy is a sick hobby about dead animals. But I know that you have two living cats at home and that you love them. Why taxidermy?
Photo by James Coughlin

Beth: I love animals and believe that their beauty should be preserved. My cats mean the world to me; I've always had pets and spent many hours of my life watching them, mostly in awe.  By working with animals I have a deeper appreciation for how they're formed, what makes them tick, how they move and all the wonderful little nuances nature has installed into them which makes each creature so unique and awe-inspiring.  Through my craft I also enjoy a greater sense of responsibility when it comes to eating meat and wearing animal by-products. I use nearly every single part of the animal, either to feed myself or my pets. And one standard I always uphold is to source every specimen humanely and ethically. While this does make obtaining specimen a bit harder, I have a clear conscience when I do create a piece. When you meet your meat, so to speak, waste is not an option.

Me: I've seen your work - and it is incredible. Do animal rights activists ever hassle you?

Beth: Not that I care to acknowledge.  I wrote a lengthy blog entry about my philosophy in regard to my work and the reactions of others.

Me:  Lastly, do you think that by posing animals with jewelry and outfits that you are actually enriching their afterlife? Do you think animals have an afterlife?
Photo by James Coughlin

Beth: I have no idea if any of us have an afterlife.  I just recently read about the mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu and found it touching that the monks who are able to reach a state of pure mummyism achieve idol status and their remains are tended to and watched over by devotees for eternity.  I wondered if this was for the monks themselves or more for the caretakers, and I'm at a loss.   If animals do have an afterlife, I can't imagine they'd care that much what has been done with their bodies.  I suppose it's my way of idolizing them for eternity, as a postmortem care taker.

Me: Thank you for your time!

  • Check out Beth Beverly's website and blog
  • Think a little more carefully the next time you see something dead on the sidewalk. One man's roadkill could be another man's art.

  • Think you can tell someone's occupation just by looking at them. Taxidermists look just like you and me. They're among us!
  • Have a gift for Valentine's day? One of Beth Beverly's unique pieces would be an incredible gift!

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