A TAIL OF TAXIDERMY ‘Til death do us art

In the average FRINGE WORLD performance, stuffed animals are usually part of the set design, not the main event. But local taxidermy artist Hayley Walker is posed to change all that! From humble beginnings as a pet refuge worker and vet nurse, and fueled by a DIY attitude, she has reincarnated her passion for living animals under the name Death & Delicacy, bringing Perth’s cherished pets back to life. X-Press’ resident taxidermist, Q, spoke to Walker about her upcoming show A Tail of Taxidermy, exclusive to Wolf Lane from January 29 to 31. 

It is certainly a unique format for a Fringe show! As a former taxidermist myself and animal lover your show really appeals to me, and I’m sure it will ruffle the feathers of the curious. What can the audience expect from a show like this? 

A bit of general history and my story. A live demo and a Q&A session, surrounded by a small showcase of works. And it’s accessible! Wheelchair access and an Auslan interpreter!

Will we see any live taxidermy or is there a hands-on element?

There is a live element, to satisfy those who are very interested and to show that it’s not nearly as gruesome as many people think.

Have you presented this show before or is this a premier for Perth? And any plans to take it on the road? 

This is the first time I have presented this show, a bit of an introduction for myself and my work to the wider Perth community. I would love to travel with the show and have had requests to do so already, which is absolutely heartwarming and amazing! There are some cogs working to make this happen.

On a personal level, what got you interested in taxidermy as a career?

When I started working with taxidermy I never imagined it would become a bit of a career path for me. I just wanted to share the work, which was challenging, interesting and made my heart sing, and I’ve had more positivity from people than I’d imagined too. I just wanted to sell a piece, and then that became two, and so on. My friends wanted to learn, so I started workshops and they have been well received and have really taken on a life of their own. I work on a commission basis for some works and now include pets too. I’m constantly learning and upskilling and am happy to share what I know with the people who want to learn, which is such a wonderful privilege. So many of my clients have become good friends, it’s like a little community. It’s not all taxidermy either, there’s always a lot of laughs, too much food, group problem solving and the odd glass of bubbles.

When I told people I did taxidermy, I remember getting all sorts of weird ideas from people about what to do with their pets. Without giving any spoilers away for your show, what are some of the weirder requests you’ve had from pet owners or customers?

I haven’t really had strange requests from pet owners, I believe they are usually wanting to create a work that reflects their love of their pet and nothing about that is strange, more often than not it helps them in their grieving process, and there is a lot of communication between us. The strangest requests have always been ones that have made me check back in with my personal ethics and reform my ideas on different aspects of my work. The fox tail buttplug was a hard no for various reasons, I directed them to the fake ones available on eBay.

Are there any particular species you’d love to get your hands on to prepare?

Every new animal provides a new challenge and learning opportunity. I have some cool creatures chilling in the freezer that I’ll be working on for an exhibition later in the year, and the opportunity to work on larger animals is definitely welcome. If I had to choose though, a capybara would be super cool, though my cats and dogs would protest if I were giving it too many pats.

If people are interested in learning taxidermy, do you offer workshops or training?

I absolutely do offer beginner group and private workshops in a number of small creatures, and am also happy to work with people on larger works from there. There are other workshops like Bones & Flowers, Butterfly Pinning and Jackalopes which are less about taxidermy and all about trying new materials and just seeing where your imagination takes you. There’ll be some more new options this year which will have more of an educational aspect too.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get into the industry?

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to follow state and international laws. And contact me!