How I turned 4lbs of my saggy, excess skin into human LEATHER: Slimmed-down artist’s ‘bonkers’ idea saw her store it in her freezer – right next to her berries!
- The Oxford artist wants to display the excess surgery skin in an exhibition
- The skin was kept in freezer for nine months before being turned to leather
A student artist who lost 6st turned her saggy skin into human leather — all in the name of getting a PhD.
Katie Taylor, of Oxford, told how the ‘bonkers’ idea came naturally to her once she decided to undergo the cosmetic op last March.
The 52-year-old, who studies fine art at Oxford Brookes University and uses ‘bodily aspects’ in her work, begged surgeons to let her keep the skin.
They agreed, on the promise that it was collected immediately after.
Fine Art PhD student at Oxford Brookes University, Katie Taylor, 52, admits that the idea may sound ‘bonkers’ and ‘really weird’, but she says the idea ‘came naturally’ to her
With Ms Taylor stuck in hospital recovering following the procedure, her friend was asked to pick up the 4lbs of excess skin.
She cycled with the skin in her front basket, before putting it straight in Ms Taylor’s freezer where it stayed for nine months.
Ms Taylor said: ‘The freezers not that big so it was right next to the frozen berries.’
After keeping it buried in her freezer, she then contacted an expert with 30 years of experience in prehistoric ‘skin tanning’.
With her help, Ms Taylor was able to turn it into leather. The grim process involved soaking and stretching her skin out, before sticking it in a tumble dryer.
The mum-of-two lost six stone after being diagnosed with type two diabetes when she had her second child in 2004. To manage her diabetes she resorted to a keto diet and started weightlifting and lost the weight in the process
Ms Taylor, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when she had a second child in her 2004, is not sure what she’s going to do with her stomach leather yet.
But it could be placed in an exhibition in the future.
She has also sent stomach fat she rendered down to a tattoo ink maker and is now thinking about getting a tattoo with the ink.
She said: ‘I had thought I would do something with the skin but I don’t think I could cut into it now.
‘I think I want it to stay in it’s shape because that is what shape it was when it came off of me.’
Ms Taylor added: ‘It’s a reminder of where I came from, how I got to where I am today and how incredible and resilient the human body is.
‘I use materials that challenge what can and can’t be done in my art, and I definitely have a bodily aspect to my work.
‘The idea of bodies and the circularity of human remains or decomposition is part of my PhD project – so this fed into that quite nicely.’
She said: ‘You can see my caesarean scar, stretch marks and even hair follicles on the leather which I love.
‘It’s capturing marks and signs of my life.’
The grim process of turning her skin into leather involved soaking and stretching her skin out, before sticking it in a tumble dryer
To manage her diabetes, Ms Taylor resorted to a keto diet and started weightlifting.
When she reached her happy weight in March 2022, she decided get the surgery to remove her loose skin around her stomach.
But keeping body parts after surgery isn’t an easy processes.
To keep the skin, Ms Taylor got in contact with her surgeon’s secretary and sent them two-page letter on why she wanted to keep her excess skin.
She also had to consult the Human Tissue Act 2004 and compiled other examples of where people had kept parts of their body, such as removed liposuction fat.
The hospital agreed to return her skin after the operation under the condition it was collected immediately after the surgery.
Making use of every part of the excess skin the artist also sent her stomach fat, pictured above, rendered down to a tattoo ink maker and is thinking about getting a tattoo with the ink
Ms Taylor said: ‘My amazing friend Catalina picked up the skin on her way back from work.
‘She cycled back to my home with my skin in the front basket of her bike.
‘I had already cleared out a draw in the freezer so she put it straight in there.’
Initially Ms Taylor wanted to make the leather at home and bought a tanning kit.
But she eventually decided to reach out to some leather-making experts, including some survival courses, but was turned away.
That is until she got in touch with Theresa Emmerich Kamper, in Exeter, who has a PhD in experimental archaeology and over 30 years of experience in prehistoric skin tanning.
Ms Taylor travelled to Exeter in January this year and stayed in a hotel nearby Theresa’s house for a week whilst they completed the process.
She said: ‘Theresa was absolutely amazing and so knowledgeable.
‘We began by scraping the fat off the back and getting the membrane off.
‘Then we soaked the skin in vegetable tanning solution whilst stirring and checking on it everyday.
‘After it had soaked we stretched it lots and rubbed oil on it before drying it out in Theresa’s tumble dryer.’
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