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The Green Life: The Art of "Vegan Taxidermy"

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May 09, 2012

The Art of "Vegan Taxidermy"

Heron sculpture by Aimée BaldwinAimée Baldwin's bird sculptures are as lifelike as the best models in a natural history museum. Yet they don't involve any loss of life or toxic preservatives.

Thus her name for them — "vegan taxidermy."

Baldwin, a 36-year-old sculptor in Berkeley, California, creates her stunningly detailed birds out of crepe paper, papier-mâché, and other low-tech art supplies.

Woodpeckers. Warblers. Great blue herons. . . . Every piece is one-of-a-kind. Baldwin spends from 10 to 80 hours on each one, depending on its size. 

Baldwin's love of nature began as a child. But she never applied it to her artistic work until about ten years ago, when a friend with an art supply store asked for help showing customers what they could create with a special line of heavy-duty German crepe paper.

The paper was traditionally used for paper flowers, and Baldwin started out making party favors.  But she was inevitably drawn to wildlife.

Burrowing owl  by Aimée Baldwin"I moved into birds because I like animals and creatures, and the paper works well for feathers," she said.

Baldwin builds her birds from a Styrofoam core, layered with papier-mâché. She adds wire for legs, "sculpting goo" for bills, and glass taxidermy eyes — the only part of the bird she doesn't make by hand.

Then she painstakingly paints and cuts the crepe paper for feathers.

But before all that, she studies her subjects. In photos, field guides and web sites.

And ideally, in the field.

"I'm definitely more inspired if I get out and see birds doing things," she said. "They don't sit still or let me get close. But I prefer to see live birds moving around. It says a lot about their personality."

Aimée Baldwin's work will be featured in a one-night show and silent auction in Berkeley, California, on Thursday May 10, to benefit Golden Gate Audubon Society. To attend the show or bid remotely in the auction, contact Lisa at [email protected]. Baldwin's birds can also be found at www.vegantaxidermy.com and on Etsy.

See more photos of Baldwin's work below.

Ilana DeBare, a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter, is Communications Director for Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Audubon chapter serving San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and adjacent areas.

--Images by Tue Nam Ton and Ilana DeBare

Acorn woodpecker by Aimée Baldwin

White nuthatch Aimée Baldwin

Wilsons warbler photo by debare



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