I love taxidermy – from the brilliantly executed to the very poorly done, it is something that I very much appreciate. I don’t particularly like the thought of animals being killed with the specific purpose of being stuffed, and on the whole this is a thing of a bygone era, but I am a big fan of commemorating animals which have lived their natural life cycle. I have my own ever growing collection of taxidermy both vintage and ethically sourced, which is why I feel incredibly honoured to have got a few moments of time from Adele Morse to answer my questions.
Morse is an amazingly creative taxidermist, artist and meme originator, and I have been super lucky to see some of her work live in the Crypt Gallery in London, alongside the work of Mothmeister.
Some of the photography used in this article is my own, simply because the setting was so perfect. Before I talk about this amazing lady’s work, lets hear from her…
I think most people know you for your Stoned Fox, but don’t realise how he came about. I know you
did this during your second year of your fine art course, but what made you make him?
I had this idea that I wanted to make a fox that looked like a kid in a really realistic fox Halloween costume. I got this fox that was described as too far gone for Taxidermy. So I decided to combine the idea with taxidermy. He ended up really far from my original idea and kind of took on a life of his own.
I have been really lucky to personally witness some of your extraordinary work while at a Mothmeister exhibition, and I love how you give a different personality to each of your pieces. Where does your inspiration come from and who inspires you?
The animals inspire me. I love all the weird photos of animals looking like a human. I think when we can see ourselves in other species we appreciate the animal more. There are thousands of taxidermy foxes in the world but people tend to look at them as one object and not as an individual.
This is because a lot of taxidermists use shop bought pre made form so most are in a specific pose etc.
I like to make my own forms to fit perfectly inside each animal but in a different more human shape. It’s still the same fox skin not cut or altered in anyway but people seem to connect/ relate on a different level when you change the shape. In the beginnings of Taxidermy a lot of museum
taxidermists would get sent the skin salted and have no idea what the animal itself looked like so they would literally stuff it full. One of the most famous examples is a walrus at the Horniman. They have a lot of excess skin so they have lots of folds in their skin. The taxidermist had no idea about
this so just filled him up like a balloon. I love that museum exhibited dinosaur bones as the bones of Giants etc. We have made so many advances in science but I like to nod to the idea that what seems cutting edge now might have people laughing in 100 years. Loads of people who didn’t like my work would send me photos of a fox as though I hadn’t seen one and was going for the natural look. Always makes me smile.
Frog Club is such a joy! Why did you start Frog Club, and do you think you will move into making other resin water-based animals?
It’s funny because during the pandemic all my commissions stopped and I really didn’t know what to do about it. I figured I would make something just for myself to boost my moral. I decided to make the smallest frog I could. I make the frog with clay and then decided to make a mould to use up
leftover silicone. At that point I shared what I was doing on my instagram story and people started to ask when they would be for sale. I didn’t plan to make them for anyone else but I decided to make a 10 frog mould. That led to the first 100 frogs. It seemed selfish to keep them all so I put them in my
shop. I didn’t expect the response at all. A lot more people wanted one so I set up Frog club group chats as a way of doing giveaways. They turned into these little pandemic support groups for people.
I get all emotional when I think about what its become. When my cat got sick before I could even say the anything the members of frog club made and fully funded a gofund me without me knowing to help with the vets bills. It was such a pure and amazing thing. I guess in a world full of so much division frog club is a place where everyone supports each other blindly based on a pure love of these silly little frogs. When someone is having a bad day or is nervous about something people will rally
around. There’s days where everyone posts their pet photos etc. it’s so wholesome. There’s never been one argument. So now I am starting my next batch of frogs with a natural history theme. I loved collecting things as
a kid and I definitely am bringing that into frog club. Collect all the species and eventually I would love to make little display stands or ponds for them.
I am aware that you have a leach as a pet… Why?
