"It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds."
-- Aesop, The Jay and the Peacock
For 100,000 years the Great Auk was prized for its eggs and feathers, co-existing with humans as a spiritual symbol and a source of food. European expansion dwindled its numbers until, in 1844, the last known pair of these flightless North Atlantic birds was hunted into extinction-not by gourmands or fashionistas, but by scientific collectors who wished to have them for their museum.
If only those misguided nature lovers could visit The Paper Conservatory, where the passenger pigeons appear to have just alighted after a refreshing flight, and the pitcher plants look as though they've grown straight through the gallery floor. No dangerous sea voyage was necessary in the collection of these specimens. In fact, they weren't collected at all, but created.
These examples of art imitating life are the work of professional sculptor Aimée Baldwin, who unites an artist's curiosity and a conservationist's urge in using crepe paper and other materials to create meticulous life-sized replicas of birds and plants, many of them endangered or extinct.
"Rather than art for Art's sake, I view my 'vegan taxidermy' as connecting people to the natural world," says Baldwin. "Concerns about habitat conservation and the effects of consumer culture motivate me to sculpt unique works emphasizing skilled craftsmanship and whose delicate quality and variety reflect the natural world."
"A Studio for the Imagination," Castle in the Air's shop and classroom have inspired local and visiting artists since 2001. Since its opening in 2009, the gallery in our upstairs loft has quite literally taken the inspiration to new heights and provided a venue to showcase current and historical works.
More information on Aimée Baldwin
and her Vegan Taxidermy can be found at