Gilding the Swan

The Golden Taxidermy of McKinley and Son

“I've fond memories of riding a life-size yeti with my brother and sister at the age of four,” says artist and taxidermist Joss McKinley––the man responsible for the bespoke, gold-dipped creations of McKinley and Son. The son of legendary taxidermy collector and dealer David McKinley, the junior McKinley has not surprisingly found inspiration in the family business. Out of vogue for much of the 20th century, taxidermy has made a roaring comeback in recent years—covering the walls of cult New York restaurant Freemans; peddled at hip London boutiques Kokon to Zai and Coco de Mer (where McKinley and Son’s range is sold); and regularly featured in the work of contemporary artists such as Charles Avery, Mark Dion and Polly Morgan. “Many more people now consider buying taxidermy for their house from a shop, whereas ten years ago you would only find it with private collectors, auctions or museums,” McKinley says. Taxidermy has its roots in luxury, first appearing in homes as trophies of the hunting classes, but its current appeal, McKinley says, lies in its beauty. McKinley and Son has taken this idea one extravagant step further by involving the jeweler Hannah Martin to gild parts of the birds with 18-carat gold. “I wanted to work with some sort of a jewel or expensive material to gloss the bird up,” McKinley says. “The first bird we did was a crow, and the gold beak contrasting against the black was great.”  He has his sights set on other, more unusual feathered creatures: “I’d love to work with pale birds next—possibly the snowy owl or snowy egret,” he muses.
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