With her dove hats, snake revolvers, squirrel sandals and hoof shoes, German artist Iris Schieferstein creates sculptures that, apart from taxidermy, transcend into the realm of fashion. What’s unique is that the trained sculptor does not work with fairly unrecognizable animal products like skin or fur but uses whole animals or very recognizable parts of them – in what she calls her “hommage to life”.
For Berlin Fashion Week, which takes place from 15th to 20th January 2013, Iris Schieferstein will present new works at Gallery Epicentro (from 1st January in Berlin’s epicenter Mitte at Joachimstr. 5) together with colleague HP Adamski. In an inspiring interview, the artist spoke with Fashion United about her work and Berlin Fashion Week.
Fashion United: Iris, you will present new works as part of Fashion Week Berlin – what can we look forward to?
Iris Schieferstein: I definitely want to do one new pair of shoes, maybe more. But the work processes take very long. The manner of presentation will also be different than usual.
So far, you have created hoof shoes and dove shoes. Shoes seem to be a recurring theme. Do you have a fascination for this item?
Shoes are wonderful accessories. And I am a woman and a shoe fetishist. Also, as the saying goes ‘look at someone’s shoes and you know what kind of person he is’. But apart from shoes, I also love hats and umbrellas.
In the future, can we expect more fashion items by Iris Schieferstein?
I rather see myself as a crossover artist. After all, I am a sculptor at heart. But it is fascinating to make wearable art. A second skin so to speak. That’s my take on it rather than making only fashion, that’s not my genre. Of course, I like to browse around; after all, fashion keeps turning to art for inspiration. I often use advertising as a cross reference as well.
Clearly, the world of fashion has been inspired by Iris Schieferstein – last spring, Prada copied her revolver heels and Alexander McQueen presented shoes inspired by her famous hoof shoes shortly before his death.
Did your fashion creations help you get recognized in Germany?
That is just happening now. For some reason, I’ve gotten more coverage for my work abroad than in Germany. The British, for example, loved my artworks from the start. And when I went to New York for four weeks a few years ago, I found a gallery immediately. That’s like winning the lottery.
Lady Gaga is known to have her very own influence on fashion (see the Dutch FashionUnited article Lady Gaga publicizes Dutch designers). She was so smitten with the hoof shoes that she tried to order a pair from Iris Schieferstein not only once but twice. Contrary to popular rumours though, she never actually wore them.
The music artist saw the hoof shoes at an exhibition in New York in 2006 or 2007 and wanted to wear them in a music video. They were sent to her but turned out to be too small. She then got the right size for the music awards in 2010, but they were held back in customs. Third time's a charm? Maybe.
It must be said that all the animals used by Iris Schieferstein were already dead and were not killed for her art. Many died of natural causes like pets or zoo animals, others came from the local butcher like the hoofs for the hoof shoes. Instead of dying an anonymous death, Iris Schieferstein gives them a much needed voice post mortem. To speak against our consumer society, for example, that has no qualms with leather shoes, fish sticks or ham sausage with a smiley face (the height of cynicism for Iris Schieferstein) but often has a bone to pick with her sculptures.
However, it is consumerism and not art that causes millions of animals to be tortured and kept in spaces that are far too small for them. Art is but a mirror that society often doesn’t want to look at in this context.
Regardless whether one enjoys Iris Schieferstein’s creations or not, they provide food for thought. And that is intentional. “Im a big fan of artists that make people think in a very subtle way. Those who include the viewers and force them to think about context. This leads to more questions,” says the artist. “Asking the right kinds of questions is the real skill. Art should take people on a journey and tell a story. Its complexity is what makes it exciting.”
Foto: Iris Schieferstein