What was the process of working with them like?
It was a new experience because I’ve never done exoskeletons before. I de-assemble the prawn, and looked at every part of it, which is a very lengthy process: all the back legs (pleopods) are individually separated, the meat removed and then injected with a paint and silicone mix. I keep as much of the actual prawn as possible, including the amazing armoured shells they’ve got, which naturally mottle during the process which gives an incredible finish. An amazing discovery was recently made by Angelina Arora, a 15 year old girl from India, that the shells (a mix of sugar, protein and calcium) can be used as a biodegradable plastic substitute!
How does the practice change, when you are treating is as art? Are you treating them as characters?
No, I don’t ever see them as characters. It’s all about the aesthetics and structure because they’re mostly silhouetted, as the light will do that. I just want them to look powerful from a distance, then when you go in closer, you can see all the detail – they’re quite fascinating. But I think they’re really beautiful, and I love it when people say to me, ‘I don’t really like taxidermy, but I like your work.’ Then I feel like I’ve achieved what I initially set out to. I do really think that the prawn encapsulates the mission in my work.
How did the collaboration with Jackson come about?
While everything is ethical in my work with animals who have died naturally, obviously the prawns haven’t. So I wanted to do this full circle story where we actually eat the meat from the prawn, and because you can dismantle them easily in the kitchen, it’s actually very easy for me to do. Jackson is incredible, and I really admire his work and his cuisine. I reached out to him through the Sarabande Foundation, and he was on board straight away. He’s going to cook and I’m going to stuff the seafood in situ, so it’s quite mad. But it’s just a perfect example of how you can still do things and keep it as sustainable as possible.
It’s partly a visual comment on sustainability and food waste – are those topics you’re interested in?
Zero waste yes, sustainability, it’s a tricky one. I think that word gets thrown about quite a lot, and so it doesn’t have as much meaning. I think in the current climate, you have to be careful with what you have, and that’s something that I’m passionate about.
Can you give us a bit of an idea of what to expect in The Wine Bar?
I’m going to incorporate a few different animals into it. There’s going to be a colourful, weird deep sea vibe to it – the colours are pinks, oranges, and reds. There’ll be a lot of neon, so a hit to the senses. I’m excited about doing it. I’m going to fill it with all of my work. Fortnum’s was a perfect match, and the first place we thought of doing a collaboration. It has such a long history to it, and so does taxidermy, and it’s just a very theatrical place. When you think about the dinners they do and the food they sell, Fortnum’s is very elaborate, which is exactly what we wanted to do with our dinner. It just made perfect sense to do it at Fortnum’s, so I’m over the moon.
What has your experience of Sarabande been like?
Sarabande has been a year-long residence which I started last October. It was set up by Lee Alexander McQueen, and it’s for people who want to do something, but need help in some way. Trino [Verkade, Sarabande CEO, and one of McQueen’s first employees) has many years of experience, and can take on any project. Even for an idea like this which was initially very small, they just nurture you in the right way and move you in the direction you want to go in. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They are an incredible creative force.
What is it about McQueen’s work that you find inspiring?
His entire work was to make something incredibly dark incredibly beautiful, and that’s something that really resonates with me, especially with my work.