Competing and customer work

Submitted by Randy D. on 2/9/05 at 8:43 AM. ( )

I got my outlook from NTA and noticed the fish mounts in it. I was impressed with the steelhead by Gary B. I asked about how many hours it took to do one like that? He replied 120 hrs just to paint it. he also said
many more to do the rest of it. Now as I thought on this I remember lots of disagrements on the way I charge on my fish mounts. Different levels to the customer. Also I remember someone saying to me to do the best you can on a mount for a customer. Well here is my question who could afford to pay for a mount that had even 50 hours in it? A single fish mount. Where is taxidermy going? Should I charge say 10 per inch or what? Is that the way to go by the inch? I know I can compete for even 5 per inch and give a better job than what I will see to compare. Or I could match say 20 per inch but even then I would have to skip some things just like every one else. So in cunclusion if I compete do I put in 5 hrs or 5oo hours? It is just like building a house put 350 thousand or 5 million into it? So why compete? Or do I run My business and put hours into it and hope to get work in. Something to think about? Randy D.

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It's your business Randy...

This response submitted by marty on 2/9/05 at 9:50 AM. ( ) charge the way you want. In my opinion though, once you give people too many choices it creates confusion and they think if they go with the "econo" quality, they think you're skimping and will probably opt to go with somebody else.

At the World level, I would think the artists competing have probably as much knowledge as the judges. The amount they learn from other's critique's is minimal compared to somebody starting out and competing. I suspect everybody competes for different reasons. But I also suspect that many compete simply because the competition is fun. I'm sure boosting their egos is part of it. And I suspect others compete to help catipolt their businesses. Or all of the above and probably a few more reasons that I'm missing.

Of course in commercial taxidermy you have to draw the line in many places as it's simply not cost effective to rebuild everything, or take 50 hours to paint a fish, etc. Everybody draws the line in different places. Some may laugh, but for me on many species such as Crappie and Bluegills and many other fish, I still don't set a backside eye. And my back seam is done neatly and quickly. Nothing fancy. I see absolutely no reason to spend additional time on something only the wall is going to see. I would rather spend that time elsewhere. Many would define that as "not a quality job". Well I say they're welcome to their opinion. I've yet to have one customer complain. I have had a customer or two REQUEST two eyes ahead of time and I go ahead and do it, no big deal. But my point being is that yes, everybody has to draw the line somewhere in commercial taxidermy. And those lines may vary. Those lines are drawn via what the market in your area will bear. And the level of work you wish to create to whatever target audience you have. Obviously, the more time and money you need to charge, the narrower your audience becomes.

Just my opinion...

Just my two pennies!

This response submitted by Kim on 2/9/05 at 10:51 AM. ( )

Quality commerical work does not mean the same two hundred hours that you put into a competition piece. Weather it is one hundred hours or up to two hundred or more, what are you trying to prove? Is it who can brag about the most hours put into a mount? I suppose the next person will be saying that their mounts can blink and chew.

If your mount is a quality piece and the customer is happy and you get your asking price for the mount, what's the diff?

Many people state that they put over one hundred hours (or a whole lot more) of labor and "attention" to their deer, fish, small game, etc. Now, for a professional full time taxidermist with a couple hundred mounts to do, figure it up! by the time you add up the hours that everyone states they put into EACH mount to make it "the best",....there are not enough hours in a year to move an acceptable number of mounts out the door to pay the bills. So in reality, somebody is fudging a bit on the TRUE AMOUNT of time they REALLY put into each commercial mount.

For the people that just hit the competitions and do not really operate a full time business, have a family and all of the extra stuff that goes along with everyday life, sure, they can devote the time. But these same people cannot be compared to the fulltime, professional that has to hussle each day to do the work and keep the quality high. Most "working" people do the best they can and their mounts look pretty darn good. I tip my hat to the everyday workhorse that gives a quality mount at a reasonable price!

Just my two pennies....KIM

Excellent response Marty

This response submitted by Cecil on 2/9/05 at 10:54 AM. ( )

and excellent points.

