written by Fred Vanderburgh
We as humans are all competitive creatures. What is it that we really want? To be treated fairly would seem to be the usual response, but therein lies the difficulty – how do you define ‘fair’. But instead of people being vicious, participants on the whole are supportive of their opponents; commended and praised them for their efforts even in defeat. Competition can be a good thing when the goal is for your own personal development as an individual, but, in my opinion never a good thing when it is concerned with comparisons to others.
The Quote “Green Ribbons in the Bank are the real winners” came from a good friend and fellow judge by the name of John Matthews. I laughed about when he said it but after some sincere thought I realize there was some truth in that statement. But being a strong competitor at that time I realized that Blue ribbons really do put Green ribbons in the bank.
Dale Knoblock said he many times heard the statement “What good will it do for me to win a competition?” He continued to say “It’s not the value of the ribbon, it’s what the ribbon says about you and your work that counts, it distinguishes your work from the rest”. I believe this statement because the more you compete the better your taxidermy work becomes and more you can charge for your work, thus putting more “Green Ribbons in the Bank”.
However, much like everything else in this world, the pro has to be balanced out by the con. When a person becomes obsessed with a goal, they’ll try almost anything to achieve it. Competitions are either taken lightly or seriously, and when it’s a competition for skill, it’s almost always taken seriously. Money is always a good motivator for competition, but so is fame and greed. Most stop when they reach their goal, but there are some who will go above and beyond, which may lead to disaster. They come seeking fame, but are struck down instead by the cold truth of reality. Finally, the worst thing that happens to some competitors is the crushing blow of failure. Still, it is futile to say for certain whether competition has gone too far, no matter what you think, it will continue to exist, in the taxidermy world and always in the competitors mind. A little bit of competition is healthy for growth and development. But when is it too much?
Competition increases the level of efficiency and profit of your taxidermy business. A competitive atmosphere pushes every taxidermist to produce exceptional work that will not only be acceptable to the taxidermist, but more importantly, work that will impress and please the customer. Furthermore, competition pushes taxidermists to meet deadlines and adhere to competition standards to avoid creating a poor impression and instead gain the trust and confidence of customer and the industry. Naturally, higher productivity and efficiency will help increase the taxidermist net income.
Each taxidermist must learn to compete against themselves and continuously improve and contribute something significant to the taxidermy industry. Unhealthy competition increases the stress which leads to increased levels of unproductively and inefficiency. Any taxidermist who is not mentally and emotionally tough might succumb to the intense pressure brought on by competition and eventually, not enter into taxidermy competition anymore. But not competing may also cause repercussions for their business, and they may also lose some of their gained skills and good work habits.
So long as competition is maintained healthy, it will be beneficial for the taxidermist. Healthy competition invokes taxidermist to be productive and efficient, while fostering camaraderie amongst them. To a competition taxidermist competition is necessary to prevent stagnation. The process of reference interpretation, improving mounting and casting skills, use of quality materials, along with artistic presentation represents the best aspects of taxidermy competition. Participation in taxidermy competition can provide the means to gauge one’s progress in relation to other taxidermist, as well as give the taxidermist a path of growth and goals of achievement for which to strive. Skills used in competition teach you how to deal with deadlines and stressful situations, and how to remain calm under pressure, all of which requires practice and patience.
Taxidermy competition is completely subjective, based on the judges own background, experience, and proficiency. It is up to the judges to have expertise in their field of experience and to be fair and motivational (i.e. give words of praise) and/or create encouragement for competitors to continue to compete and to encourage them to always give their best. Even judges can get too caught up in the competitive nature of these events., therefore, decide carefully which competitions to attend, how many to be involved in during a season, as well as to understand the preparation process, as well as both the possible benefits and drawbacks. I strongly encourage you to make sure you are judged by competent judges.
In closing yes “Blue Ribbons do put Green Ribbons in the Bank”. And if nothing else join your State Taxidermy Association and the National Taxidermy Association and compete. The friends, memories and education that you will leave these competitions with will long out last the “Blue Ribbons”. But be assured if your only burning desire is not to lose, and if winning is your only goal, your life will be forever run by those who create taxidermy competitions.