I was wondering what the various thoughts are on this subject.
Can any of you taxidermist tell me WHAT is the PURPOSE and what is the REASON behind the taxidermy competitions? And, do most or only SOME taxidermist offer the same quality to their regular customer as they enter into a competition piece? What is the difference and should there be any difference?
Thanks for your answers
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To get better. And keep up with the quality of other taxidermist in this area.
My purpose for competing has changed since I started. Back in the red ribbon novice era I wanted to improve. Master those basics and be able to gauge the level of my work. Over a decade later my GOALS are somewhat social. I have friends I only see once a year and got to meet judges I have worshipped in magazines for years. I've won some awards but my most cherished is the McKenzie award. I finally felt like I was putting something back into our organization and helping those red ribbon guys. I have never won the WASCO and won't quit until I do. Its one of the goals that keeps me coming back. Last, I do nearly competition work on customer stuff. But my clientel struggles to pay for their work when it is finished. So I don't feel justified spending unreasonable time on details that will go unnoticed. It is good practice for me;however, and practice makes perfect.
The biggest reason i compete is because it helps you learn. I learned more from 2 days at the first show i attended than i did in the 2 years before. i took notes and i followed the judge around while he crtiqued everyones mounts. My commercial mounts have gotten much better due to all teh things i picked up from people at the shows and relationships i formed with some really good taxidermists. My commercial mounts and comp mounts are different however, I may spend 2 days just mounting a comp piece not including the form alterations or preperations. i could not afford to put that amount of time into a commercial mount.
You want to earn more for your mounts?
Quit showing the customers the same old thing.
Fill your showroom with custom pieces!
Those who want them will pay for them! The rest willpay your bills.
I think most at first are trying to learn. Then they get to where they are trying to turnout a consistant piece of work, getting things down pat, developing their system of how they like to do things.
Then it hits them again get after it to learn how to be better yet.
Then many find they are chasing the blue ribbons.
The key is to stop competing few a few years than come back, you will see how far you have been left behind.
Education is a prime reason for competitions.
so take that into account. The rank and file of us who are working "bue collar" shops can't afford to spend a month of Sundays working at a piece for competition. Someone(Don Frank?) once estimated the number of hours spent on mounts for winning ribbons. It was incredibly high. I've was at a seminar where the presenter said he spent about 20 hours on ear butts for a competition mount! The rule is that we offer commercial mounts at commercial mount prices. The exception is anyone who mounts everything as a competition piece and gets enough for it to make a living. What I wonder is what the pupose is for someone like a John Lager or Gary Bruch to compete? They've already proven themselves the best in the world at what they do, they probably have enough ribbons to make 10 quilts, and have booming businesses. And who is going to judge them when they are THE BEST?
I enjoy attending competitions to see how good taxidermy can get. I recall George posting once that we are now reaching reality in the best of mounts, so where do we go from here? The seminars at shows are usually a learning experience with which most of us can go back home and do a little better "cost effective" job to bring in the green ribbons that pay our bills.
We go to you and I reaching that same level of expertise and talent. That's very important to our customers and we have to strive for it. I agree with you about the blue collar stuff, but we have to TRY.
The reason I compete is the learning aspect and it is a sense of accomplishment if you win. If I do not win then I did not achieve what I set out to do so I will work that much harder to get to my goal. I enjoy the shows and also as mentioned seeing friends I have not seen for the year. I still get nervous waiting to find out if I ribboned or if I will get an award. I guess I am still a kid at heart. But I enjoy it and I hope I always do. I get just as excited to see if my nine year old is going to ribbon or get an award. He does a good fish. And has done well in the novice and now has to compete amateur. Not bad for a nine year old.
If I COULD mount like Lager I wouldn't spend the time to do so on a customer mount. That high of quality takes a heap of TIME and we can quickly reach the point of "diminishing returns." The customer is not going to use a flashlight to look UP this, DOWN that, and INSIDE of the rest. A good commercial piece can be a non-contender for a ribbon and delight a customer. It's just not cost effective to "learn" detailing that takes a LOT of time that the customer won't notice...like 20 hour ear butts! One can always improve his mounts, but for most of us improvement has to be in the context of time and return. I wonder how many ribbon winning mounts are sold for enough to make a profit? I'm just saying that there is a plateau of quality that we consider good "professional" work. Learning to do much better than that might be fulfilling and produce a better mount but it probably wouldn't be cost effective.
every wondered how John Lagar and Gary Bruch, Jr. got so damn good. You ever wonder just how they got to the top of the competition world. Competiting and learning. I bet they worked their way up through the ranks with an open mind for learning and a determination to be the best. Competiting and being critiqued is a vital learning tool. Attending seminars and workshops at these show are vital. I always suggest competiting to anyone wanting to improve their work. Books, videos, schools and such are all fine. But seeing were you stand in the crowd in a competition is eye opening and many times humbling. Compete to make yourself better.
