Step aside, peacocks: There’s a new bird on the scene whose multi-hued, attention-grabbing plumage puts yours to shame. And now he’s got some friends, too.
It started with the “Leather Parrot,” the bird bust created with leftover offcuts from Hermès workshops by artists/designers Lucie Thomas and Thibault Zimmermann of French art studio Zim & Zou. Based on the duo’s Cabinet de Curiosités project, the luxurious fashion brand commissioned a single, meticulously arranged parrot for an exhibition arranged by designer Hilton McConnico. “Hermès felt that the atmosphere, the craftmanship aspect, and the attention to every detail was something we had in common,” says Zimmerman. It was this perceived kinship that led the brand to ask Zim & Zou to populate an entire forest with such creatures.
Looking at the finished Leather Parrot, it’s no mystery why the brand wanted to go further with the idea. The leather settles well into a feathered effect, and the bold colors and shapes meld together in majestic MC Echer-like patterns all around the body. The next step would be reaching for similar success with a monkey, a lizard, and the like.
“When we talked to Hermès, they said we had carte blanche, with no real recommendations other than highlighting their products and conveying the same values,” Zimmerman says. “We were very happy to have some freedom in a project like that, so we had a lot of fun working on it.”
The artist and her creative partner Thomas make the animals by hand. They start off by sculpting each creature’s shape with paper and tape reinforced with wire (for the foot). Afterward, this structure is then covered with small leather pieces, carefully cut out by hand from leather leftovers.
“We didn’t need a lot of leather for the animals,” the artist says. “We always keep in mind that even if we are working with leather offcuts we need to use it in the wisest way to save the most fabric we can.”
The 600 leaves built into the background of the jungle needed a lot more material, but the two used environmentally friendly PEFC paper sheets for this aspect. As frugal as Zim & Zou were with their materials, though, they were much less restrictive with the amount of time spent putting the exhibition together: Each animal required more or less 200 hours of work.
“I think this is more a matter of patience and precision rather than technicality,” Zimmerman says. “Even if there are a few tricks to know.”
Watch a behind-the-scenes video for the artists’ similar effort, “Cabinet de Curiosités,” below.