For Adam and Skye Rust, it’s death till they part. Inside their two-year-old Andersonville store, Woolly Mammoth Antiques, Oddities & Resale (1513 W Foster Ave, 773-989-3294), the couple have surrounded themselves with wall-to-wall taxidermy and memento mori—reminders of the inevitability of death. “We stock these things for a selfish reason: to make ourselves more comfortable with dying,” Adam says.
“This is all still a celebration of life,” Skye chimes in. “We’re giving [dead animals] an afterlife of a sort.”
The two thirtysomethings met in 2004 while enrolled at Columbia College. “I had a collection of my deceased father’s teeth,” Skye recalls. “Adam also had a collection of teeth. In my head, I knew it was meant to be.”
While Skye worked on her graduate thesis, her grandfather lay on his deathbed. She responded with an art installation satirizing the funeral industry’s commodification of death. She founded a fake company called Forever Inc. and created a macabre line of furniture: a sofa, coffee table and throne—all functional caskets.
When she’s not helping Adam run the store, Skye volunteers at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where an urban ecologist is teaching her to taxidermy—mostly birds that fly into windows. “Chicago is in a migration route,” Adam explains, “and those buildings downtown are murderous!”
The couple recently pored over their inventory—the mummified roadkill, the skeletal remains—to uncover the stories behind the stock.