China Taxidermy Championships

China has over four times the population of the USA, but no hunting and relatively few taxidermists. In the past decade, Chinese taxidermists have become very serious about improving their standards. As evidence, you can look at the participation of China at the past few World Taxidermy Championships. In 2013, 19 people made the 10,000-plus mile trip from China to the USA to attend the World Show in Illinois. In 2015, 13 attended the World Show in Missouri.

Just last month, the 3rd bi-annual China Taxidermy Championships was held in Beijing on March 27th through the 31st, and Skip Skidmore of Utah was invited to be one of the five judges. I have known Skip since we first met at the 1985 World Show in Kansas, and we have worked together on at the WTC ever since then. I cannot imagine a more qualified person to be our industry’s ambassador to the far East. Skip was the first Westerner to judge the Chinese competition and he was kind enough to share his experience and some photos with me.

The culture of China is very different from Western society. Hunting was outlawed in 2006, so all of the specimens come from zoos, drive-through game parks, road kills, or other countries. The small taxidermy community is coming into its own as they take their first steps into the international brotherhood of taxidermists.

The competition was also quite different. The judges included a professor of art, two scientists including a paelo-mammalogist, with only Skip and one other judge having any real taxidermy experience. The Competition Chairman was also an Assistant Director at the Beijing Zoo. The judges’ five scores were averaged together. There were no score sheets or critiques offered to the competitors.

Skip is not the only Western taxidermist who has visited China. Kim Kuenzel of Arkansas spent three weeks instructing students in the finer points of bird taxidermy. Kim’s story was highlighted in Breakthrough Magazine Issue 113. Skip noted he could definitely tell the improvement that Kim’s techniques had brought to the bird entries at the competition. The beautiful bird work of her students stood out.

There were over 140 entries at the 2016 China Taxidermy Championships. Each and every mount was judged by all of the judges. Skip started off examining the entries with the diligence that he was accustom to in the USA. After four long hours he was dismayed that he had completed only 25 mounts and still had over a hundred more to judge. When he finally realized that he would not be accountable to the competitors, and there would be no critique or score sheet offered, he shifted into another gear. Skip scored the remaining 115 entries in the next seven hours. Skip’s flashlight revealed many flaws that were not apparent to the non-taxidermy judges on the panel.

These two competitors brought a Mandrill monkey plastinization specimen. Skip was impressed with the procedure.

Walking into the competition area, the first thing that struck Skip were the number of horses. Six or seven lifesize horses were entered.

Tian Ma’s running Steppe wolf in pursuit of a black-tailed gazelle was a standout entry. Tian Ma also competed at the 2015 World Show in Missouri.

The running black-tailed gazelle was mounted on an altered Thompson’s gazelle form by Tian Ma.

This Tibeten steppe wolf was created from an American running coyote mannikin.

The mounts ranged from the sublime to the fanciful, like this deer with flowers sprouting out of its antlers.

The Mandrill monkey plastinization entry had a smooth and plastic waxy feel. This is the same technology as used in the traveling Bodies exhibit.

A hollow log made for an cute display of a family of muskrats.

Some entries featured diorama displays, like these red-crowned cranes in a courting ritual.

This skua and spoonbills scene showed the influence of American taxidermy instructor Kimberly Kuenzel.

Many horses in the competition featured great general anatomy but were lacking in detail work.

Skip loved the repeating patterns in this pair of Demoiselle cranes.

Skip’s favorite bird group was this pair of Pied wagtails, a protected species.

The first place bird award went to this red-billed blue magpie.

Skip especially was impressed with this Lady Amherst’s pheasant, which was done by one of Kim Kuenzel’s students.

A close up of the Lady Amherst’s pheasant reveals the nice wattle work and fleshy eyelids, not shriveled or shrunken.

This tiger recreation was made entirely from glueing deer hair a piece at a time. Skip was boggled when he couldn’t find any seams and it looked and felt natural.

Skip Skidmore’s hotel was in the heart of Beijing, only a mile or so from the Olympic park. Skip got a chance to walk through the massive Olympic plaza at night and see the famous Bird’s Nest stadium which features a colorful light show.

Skip enjoyed this unique experience and was glad to see that the quality of taxidermy in the country of China is improving dramatically in this new century.

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Brian Hendricks Red Fox Video

An outstanding free instructional video has recently been completed by Brian Hendricks. It shows all of the steps for mounting a lifesize red fox, and can be viewed at the end of this article.

In May of 2015, Brian Hendricks of Scottville, Michigan joined an elite group of taxidermy artists who can truly be considered to exist in rarefied air. Only the best of the best have achieved the honor of winning the Master of Masters Invitational at the World Taxidermy Championships®. This unique competition is open only to former World Champion taxidermists, previous Master Division First Place winners, and World Show judges. It is judged by a secret vote of the Master Division competitors, arguably the largest and most knowledgeable group of diverse taxidermy experts ever assembled in one place. When the votes were tabulated, Brian’s beautiful and amazingly soft grey fox was the big winner and earned Brian his second gold Akeley medallion. (He previously won a Best in World title in 1999 with Jamie Flewelling and Randy Wolfe for the Collective Artists Division). Read the rest of this entry »

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New Black Bear Head Design

Whenever master sculptor John Schmidt teams up with taxidermy innovator Roger Martin, great things are sure to come out of it. These two have been diligently working for the past few years on a newly designed black bear mannikin which solves many of the problems that can arise when mounting. The result of their collaboration is a beautiful head which makes even the smallest bear trophy look impressive, handsome, and majestic.

To redesign a closed-mouth black bear mannikin for the future, Roger and John went back to the original skulls to start over with a fresh interpretation, tweaking the anatomy to produce the look of a full, deep, round head. They drew upon their 30 years of experience mounting black bears and went to work studying reference, sculpting, test-fitting skins, and sculpting some more. Read the rest of this entry »

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~ In Memoriam 2015 ~

At the start of a new year we pause to reflect upon the losses to our friends and colleagues in the taxidermy profession during the last twelve months. Artists, family members, industry pioneers, and journeymen taxidermists were among the ones who left us due to illness, accident, unfortunate circumstances or the passing of time. We pay tribute to the lasting legacy of our comrades who will be missed and mourned within our extended taxidermy family. Here are some of the people who left our world during 2015.

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New Habitat Bases for 2016

McKenzie has recently published their new 2015-2016 catalogs for McKenzie, Van Dyke’s and WASCO. By now, you should have received your copies which include dozens of new products available for all aspects of taxidermy art. At the 2015 World Show in Springfield, Missouri, McKenzie product developer Roger Martin took the time to show the features of some of the newest large habitat bases, including pre-manufactured trees for large mammal displays, as well as a new pedestal habitat base for use with existing wall mount mannikins. The video of this explanation is at the bottom of this article.

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