George stir the fire, Ken closed the best thread ever

Submitted by Kenneth on 3/15/02. ( )

I must say, George your topic of Duck Carvers and Competition sparked a great discussion among taxidermists. I was checking it a few times a day and reading every line. It was the most interesting thread on the forum I have read in years. So needless to say, I was disappointed to see that it was closed due to its size. So I figured I would talk you into a sequel. (George II, you know like Rocky II)
I spent a little time reading John's thread on the original posting. John, I think, I have stated this before. You might be in a special situation. Not all shows have foul play going on, with judges that may have been influenced. Your competition committee chairman must nip activities like this in the butt. The OKTA welcomes you and your son to Tulsa, July 11 -13, at the Marriott Hotel. It couldn't be that far away from your home. OK George it is your turn.

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I'm still ticked about the symmetry

This response submitted by George on 3/15/02. ( )

For those interested in how exact my statement was about symmetry, Cur did some cyber wrangling and has a picture or two you could look at to verify there ain't no such animal. It was rather amusing to see the practice defended by judges and champions while us plow pushers tried to make our points.

Surprisingly, Delaware has one very good taxidermist (and it won't be any surprise that it ain't me) who mounted a black bear with an open mount for our very first show. The shoulder mount had a bear in obvious distress. The left side of the face was filled with porcupine quills, the left eye was partially closed and the left side lips were parted more widely than the right. The mount was blasted for symmetry by the judge. His exact finding were that the lip lines and eyes were not in correct symmetry. DUH! At a very recent show, a national champions largemouth got a red ribbon. The score sheet had check marks by symmetry and paint. Just check marks, no explanation. I contend that symmetry was put on that score sheet to mean BALANCE in the mount, now DUPLICITY or MIRRORED COPY, and I still think that state shows should be the lowest step on the competition ladder with the parameters tightening as a mount moves forward. Remember, they do have "Honorable Mention" ribbons at this level where they don't exist anyplace else. State shows should be the nurturing grounds of the up and coming, not the tombsites this batch of newer judges insist on making it.

Symmetry is just a excuse.

This response submitted by John C on 3/15/02. ( )

Yep George and Cur are correct, if you still think they are not you better open your eyes.

Nothing in nature is symmetrical, nothing not one thing in the animal world is symmetrical. Fish are not, they have a side that is bigger, everything in the world has a side of it likes to use better than the other. The deer in my pen, some would turn to the right everytime others did left turns better.

The side of preffeence is always bigger than the other side. Ever watch body builders pose down, duh they too have one side that is better than the other, no mater how hard the try, they are not symmetrical.

I see my horses daily several times per, they are not symmetrical, they too favor one side over the other. Its not training based either, know why? Horse trainer always work harder on the bad side.

Watch the deer really close, they will have a foot the prefer to stand on whle resting!

So think I am still full of crap? Look at the fish your mount everyday, the head is never semmetrical, upper max are different, lower mandables are different shape size, the eye sockets are not the same level left to right, up and down. Look at them fron the top, front, look at the gill covers, one is in front of the other at the lower attachment point, yes they over lap at any sized opening they still have a over lap. Even the fins are different sized.

Come on people if you reall think things are the same in the natural world, look at the next duck you skin that fresh. The breast will be large on one side than the other, even the eye set is different from left to right, nostial openings too, even feet.

Sue if a mount is bad off, take a few point, but if its half way close, you are wrong from taking away points, its a good thing to mention it and show it to the competitor, but there are limitations.

What is really needed is a true standard so each judge is A SYMMETRICAL
Standard of the other judges. We need a symmetrical standard for judges to go by.

Sorry to say -

This response submitted by Jeff Lumsden on 3/15/02. ( )

George, you've missed the whole point. I'm glad you are tickled, it's amusing from my perspective as well. You don't think that judges would like to see some changes? Your singing to the choir.

Here is a question for you mighty sleuths. What part of the NTA score sheet do you want to change (on this topic of symmetry) exactly? Curmudgeon, I would especially like to here from you.

If this is a study in beating a dead horse, I'm in.....