God it's scary who we think alike and we I believe you said you think we paint our fish similarly. Sure you're not my long lost triplet brother? I already have twin. LOL

120 hours?

This response submitted by Craig on 2/9/05 at 11:51 AM. ( )

seems like an awful amount of time to spend on painting one fish, not to mention the other work involved. I can see how it could add up though. How many deer taxidermists spend that much time on a deerhead for competition? I understand there are many factors but as commercial taxidermists it is easy to build/add competition features into a deerhead but I don't think anyone can compete with 120 hours on a paint job for a fish. I think we all would agree that's a fast path to the bankrupcy lawyer. Does this fish hang in Gary's shop as any type of representation of his average work? I highly doubt it. How much would Gary charge if a customer asked for this type of work? Let's see hourly wage times 120 hours equals...

I think we would all agree that painting fish, blending colors, creating depth/illusion, using different paints for effect is probably the most challenging aspect of taxidermy, at least with the guys and gals that do fish taxidermy. The actual mounting process is fairly basic and/or structured but paint application is interpretation, skill, knowledge of techniques and certain paints that allow certain outcomes and appearances that are pleasing to the eye. We've all seem the fish mounts that look like they are painted (I have a few in my garage)but to make one look alive or real(not plastic)takes this art one step further. But I have also seem commercial fish that look surprisingly lifelike(the paint part)and that should be the "norm" all fish taxidermists should strive for.

In my opinion, customers are not willing to pay for a blue ribbon world show fish(well, maybe some that have more money than they know what to do with). These mounts have to be done for personal satisfaction, to say to oneself, "I can do it", as proved with a score sheet and ribbon. That's probably why some taxidermists/artists compete once they reach a certain level of ability. After all listening to all the negatives about the business of taxidermy, eventually one needs to find some positive attributes. Winning certainly helps boost self-esteem.

mix in all the positives and negatives you want, but...

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 2/9/05 at 12:19 PM. ( )

Every situation is different. Its obvious from past posts that Randy doesnt need to worry about competing. Two reasons come to mind. One, he doesnt see the customers up where he is anymore, and he has told us the fishing is way down. Plus, he has already won well and proven himself to anyone wondering about his skills. Hes proven, in other words.

Gary is a different situation, Id guess. He is making HIS name for himself these last few years, much the same as Randy did a few years back. Gary is evidently still enjoying what competition brings to him. Perhaps he is ahead of his workload enough that he himself can justify the hours spent. Nothing wrong with that. He too is proving himself.

Not everyone competes just for the ego charge, which is there, of course. Business tools, education, stress relief, the pure love of competition, these are all valid reasons. Each individual knows for themselves why they do.

Some competitors take great pride in adding up the hours spent. Still others chuckle at how little time they took!

As for the quality of commercial vs competition, thats a worn out argument. I know way too many artists who win big at shows because they really ARE that good. Their commercial work reflects this level, too. In fact, thats basically the practice they use for the show peice. The show peice sometimes is basically taking their good work and just fine tuning it to the scoresheets level. Try asking your commercial deerhead customers to pay more money so you can not only make the seam smooth to look at, but also not detectable to touch. Or to pay for the fine details of the inner ear lobing and hair patterns, along with the skin and color transitions. They aint gonna pay for it, yet the scoresheet wants it. Thats not the same double standard that some often describe. I know theres some guys who win an award, but the commercial work is hardly even close. But those are usually the exception, OR a fact that his customers do not DRIVE him to doing work at that level. Thats important. In commercial work, he does what they want him to do. In competition, he goes to the level HE wants to.

Just an aside...I reread the above post after I proof read my post here. Pretty much what you guys are saying too. My comments were largely based on other similar posts over the year.