Well this is a bit silly but I remember watching “Speed 2: Cruise Control” and the villain in the film Willem Dafoe has 20 leeches that he was using to clean his blood and keep him alive. I remember being amazed by the idea and started researching into them. This is when I was a teenager. I thought
maybe I could set up a leech farm but as a vegetarian I didn’t like that the leech farms euthanise them in the medical field. So I put my dreams of having a leech to one side. Then I went to the jungle on an expedition and there were thousands of leeches. I was the only one in our 18 man crew that
quite liked them. They are really fascinating to me and I was sad I couldn’t smuggle one home with me. Half way through lockdown I saw a prop maker ask if anyone wanted a leech. Saying they got him for a film 2 years ago but that he had never eaten because nobody was brave enough to let him
bite them. So I took him in and gave him his first feed and made a nice tank. One of the best things I ever did. So much personality. Watching a little leech dance all day when I’m working and knowing the last years of his life will be his best makes me happy.
You use social media to convey your work in such a positive and constructive way, helping others understand the minefield that is art copyright and ownership, which is quite a different approach from a lot of other artists I see – what made you decide to be so open about the way in which you work?
To be totally honest I am only now starting to realise that I am doing something different. I just think of it as I’m making videos for my invisible best friend. Showing what I’m up to throughout the day, Not putting a polish on anything. I just share what’s important to me or what makes me happy etc. If I stop to think about the fact that almost 30k people can see it I panic a bit because it’s really me, in my messy workspace making my weird animals. I didn’t have social media until a couple of years ago because I see how different people are on social media vs real life and I didn’t like it. Then I realised as long as I can handle people judging me then I can do it however I want. I speak to other artists sometimes who say “you’re so brave speaking in your stories, I did that once and lost 1000 followers” That is so insane to me and made me want to go the other way. I speak and show mistakes and myself and the realities of things so that doing those things doesn’t become some terrifying thing. I don’t want people to have a false idea of me in their head to the point where hearing my voice makes them dislike my work. Not sure my way is the best way but I couldn’t do it any other way. – I do sometimes worry though that people think this is me putting on some polished version of myself and the reality is even more of a mess!
What is your most treasured piece of work and why?
It’s a toss up between Billy the Goat I made and my Original Fox. Both of them seemed to have some magic about them that sparked a lot of crazy stuff happening that is so surreal you can’t beat it.
Finally, what exciting things do you have coming up in the future?
I have a couple of fox commissions to do, a Playgirl Burt Reynolds Squirrel, some odd body Furbies, more NFTs, some new designs for different things and a lot more frogs.
This is a woman with drive, and I am in total admiration for her. Not only is she a fantastic artist, but she is also a great advocate for the art community generally, and gives out incredibly helpful information which can be a minefield for people starting out.
I am in awe of a lot of Morse’s work, and I feel like I could talk about how brilliant they all are, but one I am always drawn to is “Big Racc”.
Morse introduces “Big Racc” as:-
Tall boy raccoon who left the gritty New York streets and his days of eating trash behind when he became an international superstar rapper Big Racc. Complete with trap phone, tailored and hand made cameo jacket with leather detailing. His death row records chain, 3 watches for the 3 time zones his ladies are in, a chunky gold Cuban link chain and bracelet, star ring, bandana, sunglasses and toothpick. He is currently residing down under in Australia after his friend was brutally eaten by a dog, he decided to take some time out and write his next album.
What I love about Morse’s work is the personality that shines through it. It is a little slice of how absurd life can be. It brings the animals she works with into a human environment, which feels so normal when you look at each piece.
This raccoon is a far stretch from the trash pandas we associate with, and rather can see him as a rapper wide boy, with a chain of women and an “edgy” lifestyle. There is such a skill needed to come up with ideas such as this, let alone being able to execute them successfully, I am sure we have all seen the atrocious attempts of taxidermy where a mouse has been trussed up in a tiny corset, but Morse’s work is so beyond that.
Morse looks to respect each animal she uses, and not only gives them a new lease of life, but helps them shine their personality out for the world to see. None of the animals she uses are killed for the specific purpose of her art, they are usually donated, or friends/family/fans hand over their pets or animals that have died a natural death so that Morse can make them eternally beautiful.
If you don’t already follow Morse on any social media – I would highly recommend following her on instagram @adelemorse – here you can follow her stories which incorporate how to deal with art plagiarism, how the making of frogs are going and what animal she has recently rescued to give it a nice end to its life.
You can also see her back catalogue of work, or buy some of her amazing creations here.
What do you think of Adele Morse’s art? Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?
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