This response submitted by Lars on 3/15/02. ( )

I thourghly agree with assemetry existing in nature, and I would attend and enter a competition under the format suggested by George and CUR, I have always thought it would be great for viewing impact. But would I be "dinged" because I chose to set things symmetrically, because that's NOT how it is in real life? If the goal for most of us is to raise this industry's level and get an "artistic" attachment, then "life" in it's frozen state (taxidermy) must be symmetrical to avoid the "goofy look" you get when it is not. The question raised frequently is " Why does this thing look funny?" People can't dissect the object visually and tell you what is "funny" about it, but they sure know something is off. An addition to the "View only" competition format should include: viewing from the established "show side " only. Count me in when it's under way.


This response submitted by Hoop on 3/15/02. ( )

I read your post towards the end of 90,000 byte mark. To insult a 15 year old about his work is way out of line. I would have taken the judge off to the side and ripped him a new ass and then some! Adults get their egos bruised, kids get devastated! Yes, at 15 they are still kids and deserve a hell of a lot more than that! Sure, you could have done most of the work on it, but what would your son have learned? To me, the kids should all get a small trophy or some memento to be proud of. It is more than a blue piece of cloth to them. Apparently this judge was never a kid or never had kids! Encouragement, praise along with pointing out what could be better is what a kid would value more than some ass, strutting his stuff, trying to look impressive! If anyone, has ever judged a kid's work in this manner and can sleep at night, well, you've got a real problem!


SIGHHHHHHHHHHHHH, The magic's gone

This response submitted by George on 3/15/02. ( )

Just like Rocky II, the sequel ain't much. Now we're all agreein' and that takes the fun right out of it. I guess the answer to my original question, therefore is: "YES".

My Opinion

This response submitted by Bob C on 3/15/02. ( )

Speaking as a commercial taxidermist,a competetor and a judge,I've got to put my 2 cents worth in. When I mount a specimen, I'd like to think I make it look the best I possibly can. If that means correcting a symmetry problem that the animal had when in life, then by all means I'll try to do it.I know I wouldn't want a lopsided deer head or fish hanging in my living room even if it may be natural. Would you want a picture hanging in your house with a crooked frame? It would drive me nuts! So, you see symmetry is important. As competetor, I dont mind being hit for symmetry. All in all, its going to make me more consious of my work. Now as a judge, I believe there is an "acceptable range" of symmetry. True, nothing in nature is perfect, but we should try to strive for that perfect mount. Thats the only way we are going to get any better as taxidermists. I do believe that there are some judges that abuse this aspect of the score sheet, but the majority of them use it correctly. For those of you that have never judged,you've got to understand that the work in this industry has come so far and has gotten so good that sometimes you need something to seperate 2 pieces.If you have 2 outstanding pieces in a show and one has perfect symmetry and the other is off just a frog hair, you have to hit the piece thats off.This of course does not give the right to any judge to talk down to or belittle anyone, wether it be a child or an adult. Sometimes I think these judges forget where they came from and how they started. I've competed for many years and yes, I've met a few of these arrogent know everything judges. But, they are by far the minority. I think the best thing you can do if you run into a judge that you feel was disrespectful , is to mention it to the board of directors of the show you attended. If there are enough complaints about this judge you can bet he wont be asked back. And trust me, word gets around. Sooner or later they wont be asked to judge any show.
Bob C

Sorry, I have to disagree with you Lars...

This response submitted by Leanna on 3/15/02. ( )

When people ask, "Why does this thing look funny?" It's obviously because it is TOO symmetrical! LOL And entering THAT kind of competion Lars?! Your worst nightmare is going to be the "S" word! Proportionate, does not equal perfection.

We are not all on the same page with the symmetry speculations, that much is transparent. And I think most of us are using the same latrine when I say, there is nothing in nature, that bequeaths two sides of the SAME anatomy. Yet on the other hand, as Bob just stated, if he comes across a symmetry problem, he will try and correct it. Me too, but ONLY to have the components "pleasingly combined". NOT PERFECT! I respect my animals nostrils with their differences, as it is "human" nature. And tell truth, if that holds me back points in a competition, I will never be gaining those points ever, because I like natural. Thats why I hate the Dandy Noser (yeah whole new topic I know)now THAT'S damn symmetrical. And Bob, for the sake of humor, I straighten picture frames when I go to friends homes, doctors offices, and public bathrooms that trust strangers enough to use the bathroom without theft of those too drives me nuts. When I screw something in, using more than one better believe those X's or lines are ALL aligned in the same position! But an animal is not a framed item nor a chunk of's defective so to say. And it's up to us, to take that "defectiveness" and manipulate it into a congruous and harmonious pleasure to the eye of the beholder, not a mirrored copy of either half.

