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Taxidermy Competitions and Conventions

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by George, Sep 5, 2017.

  1. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Bill, Ken, you both know I love and respect you more than most, but at some point we're simply going to have to talk about this subject and the details involved in making them happen. I've been in this business for 59 years this October. There are only a couple who hang around here who've been here longer and I know one of them, a dear friend, Richard Christoforo whose heart is broken by the mere fact of the obvious: taxidermists simply don't play well together.

    So let me start out with a clean slate. I was nothing more than a hack doing backwoods taxidermy for almost 20 years. When I got a letter from William Lee Birch in the 70's that the NTA was forming and read all those great and grand ideas of sharing information, I jumped on the train and was swept away. I absorbed as much as I could, and though my work will never be considered "world class", it is unrecognizable compared to the stuff I did in the 60's.

    Then along came Ken Edwards and with the Internet, I found this site. Never one to hold back and always having my mouth into things, I became notorious rather than famous. I met even better artists and became actively involved in organizations, even forming one in my own state. I served for 7 years on the NTA board in one capacity or another. It was during that time I opened my eyes and saw the impending train wreck. Not only did I see the wreck of my own train, I saw it happening to all the other organizations as well. I'm not a rocket scientist, or a brain surgeon, but I began to think AND SAY things that made people uncomfortable. What I'm about to say isn't going to change that and it's going to piss of some of you. Sadly, it's not going to change the irrefutable fact and no matter how much you argue, the clock is running.

    Taxidermists simply don't play together well. I'd bet 99% of you are one man operations, perhaps with a helper, usually a family member including and most times your spouse. You're a "A" type personality and independent thinker. Sadly a large percentage of you are a nickel propping up a dime to continue. Some of you maintain work order residue and a very few of you keep a skeleton inventory in case of a rush job or something of your own perhaps, but most simply order supplies as they become depleted and when the demand for them appears. Few of you order in bulk and most of you bitch about the cost of shipping simply because you don't include that in your overhead. Few of you have actual "store fronts" and instead work out of basements, outside sheds, garages, barns, or warehouses. You use some DIY program or Aunt Matilda to your book work and accounting. Some of you have actually run your personal credit card through your reader so you can pay your bills at the end of the month.

    Then you want to "get better" so you begin the competition circuit. You join an organization and are only interested in what's in it for you. You spent 6 hours on a customers piece but put 50 on a "competition mount" only to have some know-nothing, egotistical judge give you a third place ribbon. So it's time for you to create an organization or join one to insure that doesn't happen to someone else. Then you form a board and elect one president though each of you knows you could personally do a better job than that idiot. You have a secretary who doesn't keep the minutes straight and a treasure who's hiding money away from the reports you read each month. You send out ballots each year but know the CPA is cooking the election. You hire judges for the shows and pay them under the table and each member expects $75 worth of return for their $50 membership fee.

    Oh, I know. YOUR state doesn't have that problem. Yes it does, you're just in denial. Even if it DOESN'T happen, you have some members who swear it does. Some people would complain if you hung them with a new rope. ALL TAXIDERMY ASSOCIATIONS ARE ON A SLIPPERY SLOPE. Even though yours is running well, if or WHEN that core group of players quit, retire, or die, the association goes with them. Less than 5% of your membership works on keeping its head above water. The majority of your membership wants to know how much they can win , when they can drop off their mounts, and when they can pick them up afterwards. They only come to the banquet if they win and they expect to have a meal of prime rib, backed potato, steamed vegetable, small salad, tea or coffee with dessert and all for under $25. Dress is come as you are. That might include a jacke and tie for the guys and gowns for the ladies, but work boots, old blue jeans, logo T-Shirts and a baseball cap due its 10,000 mile oil change will be more common.

    In the last 40 years, only TWO SHOWS have worked and worked well. JUST TWO.

    #1 Piedmont. Held at Piedmont Community College in Rocksboro, North Carolina and hosted by the school's instructors, Ralph and Sandy Garland, this was the epitome of down home taxidermy. A small town, all the motels were sold out yet people came and slept in cars just to be able to attend that show. Admission just paid for overhead and before the Internet, there was no single source of information any better than what happened in this little town. Unfortunately, Piedmont got greedy and wanted full time academic students, The taxidermy course closed down and though the show continued for a few years, it was dead and gone .

    #2 The World Show.

    Can any of you wise guys come up with a good reason why only these two shows make my list?? MANAGEMENT. You see, neither of them had/has a "board of directors", a president, a executive director, or any contrived PooBahs. They are privately funded and privately managed by a single person. There's no voting as to what each individual would like or want, but rather a professional pattern and decision used. Volunteers are not needed as there are paid employees there. It's no one's business how much money is made and the participants are contractually obligated to perform. When it's over, one person reviews what worked and what didn't and without having to ask permission, makes changes to improve operations. And when Larry and Kathy tire of it, I'm not sure there'll be anything close to filling that void just as happened when Ralph and Sandy left Piedmont.

