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Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by Rick Carter, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. 1fish2fish

    1fish2fish Well-Known Member

    Kish as usual. Do you concur with this quote or have an alternate opinion?
  2. Cecil

    Cecil Well-Known Member

    "Hellen Keller taxidermy!" Love it!

  3. Joe Kish

    Joe Kish Well-Known Member

    Your opening post on this topic has evoked a lot of interesting responses, (especially the first half dozen,) which I’ve enjoyed reading, and is proving to be of continuing interest to readers. Its central theme postulates, that “Artiistic talent is the foremost ingredient to becoming a competent taxidermist.” (Quoting you.) You concluded with, “It's really all about the artistry. It always has been about the artistry but now it is much more obvious.”
    When the subject of talent comes up, it often reminds me of these two quotes by wise and observant men:

    “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
    ― Calvin Coolidge

    “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo

    Lastly, I’d like to quote a close friend who is a keen observer of human behavior and motivation, who has a particular talent for wisdom, has said, “Most people would rather be someone great than do something great.”

    That could translate into competitors wanting to be world champions more than they want to do world class champion work. That might include those who shop the same winning piece from state show to state show to gather a few more ribbons for a single effort rather than creating something even better for the next competition.
    harriekat likes this.
  4. Cecil

    Cecil Well-Known Member


    I've seen some gifted flat artists do mediocre taxidermy. Why? Because they were lazy. They just didn't want to up the skill level and get better and better when it came to taxidermy. Good enough was good enough.

    Had a friend that tried taxidermy. Did an exceptional job well above and beyond what I taught him, but you know what he said? "I would never want to do this for a living. Too much work."
    harriekat likes this.
  5. Harum

    Harum Active Member


    Persistence and determination alone may be omnipotent but, without knowledge and talent you will be chasing your tail in a never ending loop of inadequacy. This is not to say that persistence and determination are anything less than required to create high end art. Pretty sure Coolidge was talking about society in general though.

    Here is a quote from a brilliant mind.

    “The painter who is familiar with the nature of the sinews, muscles, and tendons, will know very well, in giving movement to a limb, how many and which sinews cause it; and which muscle, by swelling, causes the contraction of that sinew; and which sinews, expanded into the thinnest cartilage, surround and support the said muscle.”
    -Leonardo da Vinci

    Through my studies I found that this true Master of Art intimately understood the subject he chose to depict before beginning his creations.

    harriekat likes this.
  6. fish stuffer

    fish stuffer Active Member

    I have been away from tax-net for awhile, about 2 years. Now, I've come back and I remember all the "raise your prices" posts. I don't know where you guys get all these customers willing to pay more and wanting comp. quality pieces even though it's a com. mt.

    If I had a sucessfull buss., with 300 deer mts. to do anually, I'd hire a monkey to stretch the covers over a form and turn out 3 heads a day with just me and one monkey.

    I've been in taxidermy since 1970, struggled, self taught mostly, moved around alot, never was able to get set up. I watched otheres in the business, dry preserving, and getting more than they could do. I was broke, had a construction dead end job, worked hard to feed my family, and every friggen day I hated my job, wanting to do taxidermy as a living, or so I thought.

    One thing I noticed, the sucessfull guys stayed in one place. They couldn't have a sign in their residential zoned area. They got buss like a drug dealer or bootlegger. Word of mouth, but stay where folks can find you. I finally was able to get my own place, worst location in the world. Off the main drag, turn left, then right, then left, couldn't have picked a worse spot.

    No computers back then. No GPS, no mapquest. But, my desire to have my ultimate goal drove me to be persistant and pay off all my notes, don't owe nothing, and now, with gps and mapquest people come right to my door. Who would have believed it? " In the future you won't have to tell people to get a paper and pencile, and I'll give you directions on the 8 friggen turns you gotta make". Well, that's good, computer age helps! But, now, there's a taxidermy shop, or "Wildlife Studio", or "Animal Artist", or "Award Winning ,On All Levels, Compitition Quality Animal Wildlife Artistist" every damn where you look.