Symmetrical is right before "sympathetic" in the dictionary, and there ain't a one of us who wants "pity" with ANYTHING relating to "proportions". LOL

I won the bet!

This response submitted by Jeff Lumsden on 3/15/02. ( )

You dodged the question George bingo! (Just a little side bet amongst some friends).

Musta been a mighty SMALL bet, Jeff

This response submitted by George on 3/15/02. ( )

I've seen it several times here and Leanna was the only one who picked up on it. "STRIVING FOR THE PERFECT MOUNT". Now that's true, but is absolutely sad that our business has taken it upon itself to "correct" what nature provided. I still maintain that symmetry was originally intended to be synonomous with "balanced". That removes the gnats ass magnifiers from the judges eyes. Symmetry only appears twice on the NTA score sheet (I have no idea about the IGT and PTA sheets). In section "D" and "F" under nose and eyes. All other sections have more definitive instructions,i.e, under Ear Butts it has "placement", "size", and "naturalness of creases". Yet Johnny Yahoo who could spell symmetry, much less define it is allowed to check the box without comment. Symmetry is defined as the "EXACT duplicate to a corresponding side". We're back to my QC inspector and the cannon plugs. EXACT doesn't leave any room for error. No one can possibly pass the definition on a score sheet.

I personally think it should be removed from the sheet and explicitly defined. Conversely, I think that when it comes down to Show Champ or World Champ or whatever, the margin of error has to be reduced. When two "PERFECT MOUNTS" reach the finals, gloves, by necessity have to come off and THEN the magnifiers and flashlights should come out.

So Jeff, if your question wasn't redundant as I'd thought it was, there are MANY things I'd change on the scoresheet. But then again, I'm only one person. And I DON'T EVEN COMPETE. If all the emailers get on the bandwagon and complain, then my opinion might gain momentum. Otherwise, my opinion is like that other anatomical feature we all possess.

New Analogy

This response submitted by The Taxidermologist on 3/16/02. ( )

I'm with Lars in the attempt to beat the beat horse but in order to reach a high plateau we either need to:
1). Have some new perspectives
2). Get into a heated argument with two sides that don't want to give up (lets not)
3). Encourage Bill Gaither to give us some more incite into the difference between the art world and the commercial taxidermist.

I will use try no. 1 above, with the hopes of obtaining 3.

Okay, lets say for example that we have come through a new renaisance of Taxidermy, and that more advancements have happened in the last 20 years than the proceeding 2000 years before. (Personally I sincerely disagree with this staement and would stack certain taxidermists of the past with ANY taxidermists now touting themselves as god's gift to the artform - perhaps I may be the cause for No. 2)

Okay, so, from my memory of art history classes in college The Renaisance (maybe I spelled it incorrectly -so what) was the cumulation of man's attainment of finally getting things in perspective and understanding how science and nature and art began to be interrelated. Michaelangelo was perhaps the most talented artist of the time and his sculptures are thought to be the finest artwork of man in all time.

So here is the analogy. His David statue was symmetrical to a flaw - every muscle well toned and outlined with "no drumming". Say, we as taxidermists thought every statue of a deer should be as perfect. Why we would sculpt the David of deer forms and make every manikan fit onto the form - WHICH IS WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING.

BUT, say someone was commissioned to sculpt a Ronald Regan sculpture. Would he have a Michaelangelos' David body, would Nacy have a Venus de milo body? No. That would be sculpted in such a manner to convey a particular moment and would be sculpted to look like when Ronnie stood defiant in the lecture to the evil empire, or shortly after takin a bullet and being whisked off in the Limo, or with a confused look which he has held for the last few years - but the Artist would show dignity in the sculpture (Unless it was commissioned by a democrat liberal)

The point I am making is that the commercial taxidermist is in truth making a Michaelangelos' David deer head because because everyone wants a piece of art on their wall. But if taxidermy is being practiced as a true art form, then we should exclude the velvet dogs playing cards from winning blue ribbons unless that is the best artform that a taxidermist can produce.

