In 85, that was a good mount. We have come a long way since then. Manikins, artificial heads, acrylic eyes, casted eye rings, all easily purchased, and a far greater piece of work. Those feet aren't horrible for being almost 35 years old. I'd bet it was glycerin and formaldehyde, and there are people using it to this day, and many still using it for competitions, because the feet look very fleshy (which they are), because the glycerin acts as an emollient and the formaldehyde a preservative.
I do believe most people, once they see those differences and are educated, understand what to look for and want that higher quality.
I have a couple of photos below (taken today....lighting and angle are not the best) of the oldest mount I have at my home. It is a wood duck from northern WI that I killed in 1985. It was a "best of show" award recipient back then. I keep it cleaned as best I can. While a decent mount for its time, it was not mounted utilizing techniques you would use today. This mount does not have a cast head and bill, eye lid liners, and definitely the legs and feet were not injected to stop shrinkage (can see that in one of the pics).
Musky, those things he does extra, are the things that take time, and set people apart. Once the customer gets educated, perhaps they can then learn to appreciate those things they once looked past?
Feet are something I take great pride in. Shrunken feet or incorrectly painted feet ruin a mount. I have plenty that are turds, and I've been purging my collection because of it. Like in the past 3 years, I have tossed 100 mounts, and I'll toss more lol. Here are some recent feet injected and painted. Yes, I remove them for a better result. Some feet you'll never see, and in this teal trifecta, they are actually hidden up under the tail, but I still want them to be correct. Masters Blend is an injectable polymer that plumps them, and makes them solid. Here is a green-winged teal, cinnamon teal, and a pair of shoveler feet, injected, posed, and painted.
Awesome pose pics Pete. The last "in-state" master waterfowl taxidermist I went to took some time to explain (and demonstrate to me) how he did eyes and eye lids, injected the heads with compound (to allow correct head feather positioning - especially on buffs, hooded mergs, etc), and how he injected duck legs/feet to eliminate the shrinkage look/factor. Great stuff and very technical.
Tr carper. You are absolutely correct that there are waterfowl taxidermists in WI just as good as Birdman Studios. I had 2 master waterfowl taxidermists that I went to in WI. The 1st one (western WI) elected to stop mounting waterfowl and concentrated on big game animals, including full body African diorama type stuff (big $$). The 2nd one I went to (in Fox Valley), eventually retired from taxidermy. It is hard to tell the overall quality differences between the 3 taxidermists. I have one other duck mount that was done at a studio that specializes in fish skin mounts (one of the nation's best in that category). While that duck mount is ok, there is a very noticeable difference between its quality/anatomical correctness and the mounts I have from the 3 master waterfowl taxidermists.
Well thanks Musky! That's one hell of a compliment!
The other thing I like to do, is mount birds in those not so standard poses. It teaches you more about the anatomy of birds, and makes those standard mounts easier. This mallard for example needs balance, as well as neck anatomy to pull it off correctly. A tough mount to do honestly. These sort of shots are what I am always looking for when I am seeking help. A mounted bird doesn't say much, but dissected, you can see what goes on on the inside. After learning how to wrap my own neck, and working with annealed wire that has no memory, you can start to pull off those things that aren't quite as easy with galvanized wire, and foam necking. Necks in my opinion are where most bad bird taxidermy is derived from.
Pete and suspendedmusky well said. I only take my birds to one guy. Made the mistake of trying to save some money and took a redhead and a sandhill crane to a different guy. I crane looks ok the redhead well let's just say that mount stays hidden. Never again will I do that. But like pete said you get what you pay for. The guy I go charges the same as birdman studios. And I can't see a difference between the two on mounts of the same bird, same background, and same pose. My cousin and each have the same bird done the same way one by birdman and one by my guy. We put them side by side and we couldn't tell anything different. Keep them pics coming pete.
I will say that I have noticed a steady transition in the quality of your mounts over the years (based on all of the mount pics you have posted). I am one who is very particular and takes birds to only master waterfowl taxidermists....and I can see those type of qualities in your mounts. That being said, based on your recent mount pics, I would be proud to have those in my home. I know that there are little mistakes that only you know about and the average guy would not see.
Keep posting pics, I enjoy seeing them.
Well thanks for the kind words.
The reason I keep this a hobby is a couple reasons. One, as you learn through your mistakes, you improve upon the last, and I'm just trying to get better. More than half the time, observers are uneducated on what great work, good work, okay work, and poor work even is, and the gaps between them. I'm probably at the phase "okay work", and I'd like to see good work. Of course I'm getting better, but that's because (like most any bird taxidermist), I started at the bottom. Being self taught, it quite frankly takes longer to fix mistakes, because you don't realize you're making them lol.
The other reason I keep this a hobby, is a have a great job. Pays well, and offers me a lot of free time to do my hobbies. Bird taxidermy being one of them. If I want some extra money, I go work overtime. It pays way more per hour, and it's easier lol. I don't think I can make per hour what I do at my job, and it seems counterproductive to take a hobby I love, and turn it into a chore, and make less money doing a job that's more work? People don't want to pay what you're worth in bird taxidermy, but they'll pay a mechanic or plumber 75 bucks an hour? They pay them willingly, because they can't fix the drain, or replace the alternator, and likewise they can't mount a duck? I wonder why they often scoff at the price (undersold by the way), at what a well mounted duck should cost? I have many friends in the business, and way better than I am, who should be charging 400 minimum in my opinion. This might come as a surprise, but I'd even go as far to say that a duck mount is more difficult to pull off than a deer, and people charge 600 easy for a shoulder mount, and most of them are just okay as well lol.
So back to my hobby. As I get sick of a mount, and replace it with another bird, I just chuck them in the garbage and start again. There's not an excessive amount of money invested in parts (manikin, artificial head, and acrylic eyes), plus the other costs of masters blend for the feet, lacquer paints for the feet and bill, and other odds and ends, and for under 40 bucks you can mount one. Time on the other hand is where the cost is often not considered. As a hobby, I have that time.
If anyone ever had a question along the way on anything that might help you want to try it, I'd be glad to help. That is something most people in the business will not do, because they feel it cuts their own throat.
Fantastic Fowl showcase Pete-pec. Just awesome....really like that Pintail.
Pete well done. I love looking at your work. It amazes me that you do this only as a hobby. I would love to learn how to do that but not sure I have the patience for it lol. Also I'm sure the wife would hate me cause she tells me I have enough birds on the wall already. Keep up the great work and I'm looking forward to seen your next one.