The Ghostly Art of Crochetdermy

All images courtesy of Shauna Richardson

After reading this post you might feel caught like a deer in the headlights, so proceed with care as a bit of wool and lots of determination hardly ever produced such stunning results. We’re talking about the work of British artist Shauna Richardson, who crochets life-size models of rabbits, deer, foxes, bears, lions and primates, then, borrowing heavily from taxidermy, expertly stuffs and outfits them with claws, jaws and glass eyes. Once placed in real-life situations, the crocheted animals take on a life of their own…

The proverbial deer as a flyover trophy.

In an interview with online magazine DazedDigital in early February of this year, the artist explained how her obsession to find out what art is, followed by the acceptance of the theory that anything can be art, started the crochetdermy process:

“When I entered into art education I thought I would first get to the bottom of what art was, then study and practice it. …What followed was an obsessive three year attempt to find an answer to the question ‘what is art?’ … I began searching for different directions to push the anything can be art theory.”

Curious rabbit at the gas station.

Richardson, who always loved making things, was taught crocheting in junior school. Little did her teachers and she herself know then what groundbreaking work would follow from this traditional technique:

“Although I appreciate a well-crafted piece, traditional craft was as far removed from my work as it was possible to be. It slowly dawned on me that this was a way to push the theory. If anything can be art why not crochet? Realism? Highly accessible themes such as animals?”


The rabbit in its day job.

The animals’ life-like appearance is no doubt achieved by reproducing them life-size; however, the wool texture and pattern also come very close to representing actual fur. Each piece is handmade and takes months to realize; the brown bear for example took seven months.


Tell me this wasn’t a real bear at some point.

The Leicestershire-based artist explains her technique: “In an attempt to remove the pieces from the realms of soft and cuddly, I use coarse wool such as mohair mixes, reproduction claws, jaws and glass eyes. My crochet technique is freestyle, one colour, one stitch – the direction of the stitches highlighting anatomical features. All of the animals I make are life-size.”

Close-up of the deer.

Asked if she considers her crochetdermy to be art, Richardson answers with a smile: “Is it art? Happily, I never did find out what that was.”

For the next two years, Shauna Richardson will be really busy. She is one of 12 British artists chosen among more than 2,000 entries to represent the country in the 2012 Olympics in London. She will represent the East Midlands as part of the “Artists take the lead” Cultural Olympiad 2012.


Primate patrolling the shopping center parking lot at night.

Richardson is prepared to spend the next two years crocheting three 30 ft lion statues. She said in an interview about this project: “I’m really excited and really pleased. … The symbolism is taken from Richard the Lionheart and the material I’m using, wool, is representative of our cultural heritage.”

The lions will be on display in a mobile taxidermy-style case in Nottingham and people will be able to visit the studio or follow the creative process on a “Lionheart webcam.” Public participation workshops, spin-off exhibitions and a tour are also planned.

I am lion, hear me roar.

“For me Crochetdermy is a real personal challenge. It retains the ability to make me feel uncomfortable and I suspect that lack of comfort will continue to pique my curiosity and keep me creating these pieces for a long time to come,“ says the artist.

We sure hope so and will keep our eyes on Shauna Richardson’s open studio for now to follow progress on the Lionheart project. More information can be found on the artist’s website.