Well Bill? and others, can we make it to 50K?

AAHHA, just to clairify.....

This response submitted by Lars on 3/16/02. ( )

Leanna showed me that I was not being clear on my assessment of symmetry. Georges "bear lips" comment should have been a flag too, that I wasn't being clear. No, not a mirror image of the action,side to side, but rather in the body parts. Eye placement is criticle for expression, one opposing limb longer or fatter than the other,no. That sort of symmetry is what I think is important. I love to see the waterfoul mounts in the midst of twisting from side to side,wings going in different directions, or animals stopped in the middle of a fluid action pose. I did not mean to infer a static, "soldier at attention" pose to be my preferance or the best example of symmetry.

Everyone is a judge

This response submitted by Pat May on 3/16/02. ( )

No matter what kind of mount you make SOMEONE will judge it. If you make it for yourself and yourself only, you are the judge. If it is a customer piece, then he is the judge. If you make it for a competition, then the judge is the judge.

Now let's take the piece that you made for yourself. How do you judge it? If the symmetry is "off" a little, to the naked eye, and you don't care about symmetry then you think it is a good piece. You can explain it to yourself that since nothing in nature is symmetrical, you have copied nature and done a good job. Your boost your own ego and nobody get's their feelings hurt.

What about the customer piece? If the symmetry is "off" a little, again to the naked eye, and the customer notices it and says something what happens. The customer does not have a scoresheet that has symmetry on it with a little box so he can put a check mark on it without explaination. He want's to know why it looks "funny". Ahh you explain to them that all nature looks "funny" and that you have copied nature exactly because of the absolute rule that nothing is nature is symmetrical. Then the customer says " oh, I did not know that, I guess I stand corrected". You boost your own ego by telling yourself since you know more than the customer that you are a better person, but you slightly bruised the ego of the customer by showing them how little they know about nature.

Finally let's get to the competition piece. The symmetry is "off" a little, once more to the naked eye, and the judge marks the little box. During the critique you explain to him that since absolutely nothing in nature is symmetrical, you have copied nature exactly and are correct with your representation of the species. Then the judge says " oh, I did not know that, I guess I stand corrected". You boost your own ego by telling yourself you know more than the judge, and the judge get's his feelings hurt because someone told him he was wrong.

If there is someone out there that this has worked for come on the forum to let us know.

Getting back to original question of " are taxidermy comptitions going the way of duck carving competions"? Maybe, but if as a judge, you don't have the starting point of symmetry and exactness, what would you have to go by? The standard is measured on the scoresheet as the numerical value of 100, a perfect score. It sounds like the big gripe is about some hotshot judge reeming people for the sake of their own ego. I would like to think that this takes place alot less that some claim, but admit that it probably does happen. So what to do? Nothing, because someone who judges like this probably won't be around to long. As long as their are shows there are going to be differences of opinion between judges and competitors, and because no one is perfect both are going to make mistakes from time to time. If you can't accept the fact then really the answer is quite simple, don't go, don't learn, and keep pushin the plow. If you can accept it go, learn, and have fun because after that it's back to pushin the plow.


This response submitted by The Taxidermologist on 3/16/02. ( )

The Commercial taxidermist cannot expect anything that isn't symmetrical as you point out. If by some miracle all taxidermists agreed on the perfect "David" deer form (which will be for sale in a couple weeks by ESCOT) then the standard methods could be used to judge taxidermy pieces - was the hide glued down properly, the fur kept clean, shiny eyes, etc. With the perfect manikin accepted by all, then the technical people could judge the fine points to their hearts galore. No more docking for incorrect manikins, or grade B eyes, or incorrect ear liners because ALL taxidermists would use the David Deer Form.

But art is in the interpretation - the mood created, or the anticipation of events to happen. The details are not the story but instead the Art if you could quantify it.