Here is my point

This response submitted by Randy D. on 2/9/05 at 4:04 PM. ( )

As for comerical work. I do have to skip some things to make a living and compete against other taxidermist. So does every one else. Here is my point to that. A customer brought in a piece. He looked at the mounts I had and said do it like that for that price. When he picked it up he said it looks even better than what you showed me. He was happy. Then he called later and said I have a problem with my mount I picked up. To make the story short he showed it to a nother taxidermist and the other taxidermist picked it apart. So I called the other taxidermist and said bring me your best mount and I will pick it apart. But never did show. There is a lot of this happing all over taxidermist being a judge. Now when I judged the world show before I had some people say to me in the proff. Divison it is not fair this is what I give to my custormers. I cant put a lot of hours in a custormer mount this is a proff. divison. So I decided to enter the proff divison and put some of my customer mounts in to see what would happen I got smoked. I even put a little extra time in them. Sure I got some seconds and thirds. But try telling your customer why their mount is a second or third place mount. So what is it all about? Randy D.


This response submitted by Bill Yox on 2/9/05 at 9:52 PM. ( )

Ok, I give.

Cecil, you're scaring ME!

This response submitted by marty on 2/9/05 at 9:54 PM. ( )

We do agree on an awful lot of stuff. The way I toss my opinions around, it is somewhat amazing that I even have ONE person that sees many things my way!

The biggest problem with competing to earn 1sts from a marketing standpoint is that just about everybody is toting ribbons on their websites! "Best in the World" vs. "Best of the Bests at Walmart" are meaningless to the bulk of our customers. They cannot differentiate between the two. Therefore it dilutes the meaningfulness and hard work associated with the real accomplishments.

I've had a handful of potential customers call and amongst various questions have asked "if I've won any ribbons". I use to try to explain to them that there are varying levels - blah, blah, blah and that commercial taxidermy blah, blah, blah. And it truly is a waste of time to try and convince those few that ask. If I had ANY ribbons that probably would've swayed them even if it were "Best in Marty's Basement"! I've actually thought about having a couple of them made up to display as a joke in my shop - "Best All Around Fish With One Eye", Best in Show (No other entries), etc., etc...

All this fuss over lil ol' me

This response submitted by GB on 2/9/05 at 11:12 PM. ( )

I compete to challenge myself and promote. Currently I have a couple endeavors that will benefit from such efforts. I do price out all work in the shop and like Craig said I would charge accordingly. My top line customer work is very very good and would do real well at shows, however like Bill stated it does like the subtle "judge" stuff. Prices in my studio range from $11 per inch for a lower end mount(my wholesale stuff) and climb to $45 per inch for a very nice pedastal mount. You would be surprised at how many high priced fish I do per year. More than I want to, actually. We need to remember we aren't just taxidermists we are salesmen and women as well. I do keep the show mounts for display as well as the lesser quality work and help the customer decide what he/she would like. I would say Randy your answer is you run your business your way and give the customer what they paid for. Thats my two cents- now I need some sleep I still have 1200 hours of fish work to do for the world show--l


This response submitted by Randy D. on 2/10/05 at 8:22 AM. ( )

I to do like you. I have over a hundred fish mounts on display. Example 4 pike mounts starting at 400 - 950 wall mounts competion mount add 1500 to cost. My problem I dont have the people any more. The problem I see with customer and competion is other taxidermist cutting work down. I to could compete for best in world and put a couple hundred hours in it but I dont have the drive anymore. I think you will do great at the world show you have the drive. You will win a best in world title I can see it in your work. Go for it you will susceed. I was thinking quite sersous about competing for best in world title with a walleye burbot and a lion fish and maybe a brook trout skin and repros. But when I seen your rainbow I decided not to I dont have the drive to put countlist hours into it. I do have the time not that much customer work lately. Great job again. Randy D.

When I say...

This response submitted by marty on 2/10/05 at 1:07 PM. ( )

..."boosting their egos" that sort've has a negative condentation to it and I'm not sure those are the words I'm looking for.

What I mean is that after all that hard work and effort a first place ribbon makes one feel good about themselves. They have accomplished their goals. Just like anything that you work extra hard for, it provides a sense of self worth. Recognition and admiration by our peers makes us feel good about ourselves and there's absolutley nothing wrong or negative about that! I enjoy looking at how far some of these artist's can go. The bar is constantly being raised. Kudos to those that have made the sacrifices and possess the talent to win at these levels. Frankly, I am envious of you all...

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