We are not professionals. An amazing statement made by a world champion carver, who earns a living making and selling his carvings; instructing in courses and seminars; judging competitions; selling his fish patterns, paint schedules, fish bronzes, etc. Two other carvers who make their living the same way, agreed that they were not professionals. This occurred during the 2009 World Fish Carving Championships, at St. Charles, Missouri, during a formal meeting with a small group of carvers and judges. The purpose of the meeting was to give carvers an opportunity to provide feedback on how the show was carried out, and ways it could be perhaps improved upon for future years. I suggested the organizers of the show might consider adding a Professional Class to the competition. This would provide a more level "playing field" by separating professionals from amateurs. The vast majority of carvers who compete are amateurs, who carve fish as a hobby.
The three professional carvers present at the meeting refused to acknowledge that they were professionals. They flatly said that a Professional Class was not required. So if they are not professionals, what are they? They certainly are not amateurs who carve fish as a hobby. Professional wood carvers are considered professionals, because their main paid occupation is carving, whereas an amateur carver pursues their carving as a hobby in their spare time for pleasure. Hobbyists should not have to compete against professionals. It's just not fair, plain and simple.
Reviewing the World Fish Carving Championships from 1985 to the 2011 competition, approximately 70 percent of the major awards were won by carvers I would consider as professionals. So the chances of winning a major award would be somewhat difficult even though you were an advanced carver.
Some professional carvers who compete at the Worlds also have an financial advantage over amateurs, in that they are usually asked to judge or present a seminar for a fee. Travel and accomodation costs may be covered as well. Any costs borne by professionals can be written off at income tax time, while amateurs must cover 100% of their costs to compete. This can be quite expensive, as indicated on page 1 of my blog.
The three "professional" fish carvers I have mentioned in this blog are talented individuals who I respect for their carving skills and knowledge, however I still believe they are professionals and should compete in a Professional Class, in order to advance fairness. Perhaps it would encourage more carvers to enter their carvings in the most prestigious fish carving event in the world.
Cropped photo at top L to R: James Russell ; John B. Russell (the Old Boy as he was known) ; Dhuie Russell ; Jeannie Russell. - Circa 1890 - Photograph courtesy James Russell, Edinburgh, Scotland
This Blog was posted August 14, 2012