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Owl and Windsor taxidermy brings life to Gabrielle Whiteley's art

03/14/2015 03:00 EDT | Updated 05/14/2015 05:59 EDT
Gabrielle Whiteley, a taxidermist who transforms mice, rat, bird, and butterfly carcasses into whimsical works of art, says working with dead animals brings her art to life.

"It's not for everybody...but a lot of people have been more fascinated by my work. I think people are very intrigued," Whiteley told The Early Edition's Elaine Chau.

It's only been a year since Whiteley first tried her hand at taxidermy art, but already, she's selling her pieces professionally under the name Owl and Windsor, online, at various Vancouver markets and at her Eastside studio.

Whiteley loved art and biology in school, and found taxidermy in her pursuit of both those passions. As she collected more taxidermy, she started asking herself whether this could be something she can do.

"I've always been fascinated by biology and art, and I'm a massive animal lover. I just love being able to take an animal that is passed onto a second life."

After moving to Vancouver from London — she started doing it professionally.

She says all her specimens are ethically sourced, and nothing is ever killed for her work. She recently procured a small, dead field rat from a pet store, and is turning it into an art piece.

Taxidermy should be a clean process

Whiteley is used to people squirming at the thought of turning carcasses into art, but she believes there's nothing morbid about it.

The process is simple and clean, explained Whiteley, as she demonstrated on her latest ratty subject.

She starts at the top of the ribcage, and works her way down. There is a membrane protecting the organs, which prevents the procedure from becoming gory.

"It's actually a very clean process, if you don't cut further in. Usually, you don't want the organs pouring out."

Giving the animal a distinct personality

Whiteley likes to wait until the end of the taxidermy process to give the animal a distinct personality.

In this case, she plans to keep it simple.

"I'm probably going to pose him as a natural mount because he's quite beautiful....Probably a natural pose, on a rock with some moss."

See a piece similar to the one Whiteley was working on during this interview

To listen along as Gabrielle Whiteley skins a small rat - and hear reporter Elaine Chau's reaction - click on the audio labelled: Taxidermy Art

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