    So in a way, brace yourself now, computers hurt. People say it helps the industry. Yea, it helps the taxidermy SUPPLY industry, but not so much the taxidermy industry. People still think we're warped or " he didn't have nobody to plat with when he was growing up." He's a little Strange , if you know what I mean.

    People get on here and do tutorials, give free advice, I remember the" closed door days", wouldn't nobody tell ya chit, except" I'm afraid I'm gonna have to ask you to leave", when they found out you were learning taxidermy. Everybody's on U-tube giving free Taxi lessons.??? What in the hell is up wid dat? Advertising? Ican understand that. Getting paid? I've heard not that much.

    Do law students and medical students get free training? I don't know, may be. My cousin had to go four years of college to be a nurse. My other cousin studdied law while working law enforcement and quit being a cop and became a lawyer. I'm pretty sure it wasn't free. Then after 20 years as a lawyer, he became a district judge, again, I'll bet he had to take some courses to learn how to be a judge and then run and get elected. But taxidermists will go out of their way to get in the spotlight, to be seen or noticed and it ain't nothing but egos running wild.

    I had more art talent in my little finger that any 10 people , but, I didn't know how to make money drawing or painting so my dumbass give it up around 79. I used to win ribbons with drawings, my pics. looked like black and white photographs. I had unlimited patience back then. I stopped drawing and painting in 79 and painted signs, airbrushed vans, but the one thing I couldn't shake was the desire to do taxidermy. Everytime I got out of it I'd always get back in it. I think this "GOD GIVEN TALENT" that people talk about is more of a curse than a gift. It never leaves you , you can't stop thinking about it, and you will never be happy doing any thing else. If you are not making it at your taxi buss, you would be better off doing something else, definatly make more money. But, something always calling you back.

    My cheap azz customers want it back quick. Look good yes, quality, yes. I'm med range on price. I give them what they pay for. I tan everything except fish, birds and squirrells. Sometimes I tan squirrels. I've never had a custome willing to pay extra for open mouth deer. Don't want rotated eyes, tell them about nictitating membranes and they look at you like you're crazy. Big neck, nice plaque, most are oldschool and want ears out, a few want ears back, claims antlers look bigger. Get it back quick, they're happy.

    Artistry? If a guy wins "best in universe", does he go home and instantly raise prices? If his customer will pay more because he has the best in universe title, does he realize it took him two years to do that mount and when I get mine back it would'nt win a ribbon. It's competition quality techniques, but the deer wouldn't win a ribbon. It's egos running wild.

    If I get my buss going strong, anybody got any pet monkeys they can lease out to me?
    Rick Carter, Cecil and harriekat like this.
  7. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I agree somewhat with you Joe. I have natural artistic ability. It never got me anywhere until I decided to not be lazy any more and dive deep into study and hard work. Only after persistence and hard study, I was able to have a successful taxidermy business. When I decided to get into turkey taxidermy, I studied everything turkey and experimented with procedure and process on all aspects of mounting turkeys for years before I ever attempted to mount one because I realized that with my artistic talent alone I could not mount a convincing turkey. Having said that, my natural artistic ability sure hasn't hurt anything.
    harriekat likes this.
  8. BrianHendricks

    BrianHendricks Member

    Hey Rick ! You still with us ? I think we're getting this figured out !
    Cecil likes this.
  9. fish stuffer

    fish stuffer Active Member

    I went back and read what Rick said. "Duplicate flora and fauna?" "Draw it, sculpt it' paint it?", is that what a taxidermist is? In every you-tube clip of the world show Larry B. starts by "definning" the word Taxidermy. Taxi meaning movement , dermy meaning skin. Stumps, 5 feet tall bases, 400 dollar solid walnut bases, artificial water, ice, and splashes? Nothing about it is taxidermy. No skins involved. No movement either. Wood , plexiglass, polymers, they don't move. "Honey, I gotta go out in my shop and adjust my driftwood., It's been drying over nite and the chemicals in that plexiglass might have shifted. It gets pretty warm in that shop." "Taxi habitat?" Defined as "movement" of "any piece of junk you stacked around your mount."

