Dead felines may hang on the wall but you can't swing a cat in Dale Copeland's studio.
Her art room is brimming with trinkets and treasures, and there are quirky tales of how she came about the skulls and skeletons hidden in the nooks and crannies.
Every single space is covered with oddments including bits of lace, the innards of clocks and the remnants of snake skins.
The cobwebs on the ceiling are so old they hang heavy and dark with the weight of collected dust, but to Copeland this is heaven on earth.
The room housing her trove of imminent art is her favourite place in Taranaki.
Space is tight and you can barely make your way into the room, let alone through it, so it's easy to see how she could lose herself in her studio.
The artist, a pillar of the Taranaki art scene, says there's never enough time for her to be in her studio as much as she would like.
"This is the best place in the world. It really is.
"It's filled with things people have given me - like dead rats and old dolls. I just love it," she says.
"I seldom use the dead things for my creations, but it's nice to have them here if you need them, and they are so beautiful."
Although she's happy with her studio the way it is, she's preparing to tidy it - just a bit.
"I don't do housework. It seems like such a waste of time.
"But we have the Taranaki Arts Trail next year so people need to be able to get in here and walk through it."
Her studio is connected to her house, which is tucked away in an area of bush 5km past Okato.
Her partner, artist Paul Hutchinson, has a large studio in the yard and the old Inglewood Scout hall has been turned into a den of creativity and paint.
A few minutes down the road is a beach Copeland says is hardly touched by humans.
"Oh, it's lovely. Life really is fun when you have time to play."
Copeland, a former teacher, says there is nowhere she would rather be this holiday season.
"What, you expect me to want to go to Auckland or Wellington and be stuck in traffic?
"Oh no, thank you. I'll be here with my treasures."
- Taranaki Daily News
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