North Texas Daily

Pinned Ptera reframes insects into artwork

Pinned Ptera reframes insects into artwork

Pinned Ptera reframes insects into artwork
October 28
12:00 2022

Tucked off Mulberry Street, neon sign and all, the Florida-born plant bar Kava Culture highlights a new type of buzz — the art of Denton insect taxidermists Pinned Ptera.

The shop, co-owned by university alum Morgan Loftin and her partner Micah Loftin, has an installation in the coffee and tea bar and is frequently featured at the Denton Community Market.

“Micah [was] the one who really was our muse in how we started,” Morgan said. “He was our catalyst.”

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory in Florida, which the couple visited during their anniversary in February 2021, was the start of Pinned Ptera’s story.

“A butterfly landed on [Morgan’s] hand, and I got a photo of it,” Micah said. “We wanted to get [a butterfly] framed, but they didn’t have [the specimen] so, I found the specimen, they shipped it out and I had to [learn] the whole process of how to pin bugs.”

Micah (left) and Morgan (right) Loftin pose in front of their exhibit at Kava Kulture on Oct. 13, 2022. Photo by Jesse Sanders

Ptera, a Latin root word, means an organism with wings or wing-like parts. The Loftins’ insect pinning business allows customers to find a winged piece that matches them. Since its establishment in April 2021, the shop has offered bees, beetles, butterflies and other winged insects.

“I thought that corporate America was going to be my life forever and I was just going to climb the ladder,” Morgan said. “I was comfortable, […] but I wasn’t happy — I was burnt out […] and I don’t think I would have quit as fast as I did if I didn’t have Micah’s support.” 

Morgan originally created a bottle lamp business, Happy House Warmers. However, after being gifted the pinned bug by her husband, the business model turned into bug lamps.

“We also do custom pieces outside of the standard 10-by-10 frames,” Morgan said. “We make lamps and terrariums, and we started making more, and more and more until it just took over and it was all we were doing. We kind of fell into it, honestly.” 

Morgan said it was difficult for her to price their products. These concerns faded after a white witch moth piece sold for around $100.

Elizabeth Bernal, founder of Every Witch Way Denton and owner of Woolen Witch Crafts, purchased the white witch moth piece. She said she loves all forms of taxidermy — including those by Pinned Ptera — because it can be a unique way of honoring how special nature and the creatures who live around us are.

“[Pinned Ptera has] clever and interesting ways of framing and showcasing pieces and creating frames that fit into any aesthetic,” Bernal said. “It’s magical.” 

Bernal’s purchase motivated Morgan to continue her taxidermy creations.

“For me [the white witch moth was] kind of the catalyst for not being afraid to do whatever I want and to get over the fear of rejection — to get over a heavy price tag and to do what feels good,” Morgan said. “If I get inspired, I need to just run with it.”

Insect taxidermy is an offshoot of traditional mammal taxidermy and is defined by the critical steps of pinning and mounting. The first three steps of hydrating, pinning and framing take three days. Once the insects dry for about a day and a half, pins and wax paper are removed to reveal a perfect-looking specimen, Morgan said.

There are different ways to preserve various insects, including alcohol, pinning and pointing. The method used depends upon the type of insect being mounted.

“We have coined the term ‘ghost mounting’ [because] they look like they’re floating,” Morgan said. “They’re not flush against the back, so you can just get this really rich depth and shadow behind the specimen.”

Morgan said she believes the genre of insect taxidermy should not be limited to the gothic scene. It is essential to the couple that their art is style-fluid. 

Many insects are endangered, and catching or killing large amounts of an insect can adversely affect the environment and make them harder to pin. To help prevent this, the Loftins have created connections to curate accessible specimens.

“We don’t accept any specimens that are wild-caught or slaughtered,” Morgan said. “We actually got licensed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife [Service] so that we could import specimens in ourselves from the farms they are grown and raised on [and] the country they’re native to.”

Their goal is to create an indoor Victorian-style glass conservatory where customers can go and experience butterflies surrounding them, as the Loftins once did over a year and a half ago in Florida.

“We have a 10-year plan — our sole prerogative,” Morgan said. “Why we grind on weekends all the time is so we can open our own butterfly conservatory in Denton. When we’re there, you’ll know we’ve made it.”

Featured Image: Two Great Orange Tip butterflies hang on display as a part of Pinned Ptera’s exhibit at Kava Culture on Oct. 13, 2022. Photo by Jesse Sanders

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Gianna Ortner-Findlay

Gianna Ortner-Findlay

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