    When money was introduced into taxidermy, the death knell was sounded. There are no saints left and we are all crooks in one way or another (some just less than others). The appearance of impropriety is always more damaging than an actual impropriety because it creates doubt. It destroys friendships and increases greed. Everyone wants their share.

    We have our share of dolts and jerks, obviously, but the taxidermy family is basically a good, loving and wholesome group. They enjoy each others company and respect each others respective standing as a business person, but when sides are chosen and some given the responsibility of deciding what's best for others, the accumulatnig friction creates cliques and chinks in the armor.

    In her book, "Still Life", Melissa Milgrom follows the history of the industry and the associations that formed along the way. Not a single one of those early groups exist today and all for the same reasons as cited above. The NTA was formed with exemplary intentions but an early divide led to it splitting into the International Guild of Taxidermy. The IGT and then the NTA tumbled. From there, the United Taxidermists Association form. The UTA is fledgling and I've told its founders that there are pratfalls ahead that I'm not sure they can survive. The current NTA is foundering because it desperately wants to reinvent the wheel that was broken long ago. And it all comes down to the cold hard truth: the rank and file taxidermists simply can't play well with others. Those who're educated beyond my have better ideas, but tend to be ostracized for acting as if they're better than the guy in jeans and a ball cap. We're ALL too damned independent to be talked down to by our peers, and as long as our peers are trying to make decisions for others, that stigma is not going away.

    Now I've had my say. Each and every one of you is sitting there thinking I'm talking about someone else. Yet the guy you think I'm talking about is thinking you are the "someone else".
    aewalsh and Mac McLane like this.
  2. pir^2h

    pir^2h Retrievers give you the bird

    One thing you can count on with George, he tells it like it is and doesn't hold back!

  3. Kerby Ross

    Kerby Ross KSU - Class of '83; U.S. Army - Infantry (83-92)

    Well, yes and no.


    I still support taxidermy associations. I still enjoy going to shows .... and I still learn stuff. And I have LOTS of good friends that I see at the shows.

    Are there politics .... you betcha ..... but over all taxidermy associations are a PLUS for the taxidermy industry.

    Are times changing - yes ... always will. Where we get our taxidermy knowledge changes.
    Library books ...... then associations popped up ..... then VHS tapes ...... DVDs .... and the internet ...... the OLD taxi.net (yes, I was there too)..... and then switched over to the bulletin board format ..... now we have Facebook..... what's next? Will taxi.net be here in 10 years? Will it change its format? Will Facebook be around in 10 years? Remember myspace? LMAO

    The NTA is trying to change .... will it? Who knows? The UTA is still here ...... Some state associations had their largest shows this past year .........

    Taxidermy associations are a great way for taxidermists to keep learning new methods and a great way for new taxidermist to learn.

    Taxidermy associations will still be here long after George and most of us are long gone. :)


    tviper56 likes this.
  4. RichMO

    RichMO Well-Known Member

    George and Kirby... Both of you are spot on ...well almost. The WTC is not staffed by paid employees it takes a lot of volunteer help to put on a show that size. Most shows state, UTA and NTA and depend on volunteers to help... Will they survive.... Your both right.... For me shows is where I learn (not to mention the classes I try to arrange ...one on one). We all argue some good and some bad but I find that there is still a lot of respect for the work performed... (not that we respect the person but the work they did). I sometimes get on here and like others open mouth (or in this case type) before putting brain in gear....LOL. But George I've never met you but we've talked on the phone and I appreciate your knowledge (Bondo is a good glue...LOL) an Kirby I've met but respect your and your knowledge... (maybe one day I can pick your brain for knowledge as well....LOL).... Shows and competition is great for those that want to learn and not to just get a ribbon.... (sorry ribbons don't taste good and don't have any green except for 3rd place).

    Kirby..... I hope your wrong on FB survival.... I have to much stock in it and the bull market has been great......LOL
  5. Paul B

    Paul B Active Member

    The largest user of Facebook are women in their 50's, as long as there is something to brag or complain about, it will be around, lol.
  6. Bill Yox

    Bill Yox Well-Known Member

    George, Im pretty ok with almost everything you said. Nothing you stated really hurt my feelings. And in addition, Ill always say this, that social media has proven to be a place where so many can showcase their ignorance...and seem so eager to do so. And yes, Im one of them.
  7. pir^2h

    pir^2h Retrievers give you the bird

    That's my wife! I don't remember who but someone summed up Facebook pretty good. They referred to it as "Adult High School." Drama, drama, drama. As a high school teacher myself, I totally agree. Same crap, different place. I stay completely away from all those social media sites.
  8. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Nor quite sure how Facebook got in this, but I hope you understand Taxidermy Net Forums IS a "social media site."
  9. DL

    DL Well-Known Member

    Or antisocial.
    Cecil likes this.
  10. Most taxidermist sit in their little holes and work, then go to their real job later in the 24 hour period.

    Plus they cannot identify profit and wages and taxes from each other.

    I dont go to conventions to see the seminars much anymore. I go to socialize.

