Issue 38 Zoological

£11.95 GBP

January/February 2011

I, LIKE MORE THAN 80% of the population, have enjoyed the companionship of pets all my life. Two elegant and intelligent Blue Burmese cats for the last five years, who, apart from the unwanted gifts they occasionally bring in from the garden, are a joy to have around. Then, just over a year ago our family was invaded by a exuberant red-headed spaniel. She too is wonderful, despite chewing the rugs and destroying no less than four willow dog baskets!

Pets are useful in many ways and provide numerous health benefits – mental, emotional and physical. In return many of us indulge and idolise our animals. ‘Pampering’ can take the form of defenceless cats and dogs being squeezed into nylon rabbit costumes – misguided affection at best. At the other end of the scale are the beautiful pullovers modelled by our elegant canines, and photographed by Lon Van Keulen. If you want to find a treat for your dog, we’ve brought together a selection of the best in A dog’s life.

If there’s one thing animals offer in abundance it’s inspiration. Peter Clark’s stunning collages, capture the humour and individuality of animals, particularly dogs and he’s not alone. From Osborne and Muir’s knitted companions to Donna Wilson’s curious characters, it seems artists and designers are preoccupied by creatures – great, small and imaginary.

Prioritising our pets may be common in Western societies but other cultures offer animals different forms of respect, even worship. In Rajasthan, India the immense value of creatures such as the camel is signified by intricately braided regalia. Toni Meneguzzo's ‘Go Puja project’, documents another revered animal, the Hindu Sacred Cow. Colourfully adorned and isolated on a white background their grace and alien beauty comes to the forefront.

Strange and unusual forms of beauty continue as a theme in our article on taxidermy, in which the haunting work of Polly Morgan shares space with bizarre tableaux of card playing squirrels. Death is an unavoidable feature of taxidermy but also shadows many of the fashion world’s interactions with animals. Skins, pelts and hides come at a cost – even silk worms pay a high price. In this issue we highlight more harmonious practices – the gentle gathering of eider down, and the care of baby cashmere goats, – examples of peaceful coexistence that can be a model for us in the New Year. .

Polly Leonard

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