One of my latest taxidermy art pieces is titled 'Don't drop in' and it features a gilded mako shark head with its jaws wide open - both the name and content are directly linked to one of my lifelong passions, surfing.
A 'drop-in' is when a surfer takes off in front of someone else who's already up and riding the wave, and it is a 'red card' act in surfing worldwide. Why? Firstly it's dangerous because you could hurt someone (including yourself) or even kill them if board and bodies collide, also you've most likely ruined someone else's wave - so it really is frowned upon.
Surfers in many countries are entering the shark's natural environment when they paddle out to enjoy riding a few waves. Inevitably this brings the risk of shark attacks, which although incredibly rare, are reported with such hysteria that they have helped to demonise the shark (along with movies like 'Jaws').
The reality is you're much more likely to be injured or killed in the home, or in many other ways that might be perceived as mundane (cows, mosquitos, vending machines, coconuts!), not to mention cars and guns. One of the sad realities of modern life - it has been reported that more people died taking selfies than through shark attacks last year.
All of the animals I use in my taxidermy art are ethically sourced, I don't want nature to be exploited by taxidermy. Where possible I re-use antique taxidermy. In this case the complete shark head, with its skin, flesh, tongue and teeth, came from a fisherman who had caught it off the coast of Cyprus and had already sold its meat to local restaurants.
For 'Don't drop in' I have gilded the skull in 23.75 karat gold leaf, but left the jaws and teeth in their natural state. It's mounted on a steel rod set in an antique alabaster plinth and surrounded by antiqued mirror glass, with a bespoke wooden box and glass front (430w x 430h x 250d mm).
I hope this piece will help to raise awareness of the human impact on our precious marine life and the environment they live in. Without them, we are nothing.