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Art degrees, taxidermy and Ladies.

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by PA, Jul 9, 2016.

  1. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    There is more to it. Humans have an internal desire to collect objects. Life has become so commercialized that there is a resurgence of people more interested in being connected to the natural world. I think that in itself has allowed more people to appreciate taxidermy. I cannot prove anything these are just theories of mine.
  2. Jerry Huffaker

    Jerry Huffaker Well-Known Member

    I like to see the fringe stuff, it doesn't interest me much but it's fun to look at what people can dream up. I don't see it as a trend because that sort of thing has been going on since the beginning, it may be it's a little more visible because of social media and modern media in general.

    The bottom line is the bottom line.

    Whether you like it or not MONEY is what will drive this industry not art, now and forever. Commercial Taxidermy is the backbone of our industry and will be what keeps it going strong for many decades to come. The Museum taxidermy days are gone forever. There are commercial shops that are producing some of the most accurate and creative taxidermy ever created, every day for hunters trophy rooms world wide.

    I encourage the ladies and gents with their art degrees to come join us in this world , the more minds we have throwing ideas around the better it will be for all of us. Just look at the positive attention Allis brought to the last world show. But to say that they are going to be any more special than some of the talent we already have just isn't true.
    Ever heard of
    Lowell Shapley
    Travis De Villiers

    I may be wrong but pretty sure neither one of them has a fine arts degree in anything but hard work and extreme talent.

  3. AliciaG

    AliciaG Museum taxidermist and exhibit preparator

    Jerry, I couldn't agree with you more about the degree pedigree. In my opinion, it doesn't mean diddley. A piece of paper does not affect your ability to excel in something you're passionate about. Sure, it looks nice on a resume, but if you're self employed, there's no great need to look good on paper, for example. As you said, hard work and natural talent will get you just as far. I'm a firm believer that if you put enough blood, sweat, and tears into something, it will pay off. Completing a degree program at an art school or university will mean that you've studied the fundamentals of art history, design, color theory, composition, etc. This information may or may not come in handy in real-world applications, depending on what direction is taken, whether it be taxidermy or otherwise.

    In my case, I believe I've actually benefited from NOT finishing school. Unlike a lot of people my age, I have zero debt. Also, the years I would have been studying were spent busting my butt working 6-7 days a week, gaining experience and learning what I wanted to, when I wanted to (something I'm still doing almost 20 years later, still loving every minute of it). Having this extra time to grow and gain experience gave me a bit of a head start. I got my first museum job managing the specimen preparation operations of the Ornithology & Mammalogy Dept. at the California Academy of Sciences because I knew how to run a dermestid colony, prepare study skins, and repair old taxidermy in the collection (the people with advanced degrees that applied couldn't put the blade on a scalpel handle to save their lives).

    Don't get me wrong, a degree can be a great tool to have in one's tool box, and can be used to help build a successful career, I'm just saying there's more than one way to go about it. I think the more diversity we have in this industry the better. Degree or no degree, men or women, young and bushy-tailed or older and experienced, everyone's got something to bring to the table.
  4. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    A LOT of the old Victorian taxidermy was done by housewives.
  5. prairietaxigirl

    prairietaxigirl New Member

    What an interesting discussion! I'm new to the forum and to taxidermy for that matter. So much has been covered in this post and I'm not sure where to start. As a woman who is a budding taxidermist I'm trying to think of what drew me to the field. I think like a lot of people it's something I fell into. I have a natural curiosity and have always wanted to know how things work. My educational background is not in Art, though I can't help buy feel some sketching classes would be of great benefit to me! Definitely interesting to me to see so many women getting into the field these days. It's inspiring too! Don't have much else to say on the matter, but thank you Steve for getting this conversation going!
  6. jjennings.m

    jjennings.m Member


    Here are a couple of more to add to your list. All featured in The Wall Street Journal, no less. Taxidermy.net represents one international audience. I’m guessing that the WSJ represents and entirely different international audience.




  7. Joe Kish

    Joe Kish Well-Known Member


    Ladies and gentlemen, there’s nothing new under the sun. The lively discussions of late by posters like PA, Catman, PReynolds, and many responders thereto, are the very same subject matter and issues which were the hot topics foremost on the minds and in the hearts of taxidermy practitioners from the very first day the first issue of Taxidermy Review landed in the hands of its first subscriber. That was in January 1977.

