Exhibitionists·Video

'There's a lot of weird people out there': Why these taxidermied squirrels are selling out

Cindy Klippenstein knows her work isn't for everyone, but in the Yukon — where hunting and trapping are commonplace — people go nuts for it.

Get ready to go nuts for Yukon artist Cindy Klippenstein's furry creations

Cindy Klippenstein has brought her art school and taxidermy experience into a very unusual art practice. 3:04

Yukon-based artist Cindy Klippenstein is the first to admit her sense of humour is...quirky. She first stumbled into the world of "squirrel art" by accident. Klippenstein was teaching herself how to taxidermy smaller animals when she accidentally cut off a squirrel leg. That's when she realized it would make a great pirate.

She knows her work isn't for everyone, but living somewhere that trapping and hunting are commonplace, it's been a hit. "People in the Yukon have a good sense of humour and can relate to it," she says.

Aside from hosting several art shows in Whitehorse, she also runs an online store on Etsy called "Fur and Loathing" where people from around the world contact her to create custom squirrel designs. Two of her squirrels — a matching bride and groom squirrel — wound up adorning the top of a wedding cake last year.

Cindy Klippenstein. (CBC Arts)

Klippenstein's work often borrows from pop culture icons like Madonna, Slash and Star Wars. She never imagined the painting and sculpting skills she learned at the University of Manitoba would go towards working with squirrels — but it's a niche corner of the design world that's larger than one might think, she says. Those familiar with the "world famous" Gopher Hole Museum in Torrington, Alta. know that Klippenstein isn't the first to dress furry rodents up and put them in human-like settings.

All of Klippenstein's squirrels are donated to her from trappers who accidentally snag smaller game. And she's always delightfully surprised by people's reaction to the squirrels when she displays them in Whitehorse. "It's not your typical art gallery opening," she says with a laugh.

Follow Cindy Klippenstein and her work here.

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

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