Jaime Mato

Taxidermy for vegans

01/20/2020 · By Rosa Alvares
jaime mato openning
Artist Jaime Mato from Madrid. © Courtesy of the artist

Jaime Mato turns entomology into fine art. But the artist doesn’t do it the old-fashioned way; he creates beetle collections with recycled coffee capsules. Welcome to the era of sustainable art!

Despite living in a house in the middle of the mountains in Madrid, Jaime Mato (Madrid, 1982) still hasn’t gotten used to insects. At least, not to most of them. He admits that he dislikes any kind of spider; but beetles bring him happy memories of his childhood, when he helped his father to collect them. Also, for the last seven years, they’ve become inseparable, given that this artist recreates them with used coffee capsules. The result is a new taxidermy, presented in beautiful Victorian-inspired boxes, but with no bloodshed and fully eco-friendly, a success around the world.

Artisan or artist, how do you see yourself?

I guess I’m a bit of both... or neither. I find it hard to put myself in a box. I define myself as someone who does things that he likes, who imagines them and makes them come true. Since I make them with my hands, yes, there’s a part of me that is an artisan. I’m not sure if I’m an artist because they usually express a message with their work, and that’s not my priority. I just make pretty things, my message is aesthetic, nothing more.

When did your passion for beetles start?

I’ve liked bugs since I was little. My father collected them, and I used to help him: we’d go outside together, I’d place them in boxes for him... But then I stopped doing it. Much later, I noticed that the bright colours of the coffee capsules were similar to the shells of these insects. At the beginning, it was just a game, but I slowly worked on perfecting the technique. I must admit that I love that whole Victorian collector aesthetic, with its evocative boxes.

I've heard that before this you worked as a chef...

I trained as a chef, but there came a point where I couldn’t see myself doing that in the future. Since I always enjoyed working with my hands and making things out of wood, when I discovered that I could turn coffee capsules into beetles, I started making them. It started almost as a game about seven years ago, and here we are.

As well as talent, you need a lot of patience to turn a coffee capsule into a miniture work of art.

I must be patient, definitely! It’s a very meticulous job, but it comes naturally to me; in fact, I’d often rather not split so many hairs and be less particular. But I struggle with this, not only while making the insects, but also making mobiles with clay and wood.

Real insects are often disliked, do you find that people don’t understand when you explain what you do?

Not at all. The fear of and disgust towards bugs is an ingrained feeling, related to species that can cause us harm. I can’t fight against that. But beetles are different, they seem friendlier than other animals like spiders; they can’t poison you and have a beautiful colouring.

Yours look real.

It’s true that they may seem similar to collections created by a taxidermist, but the good thing about mine is that they were never alive.

Even though you use the same colours, each piece is unique.

After seven years, I know the material well: I repeat certain patterns, but the combination of tones, textures and new techniques that I keep learning makes them different every time. I gain volume, sizes, shapes... I’ve made many, but each one is different.

This work, with recycled coffee capsules, is very eco-friendly. Was that the idea?

I’m very aware of taking care of the environment, but to be honest, I didn’t choose this material for that reason, more because of the vibrant tones they come in. Also, what I recycle is nothing compared to the number of empty capsules that there are in the world.

What kind of people usually buy your pieces?

All sorts, from people who like entomology to people who like this antique style that’s the current trend in design. There are also clients who see them on my Instagram profile and fall in love. They’re definitely curious people willing to spend money on a beautiful item. Thanks to social media, my beetles are travelling around the world: from a farm in the heart of England to Mexico or New York.

Have you ever thought about turning your beetles into jewellery?

No, although many people have suggested it. But what I do is so delicate that you couldn’t wear it. After the third hug while wearing the beetle as a brooch, its antennae and legs would be ruined, and you’d achieve the same result as if you’d squashed a real one! But I don’t rule out making a sample to test it out, although right now my personal research isn’t leading me in that direction. I need space to do other things.