Since its launch in 2008, Reid Peppard’s unique line of bespoke taxidermy artworks and jewellery has taken the fashion world by storm featuring everywhere from the New York Times to Vogue. Having graduated from Central Saint Martins in Fine Art, Peppard went on to study under a master taxidermist in Yorkshire. Her subsequent collections combine traditional methods of taxidermy with modern elements resulting in a range of jewellery which perfectly tiptoes the fine line between art and utility.
What inspired you to start designing jewellery?
Two main things inspired me to start designing jewellery… the first one being that I loved the idea that someone could wear one of my sculptures (in minute form) every day. The second reason being that I’m infatuated with the idea that people can wear my designs and pass them on to loved ones when the time comes, so that even something as simple as my canary bone thin ring could be given new life and loved by (hopefully) generations of people. I’ve gotten so into this, that I’ve even started giving away the jewellery that I wear every day to my close friends and family. It’s so thrilling to know that one of my designs that I’ve worn every day for a year is now being worn by someone I love.
How did you learn your craft?
By the seat of my pants! Because I was trained in Fine Art I had to learn in the ins and out of the jewellery world through a lot of trial and error, and the occasional nod in the right directions from friends in the industry. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I count myself very fortunate in having been so well received in so little time. With the taxidermy I was lucky enough to learn the basics under a master taxidermist in Yorkshire. But it still takes a long time to hone your skills in such an elaborate craft… I’ve been working in taxidermy for about five years now, and I’m still learning every day.
What influences your designs?
The animals I work with are the primary inspiration behind my designs, but I also take quite a bit of inspiration from literature… John Irving, Salman Rushdie and T.S.Eliot are all big inspirations.
What drew you to taxidermy?
I’ve always appreciated the immediate visceral reaction that people tend to have towards a piece of taxidermy. What’s unusual about taxidermy is that it inhabits this bizarre grey area between reality and fiction. On the one hand it is “real”. A taxidermy rat, for example, is made partially from a dead rat, but on the other hand it’s really just a piece of leather wrapped around a foam or wood wool sculpture made to look like a “real” rat. I find this sort of grey area really fascinating, because people tend to react the same to a taxidermy rat as they would to a real one.
Do you ever receive negative reactions towards your work from animal rights activists?
Not as often as I initially expected. Thankfully most people who visit my website etc see that I do not hurt animals in my work. But then there’s always the occasional angry illiterate crazy who will rear his head from time to time.
What are your favourite parts of the anatomy to use and why?
I’ve always loved bones, but since moving into taxidermy, I’ve found myself more and more drawn to the softer tissues… tongues in particular are really incredible.
Can any part ever be too explicit?
I suppose it depends on who you ask… I don’t personally think so, because I view all anatomy as beautiful and relevant in it’s own way.
Can you describe the design making process?
My design process is entirely dependant on the animals I’m working on at the time. Sometimes I know straight away what it is I want to capture or use in my design, meanwhile, other pieces I won’t settle on until I’m in the skinning process. It’s all rather an organic process.
Tell us about your most recent collection.
The Pet Collection is very exciting in that it showcases a few “firsts” for me… it’s the first collection available plated in black gold (or in the case of the canary bone thin rings yellow gold, red gold, and black gold), as well as my first foray into the world of articulated jewellery (the canary skull necklace and bunny heart locket) and my first collection to incorporate stones (serpentine, lemon quartz and smokey quartz). The collection is based on the canary, cat and bunny. I’ve designed three pieces of jewellery that are either cast from or inspired by each animal. It’s a fun collection with lots of diverse pieces.
How would you describe your personal style and how does that manifest itself in your designs?
I have always been to attracted to simple clothing that lets the accessories shine. I rarely wear colour, but I have been known to sport some pretty outrageous accessories. Because of this, and because I wear a lot of jewellery every day I think my designs are very well suited to be worn everyday and with other designs. I think of hands as a space to be curated… like a gallery on your hands.
What’s your favourite piece of jewellery?
My great aunt Dee’s wedding band is a plain sterling silver band that I wear every day, and have done since I was about 12. She was a ghost writer in the old glory days of Hollywood, and was friends with the old film stars of her time like Ginger Rodgers and Lucille Ball. I love knowing that this seemingly simple silver band has seen and done so many interesting things.
Can you give us a hint as to what’s coming up next?
I have some exceptionally exciting collaborations coming up in September and January along with a few fun new additions to rpencore.com but that’s all I can say for now…
Tell us something we don’t know about taxidermy.
90% of taxidermy in the UK is made from roadkill.
What are you hungry for?
Some new stockists! We’ve built the web shop up to a great place, but I would love to add to my list of bricks and mortar stockists… and I know my customer base would appreciate that as well (figuring out sizing for your upper finger rings can be tricky!).
See more of RP/Encore’s latest collection on their website.