This interview is pretty amazing if I do say so myself. This week I got to talk to Diana Adelberg, the woman behind Absinthe Taxidermy, one of Atlanta’s most unusual prop vendors.
Absinthe, as the name implies, specializes in taxidermied animals, hides, horns, and other animal oddities. With items both for sale and for rent, Diana has provided creatures from birds to hamsters for movies, tv programming and commercials, both from a menagerie of stock pieces to custom-made items.
I had never even considered the logistics of using these types of props, so I couldn’t wait to hear what Diana had to say. Read on, and see if you don’t suddenly want a warthog wallmount for yourself.
First, because it’s such an unusual craft, how did you get into taxidermy? Does your company create the items or are they all collected from other vendors?
My background is visual display and I used to shop around looking for items that my customers requested or that I felt I needed to make the space complete. When the movie industry started picking up in Atlanta they found me and started asking me to find odd things such as taxidermy, oddities and curiosities. As the demand became more popular it was harder for me to locate so I decided to start my own taxidermy prop business. I have an awesome team of roadkill collectors, businesses that donate animal parts and a very talented team of taxidermists. We create and also purchase from estate sales, museums, collectors and other taxidermists.
How did you begin providing animal items for TV and Film production? Have you done any commercials (as opposed to TV or movies?)
It just started with a prop buyer asking me if I knew where to find a few deer heads and that was that. We have done tons of commercials. The squirrels, gray wolf and deer gets lots of commercial time. We just rented a ram to a national sneaker company.
We rent out to lots of music videos as well.
In November we will be renting to a wedding reception.
Do you work most closely with the Art Department to fulfill a request, or do you speak with the director to get an idea of his vision?
If its a big movie I never speak with the director. They have so many levels in the art department. I usually get involved once the prop buyer comes around. They usually meet with the art department and it trickles down to me.
What’s the biggest project – either number of pieces or size of one piece – that you’ve worked on?
We have had some really big ones. Last year a tv show that is now going on its 2nd season rented about 60 pieces. There was a café scene in the show called The Armadillo Café.. we sold them 15 armadillos.
What are some things people don’t think of when ordering an item like a taxidermy model? Storage, damage, handling, etc.
I like this question. There are laws that protect some animals so one thing is to know what the laws are before it is written into a scene. I won’t knowingly break the law. The DNR is on my speed dial.
The cost is very expensive. Most of the hides are roadkill so its just a few dollars to pay the person that found them but having them taxidermied is expensive. I explain the process and then my customers get it. Another thing is the turn around time. Its a process to remove the skin, tan it (let it dry) and then sew all the pieces back together around a form and make it look complete again. Depending on how many projects are ahead of you it could take 2 weeks to 2 months.
Taxidermy should be stored in a cooler climate and away from the sun. If you ever noticed a piece of taxidermy at an outdoor flea market you will see tons of cracks on the fur and the nose & face. We get tons of customers bringing in their taxidermy for repairs. As for handling we tell our customers not to grab by the antlers or the horns. Depends on the animal and we advise them the best way but we don’t know what happens once they leave us .
Thank you so much, Diana!