    In the beginning I think habitat was like garnishing a meal. " Hey Tyrell, dis dish look like oatmeal, tastes like chit ,maybe we outta throw in a slice a lemon, carrot or somp em to give it a little color if we gone charge em a benji fo dis plate, no wat im sayin."?

    Imagine a perfect world where things didn't shrink. Once the skin was on, adjust it ONCE, and your done. Come back in 2 hors the glue has dried and it will look the same in 2 weeks after the skin dries as it does now. No pulling, shifting, adjusting, shrinking, any artistic person could do it. The only ones who couldn't do it are those with no patience, two left thumbs, no hand eye coordination.

    That's what a taxidermist does. Once it's mounted, Hell!, your work is just beginning. By tomorrow , skin is drying, shrinking, moving, clay shrinking, glue shrinking. Even if you bag it, slow things down, come back and look at it in a week and, " holy crap, where did my symetry go? I know darn well I had those eyes right, now somethings off. I'm about ready to pull my hair out, what's left of it. I know, I'll get my wife to look at it, or better yet, I'll look at it in a mirrow. I've looked at it till my eyes are crosed and I can't see the forrest for the trees. Something has moved and I can't see what it is. Truth be told, I'll bet most have more time in a mount than their willing to admit. Tweeking, adjusting. I've got 6 hours in a deer head, I'm making money, yea right!

    And even we guys can't get it right. There are no absolutes. NONE, in taxidermy. I went to freds taxidermy school and paid twenty thousand bucks to learn it, don't tell me I don't know what I'm doing. Fred says, use dextrine glue. Been at it 50 years and dextrine is best. Ask 10 others, one uses carpet glue, one buckeye, one uses liquid nails from lowes, hell, we can't agree on nothing. Bondo ears. Earliners are better but I can save time by not removing cartilege. What kinda glue works on earliners? I use this, well try that one. Nothing is definate. Tan or dry preserve. I know tan is better, but to much work. I'll D.P., but I won't tell my customers. "Geeeesh!!!"

    Take a coarse in electric, welding, plumbing. The instructor comes in," This is how it's done." The code is as follows." It's myway or the highway." Do you want to pass? Want your license?"There's no BS. I can use old wire I found in grandpa's barn and save. I don't need 10 gage wire. I'll use this 14 GA, nobody will know.

    Taxidermy is hard. I mean look at what we really do. A deerhead, crawing with bacteria, blood running out, hauled around on a truck for hours, worms in the nasle passage. Some hunters won't even touch the deer head once it gets blood on the face. Most wont skin a deer anymore, take it straight to the cooler so they can get back in the woods. Then we take that nasty thing and turn it into something clean and beautiful for their homes and they complain about price.

    I think the piece should be judged on the AMINAL. Not the "artwork" it's mounted on. People spend more time on the base than the head, in some cases. Why not have a catogory just for habitat? You can use a deerhead in the piece, but the judging is only on the base. Then, we'll judge that derr in a category where it belongs, gameheads, and it will be scored on it's own accuracy, competing against nature.

    Everybody knows, you can't start a piece until you come up with a theme. Some say, it's all been done. Maybe someone COULD MOUNT A DOE AIRMOUNT JUMPING THREW A PLATEGLASS WINDOW WITH TAXIDERMY SHOP LOGO ON THE WINDOW..hint hint!

    I predict that will happen and a year from now some supply co will be selling artificial broken glass for your habitats. Right along with artificial water, ice etc.

    I'm just cuttin up with ya'll, don't pay no attention to that man behind the curtin, er!, I mean computer screen. I admire you rick. Luv that punkin patch deer!
    Cecil, DL and harriekat like this.
  10. catman

    catman Active Member

    It is about what YOU wish to make it. Knowledge and skill can be developed with Persistance even with average talent. Sure you have to have meat to make great chili, but how much meat is required? It can be all about the art or all about the Benjamins or even just for fun. Why do people have to try to define what it has to be for someone else? Must be the off-season.
    Cecil and harriekat like this.
  11. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Here's a quote: "This ain't friggin rocket surgery."