    To each new generation of practitioners, for the majority (I think) the art of taxidermy began for them on the very day they first engaged in it with enthusiasm. A majority are presumptively unaware of the past history, personalities of note, and achievements of generations that came before them which set the foundations of standards and examples which appear to be old fashioned today. Therefore the hot topics of today are as something new and never before addressed which needs to be settled once more for all time.
    As proof I know what of I speak, here’s a list of the first six editorials which appeared in TR starting with the first issue after it was purchased from Bob Davis, formerly titled WIDE WORLD OF TAXIDERMY. It's all been discussed before many of you were even out of knee pants.

    Vol. 5, No 3. DEPARTING EDITOR BOB DAVIS – Sale of Wide World of Taxidermy Magazine to new owners. A statement of appreciation to readers and advertisers. (page 7.)

    Vol. 5, No 4. AN ART? - Short story concerning how the Art of Taxidermy is viewed by some members of the art world. (page 6.)

    Vol. 5, No 5. CRITICISM – A QUESTION OF MATURITY – The value of constructive criticism and honest evaluation. (pg. 6)

    Vol. 5, No 6. THE HALL OF FAME - Objections to the criteria used by the NTA in establishing its Hall of Fame.(pg. 6.)

    Vol. 6, No 1. THERE’S A FUTURE IN IT – For those who maintain high level of quality, adequate employment is assured. (pg. 6)

    Vol. 6, No 2. EXPOSURE – Suggested ways to elicit public awareness of taxidermy as an art form. (pg. 6.)

    With this I leave the discussion in all your enthusiastic hands. Be fair and kind and remember to use this phrase when another poster calls you a fool or an moron: “Is it possible you could be mistaken?” And as Tim Kelly, former editor of American Taxidermist Magazine once said to me: “If you’re going to tell a man to go the hell, do it in such a way that he looks forward to the trip.” I’ll see you all on another post. I’ll try to take some of my own advice.
  8. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I don't have a degree in art, however, I have been taking art classes since jr. high. All through out high school and then community collage classes. These classes helped me immensely when I first started out and continues to be useful today.
  9. I know I'm not particularly outspoken here, and quite frankly I tend to shy away from public attention seeking such as Twitter and such. But, as a "lady with an art degree" I would offer my opinion... (My degree is actually in Technical Theatre with a minor in sculpture, I specialized in set design and properties)
    I wouldn't trade my degree and the time/path I took to achieve it for the world. Yes, it is just a piece of paper that says I can jump through hoops to complete a task and I earned my way mostly through merit scholarships and my parents' support. But in addition to the classical training in theory and history, it gave me hands on experience with style, technique, construction, and interaction with others that no one, no matter how talented or determined, can do by themselves. I would liken my degree to the pedigree most taxidermist seem to keep...I would wager not one of you can say they came up with every technique and process on their own. You had mentors, teachers, colleges, schools and studios to learn from and collaborate with. While not specifically directed at taxidermy, the things I learned are invaluable to me. As are the people I have met and worked with in the course of getting my degree, from small town craftsmen to Broadway designers to artists on the other side of the world.
    Here I must also add that just because I completed my degree in 2000, that does not mean I have stopped my education. I am very grateful for the continuing education I have gotten since joining the taxidermy world a few years ago, especially from my state association, and the new experience of attending a competition for the first time this year. So I guess what I am trying to say is that it's not about the piece of paper but what one makes of the process of getting it that really counts.
    Respectfully, Wendi
  10. KatieC

    KatieC Active Member

    x2. I worked hard for my degree, even dropping out of college once and then going back again later. The experience alone was worth the time and effort it took. I know it doesn't make me better than anyone else, but it's an accomplishment that I'm still proud of, and it was wonderful to learn so much about art! Plus the college experience gives you a much broader look at the world. I think that any taxidermist, no matter how talented, who hasn't taken basic drawing, painting, sculpting, or design classes could benefit from them. Who doesn't want to learn as much as they can about something that interests them and could help them be better at what they do?
  11. Alicia, no offense taken. However, like Katie, I believe that taxidermists, truly the industry as a whole, can benefit from broadening their horizons. Fine art training is, in my mind, equivalent to taxidermy training, just a different medium with realism as it's ultimate goal. A collaboration between the various arts, science, even entertainment, propels us as an industry, not diminishes us.
  12. AliciaG

    AliciaG Museum taxidermist and exhibit preparator

    Again, I totally agree with you Wendi ;)
  13. DakotahRose

    DakotahRose Member

    Sorry to jump in late... but just read through everything and was so happy to see such a good discussion.

