By: Maxwell Johnson
It is often said that getting lost in nature is the best way to promote self-discovery; if that’s the case then local business owner Jean-Michel Arrigona must know himself perfectly. At an early age, Jean-Michel began gathering different specimens from the fields of France and Germany where he grew up and putting them in small organized jars and boxes, all of which would be labeled and positioned in their proper place in his room. “Not a lot has changed from then to now,” he says with a laugh. Jean-Michel is still filling showrooms with various specimens from across the world, only this time the natural beauty of these deceased creatures are for everyone to enjoy.
It’s hard to imagine that a showroom of this quality wouldn’t be located in the thick of the 7th arrondissement, much like notorious Parisian taxidermy shop Deyrolle. Instead, it is located in South Salt Lake City next to a Barbecue joint.
“This one is named Titanus giganteus,” Jean-Michel states as he points to a giant beetle in a frame hanging on the wall of his shop. “Can you even imagine if you lived where this did? What if he were to fly into you while you were riding your bike down the street?” Gathering the specimen was something that he used to do himself, but after establishing relationships with different gatherers around the world, he now requests the different species from them.
Jean-Michel doesn’t just collect these creatures, he poses them to make them look like they did when they were alive. He makes sure that none of the natural color and detail is lost while he relaxes the joints and prepares them for his gallery.
In an interview for VideoWest with Doug Fabrizio, Jean-Michel expresses his admiration for the intricate detail of his work by saying, “there is an appreciation for this natural thing, this product of nature that has evolved into this perfect little machine.”
For many, Natur showroom is the place to find naturally stunning pieces of art: a giant alligator skull for your man cave or a cluster of exquisite blue butterflies to hang on your wall. Natur also provides the opportunity to face your fears. “Most people are comfortable and fully involved in getting up close and studying the insects, and then there are those that walk into the showroom and won’t take another step. Over time I have met several people who started with a simple step into the store, and are now able to get closer to the creatures that truly frighten them, to the point where they’re okay with it. It is so cool to be apart of something like that,” Jean-Michel sincerely says.
After being open for business for the past three years, Jean-Michel has proven that there is definitely a market for the art that he is creating by breathing new life into these expired organisms.
When asked what he is currently working on and what can we expect from Natur showroom in the future, Jean-Michel replied, “I don’t think I have even scratched the surface of what is out there. When I think of all of the different species and subspecies of just a butterfly; it can become a little overwhelming.” In addition to the creatures that he poses, mounts and frames, he also houses a variety of living creepy crawlers that he allows visitors to look at and even hold, if cradling a tarantula is on your bucket list. He intends to aquire more live specimens for visitors of the showroom to enjoy. “I’m thinking about adding a few snakes to the family, even though my wife is terribly frightened of them,” says Jean-Michel as he pleasantly shakes his head.
A trip to Natur showroom offers the visitor a marvelous peek into the natural world around them. Jean-Michel’s love for the natural world is infectious, and it’s hard not to catch the bug when you spend time in his store – no pun intended. As you stroll the showroom, past the ornately framed insects and the shelves lined with gemstones, you can’t help but feel that Jean-Michel has given second life to these organisms. At the end of the day, Jean-Michel is a lucky man to have the chance to do what he loves, and we, as customers, observers, and travelers through his cave of wonders, are lucky to be able to take it all in.