    Now just answer me one simple question and I'll let this go: Have you ever met a bad taxidermist? Have you ever met one with no talent? Depends on who you ask the question. I've yet to meet one who didn't think he was one of the best and who wasn't extremely talented. They've all told me they were. Their wives/husbands/mothers/kids all told me the same thing. I honestly think I'm the only guy left who admits to doing shifty work. Ivan Harvey was the other and he claimed he was "Pretty Close". If I had the bet the mortgage, I'd bet that everyone who's commented here thinks everyone is talking about someone else and not them. Hell, Picasson and Dali invented styles so they could lay claim to being the best. I just saw a mounted house finch that looked like it had been strained through a collander, but I'd bet the house the person who mounted it couldn't believe they didn't win a blue ribbon with it.
  12. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I can guarantee that when I mount something, it is as good or better than anyone on here can do, period. That is for the first few days and by the time the customer comes to pick it up, I almost feel like I owe them an apology. I tend to get over myself pretty quick.
    George and harriekat like this.
  13. fish stuffer

    fish stuffer Active Member

    Some good points made here. Sally once said, "she never likes anything she mounts." We spend so much time staring at these mounts that we see every imperfection. We are LOOKING for something wrong so we can fix it. I actually enjoy looking at other people's work more than my own. I see mistakes in mine as well as his . I enjoy looking at the antique mounts and have bought a few. I usually hang them in the other room. Sooner or later I'll think, if I die my kids are going to think I mounted this old neck mount from the 40's. I usually take em apart. LOL
    harriekat likes this.
  14. Cecil

    Cecil Well-Known Member

    I know I'm not God's gift to fish taxidermy although I have won a few life tone awards, blues etc. In fact I'm pretty damn hard on myself at times. The think for me is it's a journey with no end point. I'm still learning and still attempting to acquire new skills.

    The main thing for me is the customer is happy and I keep getting those green ribbons with the president's faces on them. I could be back prostituting myself out to an employer that doesn't appreciate me. I need to realize that from time to time.
    slater56 and harriekat like this.
  15. Joe Kish

    Joe Kish Well-Known Member

    From Post #89 - Catman

    It is about what YOU wish to make it. Knowledge and skill can be developed with Persistance even with average talent. .......... It can be all about the art or all about the Benjamins or even just for fun. Why do people have to try to define what it has to be for someone else?


    Let me first point out to readers that Art and Artistry are two different things.
    Art refers to the piece itself. Artistry refers to the quality or effect, or workmanship of the
    Piece of art. In Rick’s initial post on this topic, it’s clear that he does not confuse the two.

    You ask, “Why do people have to try to define what it has to be for someone else?” I take
    it you mean through expressing their opinions on this forum. Well, definitions are important
    to the extent that we don’t confuse one subject with the other.

    I can safely say that no one has to be told what art is. It’s all around us every day. But
    artistry is teachable even in the absence of talent. Hence the purpose and success of art
    schools, art classes and demonstrations at taxidermy conventions. I think you’d agree
    these all facilitate the development of talent, even if one wasn’t born with that natural
    aptitude we call talent.

    Here’s what I see missing in all these posts: BOOKS. No one has mentioned any books or
    their value in learning how to draw, paint, sculpt, design, and construct an artwork
    of lasting merit and value. Not even on the subject of taxidermy, of which there is a
    plethora of how-to books and videos on methods and techniques. I presume the reason for
    not mentioning books is because everyone assumes we all know that and many have
    already availed themselves of these resources.

