Polly Morgan, 32, uses taxidermy to create artworks and is a member of the Guild of Taxidermists. She showed her first works in 2004 at the restaurant Bistrotheque in east London, and has since exhibited alongside Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Banksy. Her works can command up to £100,000, and she has been collected by Charles Saatchi, Kate Moss and Courtney Love, among others. She is currently making works for a solo exhibition at the All Visual Arts in London in June. Morgan is in a relationship with the artist Mat Collishaw and lives and works in east London. She has two dogs, Trotsky and Tony (pollymorgan.co.uk).
Mornings I get up at 7.30am and take the dogs out soon afterwards. I am not a morning person so I don’t tend to bounce out of bed. Our walk takes us through Wick Woodland and along the River Lea. I arrive at the very top of Hackney Marshes, walk across and come back down the other side of the river. I only occasionally meet another person. When I get home I drink coffee, listen to Radio 4, make lists and then go down to the studio to work.
Starting out I got into taxidermy when I was 23 and living in Shoreditch above the Electricity Showrooms, the bar where I was the manager. I was looking to buy a piece for my flat, but what I found was too traditional and expensive, so a friend suggested I make it myself. I found an experienced taxidermist called George Jamieson in Scotland who was willing to teach me – we did a pigeon in one day, and I was hooked. I have done certain things now, mostly chicks and small birds, so many times that I could do them with my eyes shut. But I am not one of the world’s greatest taxidermists – there is always room for improvement.
Growing up I grew up in a village in the Cotswolds called Little Compton. My dad is an eccentric and was always starting businesses involving animals. Once, it was angora goats and he had a field of 200. The idea was to do something with their hair, but it didn’t take off. I remember being woken in the middle of the night and having to get in the car wearing my nightie and wellies to help herd goats back into the field after they’d escaped. Then he bought six ostriches when the BSE crisis happened because he thought ostrich meat was going to take off. My dad was the least surprised of my family when I started making my art.
Sourcing I have had to be proactive about sourcing things. To start with I didn’t know where to go for birds and I didn’t want to get into a situation where I was having things executed for me. I once went to a bird fair in Stafford where people were buying and selling live birds. I went around every stand and asked people to contact me if anything died, and said I would pay them for their dead birds. You have to be careful to offer less for dead birds in case anyone is tempted to kill.