On Friday night, at book group at my house, Elaine, one of my friends started giggling in the corner. We had read Mr Jamrach’s Menagerie, which was full of Victorian sounds and smells; tales of shipwrecks and East End of London poverty, and (surprisingly) a menagerie!
It brought back Elaine’s memories of being taken to see ‘Mr Potter's Museum of Curiosities’ as a child, a surprising family outing given that her parents were intelligent Quakers – I would have thought not the profile of the normal visitors.
The collection of over 6000 stuffed animals was created by Mr Potter, a self-taught 19th century taxidermist. The animals are dressed and staged in various situations; cats at a wedding, squirrels playing cards or mice drinking tea. The collection was broken up on being sold at auction in 2003, many of the pieces being sold to various celebrities and artists, though it has recently been exhibited together.
The Telegraph printed quite a good piece about it a few years ago, with some great images. Click here to view.
The fun of seeing these bizarre stuffed animals brought to mind my good friend Lisa, who paints quirky (but fun imo) animal portraits, where the animals are dressed for the occasion. I have a copy of a very well dressed mouse in what seems to be a Victorian undertaker’s outfit – or maybe a solicitor from a Dickens novel! The grey squirrel that visits her NYC apartment windows feature quite often too, as does Bingo her dog. Lisa’s website is www.lisazador.com if you are into such curious things.
Maybe seeing Mr Potter’s animals once triggered a whole thought process for Lisa, which has become one of her trademark style, or maybe it was something totally different. I often wonder what starts a thought process, which ends up as a mosaic or painting. In my case, it is sometimes the most random of things, which kick around my head until “ping” it becomes a mosaic idea. Then it has to wait a few weeks until I get to execute it. Very rarely do I it put it to paper, and even more rarely do I draw out the design first before applying the tesserae. But to bring all these ideas together, I have finally started a Pinterest board… another thing to play around with on my iphone!