    Although I did not end up with a degree I did spend my freshman year in art classes before dropping out when I realized nothing that I was interested in pursuing for a career required any schooling or degree and didn't personally find puting myself in debt for something that wouldn't necessarily further my career.

    I try not to dig to deep into 'women in the industry' debates or reasoning. I can't really speak for anyone else. But another thing I've noticed from women, is that myself and several other of my female friends in the industry, is a great appreciation for the history and old techniques. Although I know there's a few men out there who share that love, I think women are just more nostalgic. Whether it comes to our own family histories or the history of our craft and passion, I think women definitely connect to things and build sentiment. Being able to tour and work at museums had been absolutely mind blowing. To look at how things were done 100 years before my time, to have an appreciation for how 'easy' I have it today in comparison, to imagine the hay days of museum collecting, reading stories like Akeleys... it all holds sentiment and women are just generally sentimental beings when it comes to things they care about. I have other female friends in museums, I have female friends who aren't in museums but love trying 'old school' methods just for the experience and comparison. I may be wrong but that's a huge part of my love for the industry... History.

    I've never had the 'if men can do it so can i' mentality. I do this because I love it, and enjoy meeting others (man or woman) who also love what I love.

    I will say that one thing I GREATLY appreciate about coming into a 'male dominated industry.' Is the extreme candor and blunt honesty. I use to show livestock competitively and couldn't help but notice that these facets that had started out as primarily male dominated, had so much change once women, children, and families joined, and probably also a generational thing, but soon Judges were told to be more 'caring', to be more 'considerate' of feelings... part of my reasoning for exiting that hobby, was because I felt like it was very hard to grow and Excell and learn when judging became so 'warm and fuzzy.' I don't get better that way. If I suck, I want to know. Put a fire under my ass, I don't want a false sense of accomplishment that I don't deserve.

    I'm still very new to this field, competed for my first time this spring (and jumped right into professional division) and was absolutely reamed on my birds. And i was thrilled about it! I'm very thankful to be in a field where not only is everyone so helpful but also very honest!

    I sidetracked a bit, but I'm absolutely shocked I was even mentioned, especially among some that I look up to tremendously.

    When I took my first taxidermy class 2 years ago I had every intention of being 'rogue.' It was a genre that intreagued me... however after joining my state association and visiting a couple shows (one being Worlds) I was absolutely blown away at what I saw and decided 'Traditional' was still just as creative. Sure you may not be able to be as interpretive, but the creativity is still there! To make something dead look alive is a talent I hope to nail one day. That talent might have a degree and it might not.

    There's several genres in taxidermy that have popped up and I know they may not be everyone's cup of tea but if some of these people with big followings can get people interested, who knows what it can turn into! I started following rogue people and ended up where I am now, with a big love for traditional taxidermy! So even if there's a genre, or facets of taxidermy you don't agree with, it can still just be a door to other facets!

    Dakotah Gould
  14. PA

    PA Well-Known Member

    I personally think you belong on the list Dakotah, as much as any other I initially listed. I also believe some of the other young lady taxidermists have moved into more traditional taxidermy as the rogue movement comes and goes. When they have tried to organize conventions or shows they perhaps last for a year or two but are not nearly as consistent in quality as the state and national shows.

    I completed four undergraduate years of school and then worked for two years until I saved enough for graduate school, but I certainly do not think someone who never went to college couldn't produce better taxidermy and exhibits. Enthusiasm and practice and an innate skill is often necessary. As George says often, there are people born with magic in the hands, and instinct at art. That said, college broadened my horizons, and I didn't really want to grow up until my late 20's.

    I am looking forward to my first World Show and expect to see more lady taxidermists. I fully expect Amy to win big, she is extremely talented and driven, but there will probably be many more women there than the last show and I heard they made a big splash.

    One thing I thought someone might catch in my original post was a string of artists I listed. "...art students were still studying the masters of old – Leonardo Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael and Splinter". Take Rembranft away and what do you have?
  15. AliciaG

    AliciaG Museum taxidermist and exhibit preparator

    One helluva pizza party! (Because turtles love pizza of course)
  16. DakotahRose

    DakotahRose Member

    So much pizza... hahaha