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Avifauna: Studio Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters

by Thomas Eyck

I am intrigued by the dynamic interchange between design, technique, and material. A good example of this relationship is the work of Dutch designers Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters, whose projects balance nature and culture, emphasizing the beauty of both worlds.

With Avifauna, Kolk and Kusters have invented a playful form of taxidermy, resulting in a series of conserved birds that replaces feathers with molded textiles. Starting with the skeletons of various specimens (all have died of natural causes), the designers reconstituted the form of each bird with a man-made material, using the outer textile layer to reflect the character of the species: a wood owl is cloaked in thick, brown wool felt; painted linen defines the elegant gray heron; a seagull is somehow appropriately wrapped in disposable polyfoam. The birds remain intact, each having been given personalized coats—a second skin as well as a second life. I think that if a bird could dress itself, it would wear these garments.

Thomas Eyck is a Dutch curator and producer of designed objects.

Images: Courtesy of Studio Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters.

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