Lancaster's critters: Dead animals turned to art

Last updated 05:00 22/06/2011
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CREEPY CRITTER: Andrew Lancaster has been creating his hybrid creatures for two years.
CREEPY CRITTER: Andrew Lancaster has been creating his hybrid creatures for two years.

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Andrew Lancaster has taken the art of skinning, preserving and stuffing dead animals one step further.

A hen's head on a ferret's body, possum babies with bird wings, and a hare’s head on the body of a doll are just a few of the Tauranga man's taxidermic creations.

He sells them on Trade Me and has developed a small cult following.

“Some people call me sick and some think it’s pretty good.”

Lancaster has been creating his hybrid creatures for two years but started in taxidermy 14 years ago, after moving to New Zealand from England.

"I saw heaps of dead things on the side of the road and I thought it was a waste,” he said.

"When I’m driving along the road and see something I pull up and go back for it. There are probably a few people wondering what I’m doing.”

He’s collected birds, ferrets, pheasants, rats and even possum babies, which he has discovered inside of their mother’s pouch.

Lancaster says he puts the critters on top of the hot water cylinder to dry or in the freezer "under the ice cream and vegetables".

"They just go in the freezer until you feel like doing it. At the moment I haven’t got anything in the freezer but a chicken."

The softly spoken man said that he didn't like killing things and didn't hunt.

He works as a marina caretaker during the day and attends to his creatures in the evenings and on days off.

The larger animals are preserved in a curing solution. Lancaster uses water, salt and sulphites.

He makes his own body moulds out of wooden straw, wire and cotton “the old fashioned way”.

“You make an incision from the bottom of the chest, down between the legs and you have to literally just turn it inside out ... then when you put it back together it goes the other way,” he said.

“You have to get it right to look like the body that came out. I guess it’s just like putting a rag doll together.”

He has only kept one piece, a pheasant that he "picked up from the road one morning". 

"It looks pretty good, so I kept that one. My wife doesn’t like too many things around the house.”

Hans Kriek, director of animal rights group SAFE, said he didn't have a problem with Lancaster’s work as long as he wasn’t intentionally killing the animals in order to stuff them.

"From an animal rights perspective, once the animals are dead it’s not much of an issue. It makes no difference to the animals because they still get killed,” he said.

"On the scale of what’s happening to animals in New Zealand this doesn’t rate – it’s the living animals that are suffering.”

People may have more of an issue with the hybrid creatures if the subjects were human, Kriek said.

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