You would not believe how little time I put into a comp piece, though. Anyone needing proof of this can stop by my studio and see if my world piece is even started yet. You dont always put half a year into the mount, especially if you practice that piece on every single mount you put out every day to make a darned living! We arent all alike that way.
I compete because I absolutely love the challenge. Ill always be able to learn more, but thats not why Im doing it, its purely the ego and challenge for me. I make NO excuses for it, nor do I answer to anyone for it. It once consumed me to the point of affecting family and business, but things have changed. Thats my story, anyway!
why train for 4 years to try to win a medal? I have to have something to strive for. I dont see myself beating Gary Bruch, or Jeff Mourning in fish, but to compete with these guys is an honour. I will never compete in the olympics, but I will be at nationals taking my beating.
see you there.
The second parapraph of Bill's reply.
I finally see an opportunity to post on something other than the PA Taxidermy Exam, have my "speech" all laid out, and then read Bill's post and find he's stolen my script!
Paraphrasing what Bill has already stated, we enter competitions to improve our work. We learn new and better techniques that save us time in our everyday commercial work. My competition "techniques" get applied EVERY DAY in my studio on customer pieces. The amazing thing is that, today, I can do a customer-ready piece in half the time it used to take me and I'm using competition techniques. The more you use those techniques the more proficient you will become with them. Granted, there are some competition "tricks" that don't make it to customer mounts but its fine detail stuff that most don't even know exist. A customer wood duck is not going to have nasal posts, for example. The nostrils will be dremeled out and the feet will have NO shrinkage and the paint job will be superb. A customer deer will have the nose removed and dremeled from the back. Instead of a cast septum I use thinned bondo and resin to look just like the septums in my showroom deer. Ears have no drumming and seams can't be seen or felt. I could go on and on but hopefully, you know what I'm saying here.
Virtually everything I do on a day-to-day basis in my studio is some version of a "competition trick". The only way I learned those competition tricks was to enter competitions. The more you enter--the more you learn. The more you do it--the better (and faster) you will become with it.
Well, I TRIED to add to Bill's post here and, hopefully I did, but I still can't read his name without the visual picture of a "squeaver" crashing through my mind. Thanks for a great article Bill!
about the best taxidermists you know in every area of taxidermy. Best bird you ever saw mounted, best deer you ever saw mounted, best fish, best life-size and so-on. Who were they? Did they ever compete and attend conventions? How about the guy who is superb at all aspects? Like John Lagar?
I will be going to my state and the world comps just for the abuse I meen critiques. LOL. I have been doing taxidermy for a little over a year and plan on taking a customer mount for compitition. I absolutely do not plan on winning anything but a score sheet. with that score sheet from this year and all of the input and advise I will gain at show I will be able to judge how much better I get the fallowing year. I agree with most of the posts so far, but theres one thing no one touched on. Expecialy on a local level. Once a winner allways a winner. Theres tseveral ways to look at that.Up side If you can proove yourself your buisness will inturn grow. Down side, If you winn you get holier than thou attitude and stop learning. Up side, winners can help non winners become winners. Down side, Winners have cliks and take the same blues every year while everyone else is to be content with greens and reds until some one in the group quits or dies. And the list goes on and on. I agree with a lot of the whys to compete and cant wait to go to the seminars, but I also relize there is a hard reality that takes place with every compitition. Who else played basketball while Micheal Jordan was a star?
When I started doing taxidermy I promised myself I would NEVER treat a wannabe the way I was treated when I started out. There was NO help for a beginner. I have always kept that promise...and here is my current speech to any beginner/novice.
Buy the Breakthrough******* Manual. They are ridiculously cheap for the info. THEN join your state taxidermy association and go to the show AND ENTER a piece. ONE SHOW will save you 10 years of pounding your head against the wall. I always tell guys to NEVER call me again unless they have joined. You know what? ALL the guys who listened are now decent taxidermists. You just can't get that kind of help for such a minimal price.
Personally I go to see friends and look at others work. After so many years of competing I just do not have the "desire" to compete anymore.....BUT I still go to the shows. I have been an officer as well for 10+ years. I wanted to give a little back. In the past winning awards was something I wanted to promote my business. Now that I have a full time studio I find that in my free time I want NOTHING to do with taxidermy. Maybe someday I'll get the bug again.
Very good thread Jim.