As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. 

TODAY

Thursday, October 17

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A/C
« Comedy Seen: Snubfest at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy 8/24 George Wallace: Bringing Wit and Wisdom to the Laugh Factory »

Business Wed Aug 29 2012

Doing It For the Dead Animals: Andersonville's Woolly Mammoth

By Alicia Eler

WoollyMammoth_Adam_Skye.jpgAdam Rust and Skye Enyeart-Rust live for adventure. Whereas a more practical business owner will tell you they opened their shop because they saw a market need, this couple did it for the thrill. For the kill, you might even say.

"We were on a belated honeymoon and had been traveling all over Turkey and Romania," explains Skye. "In Romania, we were hot on the trail of Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, and kept thinking to ourselves: How can we ever go back to Chicago Mundania?"

An adventure was in order. But how was that even possible in Chicago?

"To have something that is sedentary but also an adventure everyday — that's what Woolly Mammoth is to us," says Adam.

Two weeks after the couple returned from traveling Europe, they signed a lease on what is now the Woolly Mammoth storefront at 1513 W. Foster Ave. One-and-a-half months later, the shop opened to the public.

"It was a huge risk," says Skye, acknowledging the economic downturn and the cost of running a small business. "But we were willing to take it because we wanted some excitement."

Perhaps needed is a better word. But practically speaking, how could such a quirky store survive within the context of a gentrified, family-friendly, somewhat vanilla-flavored land such as Andersonville?

"Woolly Mammoth has a lot of crossover with some of the other home furnishing stores in the neighborhood," says Jim Jostes, co-owner of Room Service, an Andersonville home décor store specializing in mid-century furniture. "At our store, Paul and I sell the things we love and would have in our own home personally. Our motto is live with what you love, so these things we pick up and see in our travels, it's our perspective."

In that sense, Woolly is actually quite similar to Room Service — it's just that the owners' have a more specialized interest in taxidermy and oddities. This is no surprise considering that both Adam and Skye come from families of antiquers.

When the store originally opened, the couple decided to include more items that they thought would help them "fit in" with the home décor stores of the neighborhood. Couches, mid-century furniture and kitchen tables were among some of those "standard" type items. Eventually those pieces got phased out.

WoollyMammoth_mouse-taxidermy.jpg
"At first we just peppered practical, stereotypical antiques with our little taste of macabre and taxidermy," says Skye. "But now you walk into the store and you're really hit with it."

Taxidermy is a part of both Adam and Skye's upbringing, too. Growing up, Skye hated taxidermy because her brother and father both hunted. Once she left high school and started thinking about how to make art, however, those stuffed, dead animals popped into her head again. Likewise with Adam, who studied art in both undergrad and graduate school, taxidermy quickly became a part of his creative practice.

Sir-Neckolas-WoollyMammoth.jpg"I got my first mount as a kid; my mom gave me a vintage stuffed alligator and later, in college, my uncle — who is also an antique dealer — gave me a stuffed antelope named Louis," Adam explains. His artwork incorporates road kill, dead rats, pigeons and other animals that he's found. His interest in taxidermy did not stop there, however. In a sense, Woolly Mammoth is like one big art project, and taxidermy happens to be the main subject matter.

"That animal is a piece of nature's work, but then it dies and there's the hand of the artist that stuffs it, making it look real or fake," Adam says. "So it's this multi-layered level of nature's art, then man's art and then the way man takes it and puts it on the wall, whatever that means."

At Woolly Mammoth, the couple sees their vast taxidermy collection as a way of rescuing and honoring the animals rather than displaying any sort of "trophy."

"We collect dilapidated stuff; these are all vintage mounts and, really, we feel bad for them," Adam says. "With taxidermy, it's the equivalent of hanging a leather boot on a wall...but it has a face, and that makes us remember what it really is."

A dog named Melvin, Skye and Adam's latest, very much alive "acquisition," looks up from his short nap at their feet. He's only eight months old, and chances are that if the couple hadn't rescued him, he would have ended up in the garbage with the other strays.

"That's what we love," says Skye. "Saving the animals. We love doing that and we love doing it together, so it makes sense that we'd want to do it for the store."

 
GB store

Kim Z / August 29, 2012 10:18 AM

Walking by Woolly Mammoth always makes me smile.

Pat C / August 30, 2012 2:40 AM

I love this store! It's like a candy store for lovers of curiosities.

GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

Blogroll

ACRE
An Angry White Guy
Antena
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Collaboraction
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Defibrillator
Devening Projects
Digressions
DIY Film
ebersmoore
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
HollywoodChicago
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
InCUBATE
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
J-Pointe
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Marquee
Mess Hall
N'DIGO
Neoteric Art
NewcityArt
NewcityFilm
NewcityStage
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Onstage
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
Performink
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
SAIC Blog
The Seen
Sharkforum
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Steppenwolf.blog
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
threewalls
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Vocalo
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store

 

Events


A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.



About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop, nancy@gapersblock.com
A/C staff inbox: ac@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15