DOGFRIENDS: Julia deVille — Four&Sons

DOGFRIENDS: Julia deVille

We meet the jeweller and taxidermist whose work explores life’s big questions.


DOGFRIENDS: Julia deVille

It is no surprise Nick Cave is Julia deVille’s idol. They share a poetic, dark, romantic sensibility towards life and beauty which makes their work timeless. Both artists also come across as people who have already lived many lives.

Julia deVille is a jeweller and a taxidermist whose work explores life’s big questions: mortality, spirituality, nature, history. ‘I see life and death as a cycle, separated just by a point in time. I believe the energy carries on. My work celebrates the preciousness of life and the power of each and every life’. ‘Inspiration from nature and animals is the sole focus of my aesthetic’, she adds.

Julia’s pieces combine silversmithing techniques with taxidermy. On her latest exhibition, Night’s Plutonian Shore, she moved away from jewellery to create sculptural pieces – a golden gosling, kittens, a stillborn fawn – which allowed her more scope for exploration. Julia also hints to the fact we could expect bigger pieces in the future.

Being an animal-rights activist (and a vegetarian) adds a new dimensions to Julia deVille’s point of view. She is extremely respectful of the way animals are represented and only works with found or donated animals which have died of natural causes, something she is quick to clarify for the benefit of those with misconceptions about her line of work. The comeback of taxidermy in recent years (helped by some patrons with celebrity status), has altered slightly the general public’s perception, making it a more accepted medium. ‘Taxidermy boomed in the Victorian times, it was about preserving nature and history. It used to be an strange pursuit but now is very fashionable. We have slowly become desensitised to symbols of mortality, like skulls. Taxidermy will have longevity for people who really appreciate it, it has been part of my work for ten years so I don’t see it as a trend for myself.’

The first animal deVille preserved, a starling, is still perched on her studio studio/home (a wonderful cabinet-of-curiosities) in Melbourne, where she lives with her husband (to whom she married to a Nick Cave song) and their two chinese crested dogs – Chilli and Scout, who are totally unfazed in this unusual environment. Despite being related, Chilli and Scout are total opposites. Chilli is the delicate, anxious, sweet and strange counterbalance to the boisterous, extroverted, crazy and fun Scout. Julia is certain she will preserve them both, although it could prove a bit of a challenge: ‘They are the dearest animals to me, so I am not sure how I would deal with it, you never quite know how you would react’. When you hear Julia talking about her pieces, it is clear how profound and personal her art is: ‘The work of the taxidermist is to give life back’.

A book that influenced you? ‘The Wasp Factory’ by Iain Banks. A flower? Black lily. A plant? Fig tree. Trick or treat? Treat. Dawn or dusk? Dawn. Love or lust? Love. Beauty or beast? Both, they are the same to me. Hide or seek? Seek. Brains or brawn? Brains. Safe or sorry? Safe. Fact or fiction? Fiction based on fact.

Images courtesy of Julia deVille and James Geer
Images by James Geer and Luzena Adam


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