Furniture for You and Your Little Dog Too

by Patrick LaDuke

The infamous Finnish furniture company Artek founded by Alvar Aalto, whose work is viewable at MoMA, has started a website for used furniture as part of a new environmental strategy. Artek 2nd Cycle and Vintage is a collection of their iconic furniture given a new life. Their goal is to raise the issue of conscious consuming whilst supporting their original and timeless design. They also manage to carry a few found pieces from other designers as well, such as Eames (make sure to read the details of any with upholstery in case they happen to be wool/leather).

Neroko is another Finnish design company, but for dogs. They produce sustainable design that doesn’t detract from your decor, but rather adds interesting minimalistic pieces to your interior. They offer wonderful alternatives such as wooden beds with changeable upholstery, ceramic drinking bowls, birch bowl stands, and even a natural jute dog toy! All of their products are transparently made in Finland.

Brackish is a furniture company based in Seattle. They use salvaged materials that they source from the Pacific Northwest. Each product is made to last, made to order, and produced locally. They will also do custom work.


Taxidermy in art

Alexis Bittar Staff with Frank J. Zitz taxidermy, image from

by Brad Silk

Nature Versus Man is a literary and visual art trope that continues to inspire artists. It is well traversed in written work, paintings, and sculpture, but it’s not always explored in a humane manner. The question is, does this end justify the means? Does the materials used in work ever discount the work and can man-made materials truly replace natural materials in this exploration? Animal byproducts have long been used in the of making art: Tempera paint used egg and most canvases were stretched with rabbit skin glue–not a cute euphemism, it is an adhesive made from the refined collagen of rabbit skin. Both of these materials have largely been replaced by synthetic counterparts, but continue to be used. They have some debatable positive and negative attributes that determine the quality of finish, but my focus is more on the philosophy and ethical use.

I have been vegan for half of my life, but I have been living in a society that defines masculinity by specific standards my entire life. I have been taught and have grown to love aspects of macho-manhood, though it often seems hypocritical to my ethical standards. One of these passions is taxidermy. My love of taxidermy began in art school, where we had an illustration library with bones, hides, and animals to study and reproduce in our scientific illustration studies. It brought up a lot of traumas of facing a failing grade or dissecting a frog in my earlier education, but I also had a strange fascination with these lifeless creatures. So, I stole them: Freeganism before Oprah talked about it, aka the rationalizing out of guilt. Beyond the joy of decorating with dead animals, I later began an interest in the actual study of taxidermy. Though I have never performed it, I have gathered found dead animals and bones to attempt the practice–a process inspired by the sculptures seen at Alexis Bittar stores around New York City. My MOZ loving, vegan baked good enthusiast friend, Alyssa, who worked at the store for a few years, informed me that the taxidermy was all “ethically sourced.” There were blog posts about it and official press releases by Bittar that stated the pieces were all ethically made, but nothing which defined what that meant. So I searched out the taxidermist, Frank J. Zitz & Co., Inc., and asked him directly. He promptly replied in an email, “…a lot of these skins came from animals that died from natural causes in zoos, or they come out of old collections. A lot of it is synthetic and cast.” It does not seem that all of Zitz work is created with these pieces, but many of them are. While I do not believe in the harvesting of skins or furs through murder, nor the industrial system of zoos, it could be debated that the acquisition and use of existing materials may be more environmentally sound than the creation of new materials, man-made or not. I believe it is always best to repurpose the old, rather than manufacture the new.

Head On by Cai Guo-Qiang

Many artists use materials as a function of expression, they work in the media that best depicts their conceptual intent. I love it. This allows artists to expand on their philosophy and create work that truly connects with the viewer. The down side is that many artist simply define their work as “mixed media.” While it might be annoying to read a list of materials longer than their artist statement, it does not allow for the archival and ethically conscious individual the information they need. Cai Guo-Qiang is one of the most dynamic artists of today, using explosives, florescent lights, cars, and basically anything he can to create the work he desires. Having only seen his work once in person, my memory is a bit hazy, but in remembering the textures of the fur used in his work is often matted and appears fake. Often they are even stated to be: the artist himself said that they are “realistically made, but they are completely fake.” Which is misleading as they are not real endangered tigers or a pack of taxidermy wolves, but they are made from sheep hide and sometimes real fur, painted and died
to resemble the replicated animal. When a material list is reduced to “Mixed Media” or “Life Size Replica” it creates the assumption that these are all faux furs or man-made materials. David Shrigley is another artist who uses whatever materials best represent his concept. His work is mainly sarcastic and blunt, but he is one of the only artist who work in dead-pan affirmations that are able to evoke a sincere reaction. His 2011 piece, I’m Dead, uses a taxidermic puppy which holds a sign reading, “I’m Dead.” There are earlier versions of the work which feature a taxidermy cat and dog, separately. I do not have information on where this puppy comes from or how the work came to be, but I appreciate the honesty in it’s materials. Would the work be less valuable or important when ethically made? What are the boundaries of ethics in the use of animals in art?
I'm Dead by David Shringle
Not all artists rely on natural skins and furs to create their work. I came across the haunting work of Erick Swenson at James Cohan Gallery of New York, which use all man-made materials to provoke empathy and sorrow of watching an animal in its last moments. His work seems to balance the turbulent line of the artist’s own childhood passion for taxidermy and scientific illustrations. Though his work is all man-made materials, it evokes as much, if not more a visceral reaction than any artwork that uses natural pelts. Another artist who uses man-made materials in their art is Lisa Dillin. Where Swenson’s work is often morose, Dillin is playful. Her piece Bear hug Sleeping Unit is made of all faux fur. Her piece is interactive, when inside the bears pouch you can hear the soft breathing a grunting of a docile animal, giving comfort and joy one might get from their own animal friends. These artists may not be using man-made materials to fulfill ethical decisions, but these works are evidence that the materials may not determine the value and response.