On the other post a gentleman said that he liked Bob Kuhn as an artist, and he is certainly one of the best. My interpretation is that he paints with feeling and shadows and colors but NOT with Details. That is the difference between Glen Loates and Bob Kuhn - one paints every small feather and the other a mood or statement. Taxidermy Competitions should probably be about art, because if you enter at the professional level, then you should be able to make a satisfactory deer mount to sell to the consumer. But why enter these into a competition when these inane points of nostril symmetry and the like will dock you points. If taxidermy IS considered and artform then the details are not important. They are important for the commercial taxidermist because he wishes to produce acceptable pieces for his customers. But in the Cur Infinity Competition...

I'm a fan of Bruno Lilijfors

Good bye everyone

This response submitted by Jeff Lumsden on 3/16/02. ( )

I'd like to say good bye to everyone here especially to those that are wise enough to only read the comments placed on the taxi-net pages unlike myself, I call the silent majority. As well as those who for similar reasons have left, and to the new or young taxidermists, both professionals and hobbyists, and to those climbing the mountain of mastery.

I have learned through my years of taxidermy of how important it is to be able to take "constructive" criticism so as to bring you to your goals. Forget the rest- it only festers into ruts that pocket your paths. That is my advice to those willing to improve their taxidermy work to any level.

I have had the good fortune of being able travel all over the U.S. meeting and mixing with literally thousands of taxidermists of one form or another. I have benefited unspeakably from this. And I will add here, not monetarily as Bill Gather has suggested. Judging shows costs "us judges" money, period on top of everything else. You know come to think of it, this "whole thing" has been a labor of love from beginning. Only my business has had financial profits squeezed in. But the labor and love parts are beginning to trade places and wear thin.

My circle of friends George? Yeop, not very big amidst your sphere of bravado here. But I am content to leave things lie where they are. I debated and argued principal and my experience - no hard feelings, well at least on my part, to any of you. I was able to make all of my points, few regrets. I am sorry that it had to be so virile at times.

One last comment the old fashion way, Lars good luck to you, sorry to leave you hanging but I give up! There is some thick skulls.

Jeff Lumsden

Biological Artist / Taxidermist

My assessment of this thread?

This response submitted by Lars on 3/17/02. ( )

It has been a pleasure. Thanks to all who participated.

judging and symmetry

This response submitted by michael sestak on 3/17/02. ( )

will always be questioned. i thought mike frazier covered the nature and symmetry pert rather well in his series of articles for Breakthrough as "lone elk".
the he went and sculpted a new line of forms based on his research for those articles..."the first honest whitetail"
and guess what, thats right, folks are winning competitions using his new forms.
competitions, judging and score sheets will always be debated. i once heard of a judge from ohio that went to a pa state show and actually used calipers on the ears of the whitetail mounts to check for correct thiness or thickness of the ear.
oh well to each their own..

OK, Im back...

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 3/17/02. ( )

...and I took the time to read all of this first. BobC said what Ive so often said, so no need to repeat. But, I WILL say that symmetry isnt the problem, its how its used. To me its BALANCE. Symmetry is for straight lines, like the ones folks like me and Leanna strive for when we adjust a picture on the wall, etc. Balance IS in nature. One side does balance the other. Dont confuse that with one side mirroring the other, though. The other thing about symmetry, when a guy has a mount whose features go astray, he hollers "theres no symmetry in nature, remember?" Thats missusing the rules, folks. I hope you understrand how I mean that, as I dont plan to rewrite all that I say this time, for explanation's sake. Stephen, we all know the differences some folks feel are between flat art and taxidermy. Frankly, I dont want flat art judges doing my taxidermy judging. Many, (dont read as most...) flat artists dont know the anatomy. Many biologists dont either. We as taxidermists use the anatomy to put them back together, and many of US dont know it either! Ive been involved in too many shows where other experts judge taxidermy and I dont see it being better then what we have as a flawed system now. I believe it was Cur who mentioned how art differed from taxidermy, using those 50 coons as an example. Well, its still the same thing, just that our customer has the choice of those fifty coons, just before one of us mounts it, thats all...

Dave Schwendeman

This response submitted by Richard Ellis on 3/26/02. ( )

Can anyone provide me with Dave Schwendeman's e-mail address?


Richard Ellis

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