Emily Felch, the 23-year-old owner and purveyor of Natural Selection in midtown, never thought her penchant for taxidermy would translate to a business. Now, after four years of selling live plants and dead animals, she recently renovated her shop to accommodate more bodies.
So how did you get into taxidermy?
I’ve always really loved animals, and I was always kind of intrigued by taxidermy, but it didn’t really start until seventh grade. I had read a biography on Theodore Roosevelt, and … I had just learned about people doing taxidermy. But Theodore Roosevelt was a taxidermist in his younger years. He would go and hunt birds and things, and taxidermy them in his spare time because he was a sickly child and wasn’t able to go play sports. And then Walter Potter was an anthropomorphic taxidermist during the Victorian Era. He did, like, cats playing croquet and all sorts of weird stuff—and, between the two of those, it kind of cultured this weird fascination with it. So on my way home from babysitting one day, I picked up a roadkill marmot, and my mom helped me skin it out with a pair of scissors and a Swiss army knife, and I have been absolutely in love with it ever since.
And do you continue to do your own pieces? Are there any for sale here in the shop?
Right now, I don’t have anything that I’ve done for sale in the shop. I mostly just work the shop. I don’t really have time to do taxidermy because it is really time-consuming. I do rats and mice occasionally—usually little anthropomorphic ones because everybody loves those. Like, I had a whole set of them that we’re drinking coffee. My dog ate those ones, so I have to redo those.
How did the hobby transition into a business?
I was going between [the University of Nevada, Reno] and [Truckee Meadows Community College], just trying to get a degree because that’s what I thought I needed to do. My mom and I were driving through here one day—here being midtown—and specifically this spot. And we’d been kind of talking about starting an online store or something because it’s something I enjoyed, and I found there was an uptick at the time in interest in this sort of thing. And we drove by, and there was a “for rent” sign in the window, and we decided later that night that we wanted to do it. And I dropped out of college, and now I’m doing this. It happened really, really fast.
Who’s your customer base?
It varies so much. I will say mostly women, because it’s home goods—it’s nesting, in a way. But, honestly, it varies. One moment it will be a granddad and his grandkids, and next it will be a chick with face tattoos.
Do you ever get any push back from people who come in here?
I’ve had women scream before. Taxidermy, it’s not for everyone. For the most part, if people don’t like it, they don’t come in. I’ve had people get a little feisty with me before, but usually after I explain where everything comes from, and I try to show my respect for it, everybody seems to appreciate that.
Sure, I mean, if you get over the simple fact that something had to die for you to get that experience.
Yeah, and that’s one thing, too, because death is so foreign in today’s culture that it is kind of a shock for some people. But I think it’s one of those things, like everything dies eventually, and you may as well treat it with respect.