Untitled by Erik Swenson

These artists may not be using man-made materials to fulfill ethical decisions, but these works are evidence that the materials may not determine the value and response.

In both art and decoration, does the source of the material matter in it being ethical when there are realistic faux-furs and pelts being produced? The look and touch of a piece may severely alter the perception and damage its impact. Skins erode much faster and may prove more difficult to keep archival, yet we also live in a culture that allows leathers, fur, and skins to define luxury. Synthetic materials are inherently cold, they lack the warmth of natural fibers, which creates a distance between the viewer and the work. If there is not a visceral or emotional connection the intent might be lost, but at what cost. In researching the role of taxidermy in art, it became obvious that the materials are secondary to the artists intention and skill, which none of

Bear Hug Sleeping Unit by Lisa Dillin

these artists are lacking. Cai Guo-Qiang uses real hide and furs to create his work, which is no less intense and interesting than the man-made work of Erick Swenson. Lisa Dillin is able to make humorous and thoughtful work just like David Shringley, but without any natural skins. All four artists make wonderful work; the presentation is strong and the intensions are met, but the artists’ materials may alter the perception and value of these works.

There is no easy delineation of ethics in art, it is as complex as the art itself. Either way, we must all justify our choices and attempt to live our lives as humanely as possible… So, as it is in every other aspect of your life, the power is yours.

Victim versus Violence

by D. R. Hildebrand

Six years ago star quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to two years in jail for promoting, funding, and facilitating a dogfighting operation, then lying about the details of his involvement.  He served his sentence, paid his fine, participated in community service, and eventually returned to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now Vick has written an autobiography, Finally Free, with the hope of articulating his gratitude for second chances.  He was recently set to sign copies of the book at book stores but cancelled when “reported protests escalated into threats of violence” not only against Vick but his family, his publisher, and the retailers that were scheduled to host him.

Michael Vick Humane Society

(Photo: Raleigh News & Observer/Getty)

Debating Vick’s crime, his sentence, the degree to which he is remorseful and so on will likely continue for some time.  My own opinions about these issues have vacillated, even unexpectedly, the more I learn and the more I consider.  It is the bigger picture, though—the response to it all and the context of it all—that I find consistently, relentlessly baffling.

Vick’s crime was heinous.  No one I know disputes that.  The reaction that has surfaced from it, however, is the wrong one.  Our discussions are focused almost exclusively on the victims and not on the pathology of violence.  We are angered because they are dogs, not because we permit and perpetuate a vast culture of abuse.  These events would not, six years later, still sit at the fore of our thoughts had anyone been mistreating any other animal—including, even, humans. Continue reading “Victim versus Violence”

A John Bartlett Summer

• Summer tees and tanks for you and your pooch have been released by John Bartlett, featuring the iconic Tiny Tim logo, a three-legged dog rescued by JB who has a rescue fund in his memory where 10% of all profits directly go. Bright colors, neons, and Tiny Tim camo and Hawaiian prints bring the spirit of summer. Don’t shy away from a sexy swim brief!  Here’s some of my personal faves:


Hot Belts, Bartlett’s Rescue & The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

Elvis and Kresse SliderElvis and Kresse Double Card HolderElvis and Kresse Big YellowElvis and Kresse West End

• The Elvis & Kreese collection of recycled fire-hose tube accessories is now on sale at Bourgeois Boheme!

• John Bartlett, renowned designer and animal activist, will be hosting an animal adoption event at his 7th Ave Store. The North Shore Animal League is bringing their unit full of adoptable mutt-igrees as well as a couple of puppy mill rescues. I snapped the image above of Bartlett’s rescue pup Tiny Tim the last time I swung by his studio. Look at that face!

Saturday July 31st
Noon – 5pm
143 7th Avenue South
New York, NY 10014

Get your tickets now, and get up to the gorgeous Woodstock, NY! The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT) is the new project by Sean Lennon and his musical partner and girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl. Their first album “Acoustic Sessions” is due Oct. 26 and being released by Chimera Music. Listen to samples here. Opening for GOASTT will be an acoustic set from Undersea Poem, followed by Woodstock locals Jonathan Donahue (Mercury Rev) and Amy Helm (Levon Helm’s band and Ollabelle) performing as a duo called Love Is For The Birds. The concert will be held on an open lawn at the Sanctuary in Willow, NY, directions here.