What is quality, quality is defined as distinguishing features or characteristic. Quality in taxidermy is the degree of accuracy and how accurate a taxidermist wants to make your mount. Quality can be an accurate eye set using live references and photos or a generic guess. You can have nostrils that have proper shape, nostril wings, contour, height and proper depth according to nose cast references or you can have round holes that you can see in three to four inches. You can have sewing seams that are not detectable or stitches you can see three to four feet away. You can have a skin that is tanned into leather or you can have a dry preserved mounts (more about this later). Quality will vary from shoulder mounted animals to life size, fish, reptiles, birds, and small game or large game animals. There is also good and not as good quality on habitat recreations your animal is mounted on. Some taxidermist’s think that over detailing muscles is better quality. These taxidermists go in hand with the hunters who want this inaccurate anatomy and the over muscled look.
Ron Shaefer of Heads Above the Rest
Quality and detail is a strong opinionated area. How much should you have? How much do you want? This is one reason you need to visit as many different taxidermists you can. Have them explain to you what their meaning of detail or quality is. You will see this will vary drastically from shop to shop you visit. The taxidermist can also over detail muscular and skeletal anatomy. This is why you want to use live reference photos. These references will keep a taxidermist true and not stylized. Examples: A longhaired northern deer or elk will not show a vein in their face. Nine times out of ten, will either a shorthaired deer or elk. The facial veins only show for about ten seconds, how this happens is when the animals head is low feeding and suddenly lifts their head up. When the head is low, the blood rushes into the head then when the head is raised the amount and weight of the blood bulges the facial veins only for a few seconds. You can see this clearly in the summer time when the animal has short hair.
On the other hand, a life size African lion or cape buffalo will not have every muscle cut and budging although many believe they do. If the eyes were wide open and alert, then you would not have a relaxed nostrils or ears. Always try to educate yourself with live reference photos before visiting a studio. If you visit, a studio and you see something you are not sure about, ask questions. Ask the taxidermist to show you a reference photo explaining this.
On habitat bases how real does it look? Is any of the habitat falling or flaking off if you move or tilt the base? Does the habitat look out of balance? Did the taxidermist try to do too much on a little base? Can you see any leg support rods underneath the hoofs connecting to the habitat? If you do this is very sloppy work. Have you ever been told by a taxidermist the bases takes away from the mount. Most likely, that taxidermist does not have the artistic eye and balance coordination. A habitat should enhance your mount. Look one hundred percent natural and express involvement. If you see a habitat, that over powers or does not look natural or is too busy, the taxidermist may lack this artistic ability of coordination to put your mount in balance. Plants, grasses, rocks and driftwood should look natural. Grasses should look soft and bushy, not tight and strategically placed.
If the taxidermist recreates these types of habitats this does not mean they are bad people; they are just lacking the skills you are looking for. Be careful of short cuts that can be made.
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