Polly Morgan interview
Taxidermy artist Polly Morgan tells us how it feels to be touted as the next big thing and explains why she doesn’t look to other artists for inspiration...
I was interested in taxidermy the first time I saw it which was probably age 11 or 12, but it didn’t occur to me that it was something I could do myself until I was 23. I found a taxidermist in Scotland who offered lessons and I went up for one day, which was all I could get off work. After that I went home and kept practicing in my flat.
I find it difficult to say what inspires me. A lot of influences are caught subliminally. The most abstract things can become inspiration. I’m not a believer in taking inspiration from other art. To me art is as inspiring as anything else. Friends tell me that if you go to art school you’re encouraged to reference other artists all the time. I don’t understand why that should be the case. Why shouldn’t you reference life more broadly?
When I first started out, my daily routine was very haphazard, but I’ve had to become more organised. More and more of my working time these days is spent organising my finances, replying to emails, or doing press. You can spend about 80 per cent of your time doing that and 20 per cent actually making art. You do need to be a business person to some degree. I enjoy that side of things – I like the control it gives me over my work.
I have to be proactive to find the animals. When I was starting out I called around several pet shops and vets and asked them to keep any animals they would otherwise just throw in the bin. I recently found out about an aviary bird show so I went around every single stand giving out my number. I only offer a few quid per bird – I always make sure I don’t offer more money than the bird is worth alive. It can take a long time to find the animals I need. I usually come up with the idea first so I have to go out and find the animals I want. Sometimes if I’m lucky I’ll have them in my freezer already. Sometimes I never find them and I have to change my plans.
The first piece I sold went for £2,200. I remember thinking that was an incredible amount of money, yet the guy who sold it said it could have gone for 10 times that. I had to shift my thinking around prices. As the artist, you look at a piece of work that you’ve made and you see the cost of the materials – the intrinsic worth – but there’s a big difference between that and its worth as a piece of art.
Preparing for the Haunch of Venison show was exciting. It was hard work – I spent three months working 12- to 14-hour days. The first part of the process was looking at the space and working out what would fit. I realised that a lot of my smaller work would get lost in a space like that. I got the measurements of the room and went to a computer modeller who rendered the space in 3D. That was a big help – I recommend that to anyone.
The first few times I read positive things about my work, I was really excited, but the more it happens the more detached you become from it. In some ways it made me nervous. I felt like maybe I was being set up for a fall. I can’t complain – it’s nice to be written about at all. So many people work so hard but they don’t have the audience to look at their work. I don’t think I would enjoy my work so much if I didn’t know if it was going to be seen.
Polly Morgan was speaking to Katie Jackson.
For more information, visit Polly’s website.