When anyone is asked to name their favorite Catwoman, the feline-loving “villain” who is actually a masked crusader for her four-legged friends, the choices are impressive. There are the three original ladies who stepped into the black unitard to stare down Batman in the 1960s: Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt (ironic, right, that her last name is Kitt), and Lee Meriwether. Then there’s the Michelle Pfeiffer iconic interpretation — her performance is like a pissed-off PETA member crossed with a purring dominatrix. Halle Berry’s is the most sexual and erotic — encased in black leather, exposed abdomen, ripped leggings and taut whips. Yep, your choice of preferred catwoman says a lot about you. That’s why I’m nominating Candi Taylor.
Candi Taylor is not a Hollywood actress, and she’s certainly never scaled rooftops decked out in Catwoman chaps and boots. Instead, she’s proven herself to be a creative “catwoman,” unleashing an array of cats that are whimsical, realistic, and a combo of both. An animal enthusiast, she’s particularly drawn to dogs and horses, Taylor is able to channel her inner Eartha and conjure up kittens that are adorable, grown-up cats that are inscrutable, and other felines that are simply fabulous.
Chatting with Taylor for an upcoming issue of Teddy Bear & Friends, I was able to discover that she has certain customers who seek out her cuddly and charming cats. Taylor is all about tailor-making her characters to appeal to a dedicated and loyal customer base. “From an early age, I was always painting, mostly animals,” she told me. “Today, I continue to paint animal portraits in glass jewelry. In that work, I always paint what I see.”
Dedicated to getting everything just right, Taylor has lovingly translated the animals that have crossed her path, as well as others that she has studied via documentaries and nature encyclopedias. How she sees the world and its wildlife inhabitants is how she sits down to build and design her creations. Like the DC Comics Catwoman, Taylor is able to coax forth an “army” of intriguing cats — familiar breeds and exotic ones, too.
“The Maine Coon Cat, which I made, is 15 inches tall. She’s made from plush and is fully wired. Her hand-painted eyes, her needle-felted face, and her airbrushed features give her a very realistic quality,” Taylor admitted. “She was real enough to fool our cats!”
Delivering litters of lifelike soft sculptures is quite an accomplishment, but it is second nature for Taylor, who is accustomed to fooling people with her realistic renderings. She delights in making folks do double takes as they study her cats face-to-face. “It’s always about making an animal that I would want to own. I have to be attracted to my work or else I wouldn’t pursue it,” she revealed. “I absolutely love being a soft-sculpture artist. This is my life. I enjoy it so much. It has been completely rewarding.”
Having garnered many awards for her teddy-bear artistry and other critters, too, Taylor has a deep appreciation for the collectors who purchase her pieces and who vote in the various award programs and gallery events. She is indebted to the support, loyalty, and belief that her collectors have sent her way.
“Once I ventured into the world of realistic animals, I have really taken off. I am always thinking about what I’m going to do next or how I can improve a design,” Taylor observed. By choosing a huge array of different animal types, breeds, species, Taylor has learned to adjust her critical eye and her skills. She is continually adding different techniques, methods, and materials to her artistic arsenal: “Besides traditional mohair, alpaca, or cottons, I have found that the synthetics offer many more varieties of realistic-looking fur. Most times I will combine the traditional furs with the synthetics, like Tissavel. Often I will use four or five different styles of fur to make even one animal.”
Discovering, buying, layering, and combining various materials, Candi Taylor is opening herself up to different outcomes and unexpected results. It is a thrilling experience after more than 20 years in soft sculptures. Sounding very much like Catwoman, Candi Taylor makes a bold pronouncement: “I am enjoying the variety of furs so much that we have converted our daughter’s bedroom into the fur room. You can never have too much fur!”