PIET moodshop loves … Animaux Speciaux!
Jeroen Lemaitre, a young Belgian entrepreneur and artist from Leuven creates real treasures, under his own brand name Animaux Speciaux: there's a distinctly artistic look and feel to his stuffed animals. His online store and shop in Leuven are the place to go for what are undeniably statement pieces for any interior.
We love what he makes but so do Mauro Pawlowski, Jeroen Meus, Joy Anna Thielemans, Tiany Kiriloff and Siska Schoeters.
"As a young boy I was fascinated by the wonders of nature. It soon became clear that I wanted to go against the system."
So what does Animaux Spéciaux do?
I work as a taxidermist/entomologist for private individuals, designers and museums. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris first spotted my work at the end of 2014. It exhibited and sold my work in its shop as part of its Taxidermie exhibition. Animaux Spéciaux is all about creating unique objects with character and a story to tell. Statement pieces, if you like, for people who want to add some humour or mystique to their interior or their business. My works have a bit of magic, are slightly vintage and there's a bit of a jungle feel to them. My treasures are almost always found in nature, combined with a hint of luxury, like a glass bell jar.
Why did you choose to work as a taxidermist?
As a young boy, I was fascinated by the wonders of nature. It soon became clear that I wanted to go against the system You end up in this grey system from a very young age. First in primary education, then at university and finally you end up working in a large company for someone else, which restricts your creative freedom. I'm a dreamer and I wanted to make things that went against the grain of this boring, grey, hostile world. I really enjoy combining my pastime with my profession. It is very satisfying to stimulate other people with my creations.
In Belgium, stuffed animals are still considered very old-fashioned but in the Netherlands it has become trendy again. A lot of young girls choose to become taxidermists there. So I trained for three months with a Dutch taxidermist.
I love being self-employed because it allows me to meet a lot of inspiring people. I recently started renting out an apartment in Antwerp through Airbnb. It also allows me to meet fascinating people who inspire me and stimulate me even more to continue doing what I do. I have to admit it's not always easy but I really love my job.
How do the animals or insects find their way to you?
I work with animal farms in Asia and Latin America. I recently also visited one in Thailand. During my travels, I get a lot of inspiration for future projects. In Thailand I discovered beautiful dream catchers and seahorses, which I now sell in my shop or use for creative projects.
The nature and jungle in Thailand really helped me find some inner peace. The hotels where I stayed were also very inspiring.
Do you have tips to share for people who are travelling to Thailand?
In Bangkok I stayed in an old colonial hotel with one of the most beautiful interiors I've ever seen. I felt as if I'd ended up in the home of an explorer. They had bookcases full of exotic things, like animals, shells, books, airplane models on the wall… Don't forget to bring the Monocle Travel Guide when going to Bangkok. It takes you off the beaten track, away from tourist traps and gives you a better insight into the real Bangkok. I will definitely plan my next trip with one of their guides. The Monocle Travel Guide also led me to Casa Lapin, a coffee bar that is somewhat hidden in modern Bangkok.
When I was in Chiang Mai, I discovered Graph Café: it is the smallest coffee bar I ever visited, but definitely the most stylish. Their nitro iced coffees and the matcha latte are to die for! When in Chiang Mai, do visit the Nimman neighbourhood. There are plenty of restaurants there that serve the best Thai food. Did you know that Nathalie Meskens named her second Antwerp restaurant after this neighbourhood?
In Pai — which is the hippie village of Thailand — I stayed at the Reverie Siam Resort. Rent a moped and drive about ten minutes northwards of Pai. There you will find the most amazing hot spring and it's not that busy. There are several hot springs in Pai, but I definitely found this one to be one of the purest.
What do you hope to achieve with Animaux Speciaux?
I would like to sell my work in London. I'm already working on this. Soon I will present an art project there to the former CEO of Sotheby's. Very exciting. I'm working like a dog. I have no idea if it will materialise. But if you don't try, you'll never know. You can already see my work in London, by the way, at The Botanist, a high-end bar, for which I created seven works. I also hope to stuff a penguin one day.