    Gorge and Bill they know how many times millions of times many of old timers have said "Its in the archives!" Well everything you need to know is in the archives, it will be there until Ken takes them down.
    Now if you are hanging out of facebook in some taxidermy site, and you tell someone that the same question was posted on the forums on even two days ago. Some dork moderator on facebook will delete you because you are bullying them. Yea if you are not goign to answer the question or you tell them there is a proper way to whiten skulls and someone says I use bleach and they are fine. YOu get kicked out for telling them how chlorine bleach will destroy bone, you are bullying them.

    At lest here you dont get kicked out for telling the truth NORMALLY. Although I have been told I have two strikes for doing just that. But I guess I am bullying lol.

    So will shows survive? I venture to say they are goign away. Some may survive a while longer. would the WTC survive if it was not for all the volunteers? No I dont think so. Thats why the NTA once had a bylaw that said no shows where UNION Labor had to be hired for setup etc. The WTC may go for years but when Larry passes away, it may be done. Larrys not a young man anymore, Ken is not and we knows that. So who will buy the WTC and make it go?

    The split is great you have partimers whom cannot add of define what profit is. you have some that know exactly what it takes, but the same is said for full time shops.

    There is always something n the wind and there may be a new show someday. with new way of doing things. will the same people run it who run everything now? I doubt it.

    I see the circle of people allowed to have a say being tiny. Look at the list about 6 people have they hands in everything and its killing the big shows.

    One state levels someone makes a suggestion and tries to offer advice, and not everyone has been stuck in there little hole all their life doing taxidermy or making illegal copies of certain items like the Chinese industries. You see what I am saying is shows have different requirements. The north still hates the south even in taxidermy.
    George likes this.
  11. Jerry Huffaker

    Jerry Huffaker Well-Known Member

    I don't really care about all that stuff , I go to conventions because it's fun.
  12. Ron Kelly

    Ron Kelly Active Member

    What Jerry said and to see my friends once a year. And I don't agree that most judges are egotistical and don't know anything. We have a great show in Texas and wonderful people who work very hard to make sure it is for everyone.
    It has been strong for a very long time and I don't see it slowing down. But, if it does, I will still try to go.
  13. Brian Reinertson

    Brian Reinertson Well-Known Member

    What Jerry said. These things only can bother you if you let them...

    I also like bringing the same piece to different shows just to see the difference in human opinions or moods. I don't blame it on egos like you suggest. I brought a piece in masters to a show in 2015 and got a 82 from a world champ. Dusted it off and brought the same mount to a show in 2017 and got a 92 from the current world champ. Had the same amount of fun at both shows too. Shows in the Midwest ain't going anywhere, they are getting better every year.
  14. Taxiserv

    Taxiserv James Newport

    Tha sky is falling tha sky is falling!!!
  15. Cole

    Cole Amateur Taxidermist

    You learn more in one two hour seminar than you can learn in 10 years working alone. You'll learn methods that can turn the same quality of your 50 hour competition mount into a 9 hour job. Competitions bring you to the cusp of the industry. You'll see it there first and when it fails, you'll see that as well.

    Most taxidermists going to the big shows use it as family vacations, but realistically, it's all a tax write off. Though your hours can't be, the supplies used, the miles traveled, the meals, lodging, entry fees, memberships, et.al. are tax exempt. Most of us need that if nothing else, but considering what you gain in knowledge would be a very difficult thing to put a price on.

    Long Live Competitions George!
  16. joeym

    joeym Old Murphey

    Good post George! Never attended Piedmont, but I will say that there's no show like the "World Show"!!! I don't compete because I don't make time...too many other irons in the fire. But, I do love to attend shows and learn, learn, learn!!!
  17. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Hey, I know every one of you is an exception. Never met a taxidermist who wasn't. And I damned sure never met one who didn't have an ego. The first guy who tries to tell me he competes just so he can find out how to improve is not o my lying to me, but to himself when he says it. Those of you who downplayed that comment have a much different track record on this forum. How many times have I personally heard, "Well if you're so good, why aren't their pictures of your work posted here or " the picture is too far away to see the details". IT'S OK TO HAVE AN EGO! If you don't blown your own horn occasion ally, people will think your battery's dead. (Ashley Cooper). Snd perhaos YOUR state convention is prospering, but I've been to a few recently that were sad skeletons of what they once were.
    artwildcreate likes this.
  18. Taxiserv

    Taxiserv James Newport

    You should come to the Texas show George. I sure look forward to meeting you!!!
    artwildcreate likes this.
  19. Skywalker

    Skywalker Well-Known Member

    It sure is nice to get out of the shop and see everybody though!
    artwildcreate likes this.
  20. Cole

    Cole Amateur Taxidermist

    George, what happened that caused you to go from pro-competition to anti-competition? You've been at this for a while, and I just don't understand where it comes from?

    Secondly, if what you were saying was true, and the sky was falling and state associations were on a inevitable course of impending doom, what would you like anyone to do about it? You have continued in recent years to predict failure, but you've yet to tell anyone what you think should be done. Are you suggesting that despite associations being very strong now, they should dissolve before they collapse? I don't get it?
    Cecil likes this.