Lia Tabrah is a jewellery designer who loves Australia. She loves the bush, the city, and the animals. In fact, she loves the animals so much she regularly travels to Darwin to buy pieces of them to turn into glamorous jewellery. Australians have already shown an aesthetic appreciation for all parts of their native wildlife, so it should come as no surprise that we can’t get enough of her crystal encrusted, vajazzled kangaroo scrotums.
VICE: So you make jewellery from dead animals right?
Lia Tabrah: Well I have a couple of collections titled No Swimming, Crocodiles" and "A Dingo Ate My Diamond" that both feature jewels made out of animal parts
What kind of animals?
I specialise in the Aussie crocodile, mainly feet and tails. Oh and I’ve made a cane toad bow tie and a piece out of a roo scrotum too. If it's not from Oz land then I’m not so keen. I'm all about Australiana!
Australia and balls, right on. What kind of jewellery do you make out of the animals?
I make gold and chrome plated croc feet earrings with enamel painted toenails. Larger than life gold and chrome plated croc tail pendants with that extra kick on the tip. I gold plated the kangaroo scrotum and "vajazzled" it with swarovski crystals. Big Freedia owns that piece now (see her wearing them here). She told me she "loves her balls"
Is this something anyone can do? Do you have a special licence to turn critters into jewellery?
Oh yeah I should probably look into that. Each piece of taxidermy, which I buy, comes with its own permit which is approved by a conservation program. Anyone can buy taxidermy "souvenirs”.
So if you can find it, you can cover it in crystals and sell it. Where do you get your goods?
I visit Darwin, which is one of my favourite places, and buy from the local markets, crocodile farms and the exciting souvenir stores.
You’re a Melbourne girl. How did you end up making jewellery from animal body parts anyway?
I’ve always had a fascination and a great appreciation for the crocodile. I have a few bits of croc taxidermy which I’ve collected since I was a teen. When I started my jewellery label OT.T by Lia .T in 2008, it only made sense to bedazzle their parts and turn something that some may think is grotesque into a glamorous, shiny item of jewellery.
Did growing up in the country feed into what you do now?
Yeah I grew up in the bush. I think I formed a love of the countryside and all animals, great and small, as a young kid. During this time in the bush my family travelled around most of Australia in a caravan. I remember visiting the Northern Territory and falling in love with the place. I feel at peace when I’m there. The territory is crocodile city so that’s where I discovered these fierce and glamorous creatures. I was also struck with the Australiana bug around this time. I loved visiting souvenir shops. One of my favourite things to do is be a tourist in my own country. Slap on the fanny pack and a visor, jump on the bus and off I go. There is so much to see in our country, lots of people who travel regularly tend to visit other countries and don't really experience much of Australia. Get on that bus everyone!
Very good advice, is crocodile the best animal to work with?
I have to say, I haven't yet experimented with anything other than croc and roo. I do love working with their tails, they’re nice and tough.
Is there any part of the process you’re not wild about?
I guess I do feel a little creepy when I work with roo scrotum especially during the vajazzling process.
Want more Australia?