Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Meet Becca — Pioneer, Visionary, and Environmentally-Friendly Taxidermist

Real Deal exclusive interview with Becca: a Pioneer, Visionary and Environmentally-Friendly Taxidermist. 

I first met Becca about a year or so ago, when we both attended a production of NORMAL THE MUSICAL in Charleston, SC.  Becca offered feedback that — to this day — has served as a catalyst for some new programs for our nonprofit (in particular, the stress-management and mindfulness programs that now go into schools and universities to accompany our eating disorders educational programs).  To say the least, this woman is a force.  Enjoy her exclusive interview below … and tell us how you would answer some of the questions!  (your responses could be featured in an article on Real Deal!!)  ~Robyn Hussa Farrell, Editor / Author, The Real Deal.


photo courtesy of Olivia Rae James

1.  Please tell us about yourself and what you do

I was born Mary Rebecca Barnet and affectionately referred to as “Mary Becca,” but around age 3 I looked my mom in the eye and said “I”M BECCA, JUST BECCA.” So I’ve been Becca ever since. I’m 25, and I’m first and foremost an artist, but I’m also an animal lover, natural history enthusiast, taxidermist, and preserver of all things I find worth holding on to. I started a small fabrication company, Sisal & Tow, a few months ago, but I’ve been doing this kind of work since graduating college in 2009. Sisal & Tow will make everything and anything custom: think window displays, restaurant interiors, installations for public spaces. We specialize in creating exhibits for museums, and habitats for animals at zoos and aquariums.

2.  How did you become interested in taxidermy?

I’ve been drawing and sculpting as long as I can remember. I would make habitats for my stuffed animals, and design new clothes for my dolls. I was always drawing or finding ways to create. When I finished high school, I attended the Rhode Island School of Design to study illustration. From there, I studied taxidermy, figured out I was passionate about re-creating wildlife, and became obsessed with preserving and trying to replicate nature.

3.  Who were/are the main 2 or 3 role models in your life?

The first role model that comes to mind is my mother. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, strong, and never lets anyone tell her what to do. I definitely got my stubborn streak from her and I wouldn’t be where I am without her strong female influence.

My other role model is Martha Maxwell. She was the first female taxidermist in the early 1900’s. Not much is known about her, other than that she did something that was considered “men only” and she did it well. 

4.  What do you define as beautiful?

To me, Nature is beauty. While I’m no hardcore camper, being outdoors and with nature is where I find the most peace. I most appreciate when objects are crafted with care and precision, and are environmentally friendly – especially when something is designed with nature in mind. I am always drawn to a natural look, be it makeup, (or no makeup!) hair, clothes, etc.

5.  How do you define inner beauty?

This is a tough one! I think it’s something that I really struggle with. Some days, I feel beautiful inside and out, and there are days I feel stressed and overwhelmed- which I feel brings out an ugliness in me.

I think that inner beauty radiates, so when you find peace, and take deep breaths, are confident that you are exactly where you need to be, and have patience… that is when inner beauty really shines.

6.  What is happiness?

For me, happiness is in the little things, like appreciating the way the light hits the window, or the way my dog’s fur changes color five time from root to tip. I am happiest when I take the time to notice the beautiful things in life, even if I have a mission, job, or project that is overwhelming.

I am also happiest when I am creating, even if I am messing up horribly, just experimenting, or doing really well on it.

7.  Would you be willing to take the Real Deal pledge? Real-Deal-Pledge

ABSOLUTELY! I took that pledge without knowing it a while ago. More on that later….

8.  An artist’s life can be stressful.  How do you manage your stress levels?  Do you use art as a coping tool?  Are there other things that you do to live mindfully?

I get stressed really easily. I do not say that lightly. I am the queen of stress. And this week is particularly stressful, so it’s a good time to answer this question! The thing I do most commonly is remind myself there is only so much you can do in one day. I remember to take one thing at a time, and try to remain present and not worry about the things I cannot control. To physically relieve stress, I love to go for a run. I am NOT good at running, I’ve never been athletic. But a while ago I said to myself that something is better than nothing, and getting my heart rate up feels great. Afterwards, I’ll come home totally relaxed.

It does become hard to use art as a stress-relieving technique if you do it for a living, but what I do is try to mix it up. If I’m stressed about a sculpture I have to make, I’ll try doing some blind contour drawings (look at what you are drawing but don’t look at your paper until the end).  Sometimes I’ll get something I have laying around the house and use it to inspire me to make something new. I look at a lot of National Geographic magazines for inspiration as well – then I’ll draw from those photos and I feel much better. The key is to remember that everyone can draw, and no drawing is good or bad.  Art is subjective. If you have a goal in mind for what you’d like to draw like, just envision it each time you practice and you will become closer to your goal with each attempt. Keep it fun and light, remember William Wegman’s drawings, they are my favorite when I feel like my art is bad: http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/images/interior13/9780300114447/12.jpg

Art is definitely a stress reliever for me!

9.  Are things that have helped you evolve a healthy body esteem thus far in your life?

When I was younger, maybe about 5th grade, I started to gain some weight. I was never obese, but at one point in high school I was at 190lbs and I’m only 5’6″. I had no education about calories or metabolism, and how to make healthy choices when it came to portions and quality of food.  I stopped drinking sodas every day and replaced it with water and unsweetened tea. I was a new woman at that point, and I felt really good. I am human, my weight fluctuates and I have good and bad days about how I feel about my self, but making smart choices about what you consume and how you burn energy can really make a huge difference. Around my sophomore year in college, I made it a goal to stay positive and healthy. So I guess that’s when I took the Real Deal pledge!

So how about YOU, readers? How would you answer any of the above questions?  Let us know in the comments below and your story may be featured on the Real Deal! — Real Deal Editor

Becca Barnet currently thrives in Charleston, SC, working under the fabrication studio Sisal & Tow. This spring, she is working on a new exhibit for the South Carolina Aquarium about how they care for their animals. Check out the latest issue of Garden & Gun Magazine for a little exposé.  Sisal & Tow will be setting up a new studio space this summer, so watch out for some new taxidermy pieces. Becca can be found on any day walking through beautiful downtown Charleston with her English Bull Terrier, Bruce, or having a healthy feast of local produce with her close friends. www.beccabar.net

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