    But notwithstanding the multitude of books and videos, I know of no book specifically
    dealing with art theory and practice written specifically for taxidermists that will tell them
    how to create superior works of taxidermy ARTISTRY. That’s why I wrote my latest book, A
    Conversation With Carl Akeley. It’s really a 19,000 word essay on the subject of artistic
    taxidermy, in which I mention several books by qualified artists whose knowledge of art
    theory and practice, art aesthetics and compositional mechanics, are mostly lacking in the
    background knowledge of art in all but a very few schooled artists and
    taxidermy practitioners like Rick Carter.

    I suggest you read my book. I promise your compositional habitat work will take an
    immediate up-tick on the first read. Especially if you read the books I talk about in my book.
    Here’s a few snippets from the "Conversation" relevant to many of the posts on this topic. Enjoy:

    "There are two subjects which a taxidermist must master to produce superb work; one is the mechanics, that is sculpting, molding and casting, setting the eyes and ears, applying and taxing the skin just right, sewing and general grooming; and the other is getting the anatomy and natural history right. That’s where many amateurs fall short. As a result, the body of their work necessarily lacks the power to move the viewer however satisfying it was for the artist in them to produce it.
    If a taxidermist doesn’t bother to learn more than the simple mechanics of taxidermy and the barest facts of nature, or basic principles of art, he simply isn’t equipped to give his work the kind of interpretive treatment that would fool Mother Nature, or as someone said, “Offend the gods.”

    You don’t have to be Beethoven who wrote the Fifth Symphony to play it on a piano the way Beethoven wrote it. But if you don’t play it the way he wrote it, the way people who love classical music are accustomed to hearing it, your audience won’t be coming back for an encore. We never tire of looking at truthful things but soon tire of viewing a partial truth once we recognize it staring back at us. This is why you won’t see exaggerated mounts in museums. For commercial reasons a mount can tolerate a little tweaking you call improving on Nature, but in truth you can’t improve on Nature.

    …………but among art forms taxidermy is more an applied art than a fine art. Another thing is that taxidermy mounts are usually done for a specific purpose and are not inherently permanent like paintings or bronze sculptures. There are also certain parameters unique to the art. An applied art is something ... intended to serve some other purpose besides being beautiful or pleasing to look at. Taxidermy in a museum mainly serves scientific and educational purposes. Depending on the artist’s intent, and beyond museums, taxidermy is mostly for the preservation of sportsmen’s trophies or for natural history collectors.

    There are also certain standards in taxidermy not applicable to other forms of wildlife art. A taxidermy work must be comprised of the skin of an animal, a bird or a fish; it must be exactly lifesize and the skin must be filled with or applied over a realistic manikin. The fine arts are mostly art for art’s sake. Original works like paintings, sculptures and literary works can be copyrighted, but I never heard of anyone copyrighting a piece of taxidermy itself. These are somewhat rigid rules which don’t apply in other visual arts.

    Because Michelangelo was a genius, artists could be geniuses, not merely workmen. And since there have been so many great painters during and since his time, painting and sculpture as well, gained a new respectability to the extent that ever since, anyone who engages in art regardless of how grand or common his works may be, is considered an artist and perceived as special because art is special. That new respectability is now enjoyed by anyone producing art from professional artists to dabblers.
    harriekat likes this.
  16. Museum Man

    Museum Man Well-Known Member

    I have never been totally satisfied with anything I mounted over the last 47 years. I think that's what makes me keep trying harder and trying to produce a better mount.
    Cecil likes this.
  17. fish stuffer

    fish stuffer Active Member

    Catman did you get all that?
    Cecil likes this.
  18. For the record, I know with great certainty that I am not the best. LOL. But you make a very good point. I met a taxidermist on the backside of WV who had been doing it for 30+ years in a shop surrounded by the worst taxidermy I have ever seen (I don't say that with any exaggeration). He proceeded to tell me how he doesn't go to competitions anymore because they were rigged against him...
    Cecil and harriekat like this.
  19. Cecil

    Cecil Well-Known Member

    Yup heard that one a few times. LOL
  20. My question is, do folks like that really believe that, or do they think they're fooling people? Either way, I wish there were more like him at our state show so I could place better HAHA!