2007 World Fish Carving Championships

2007 World Fish Carving Championships

Often I think back to the 2007 World Fish Carving Championships in Reno, Nevada. Prior to this event, I had competed in many competitions here in Ontario but this would be my first international competition. Little did I know it, but I was in for a big surprise!

Some of the world’s best fish carvers were there. Clark Schreibeis, Bob Berry, Jeff Compton, Lance Lyons, Andrei Tunikov, Dan Patterson, Teom Lim, Josh Guge, and others. All competing for the coveted Best in World titles, at the largest and most prestigious fish carving competition in the world.

Several Best of Show wins in Ontario encouraged me to enter two carvings at the world show in Reno. The next decision was what to carve? It would have to be a very challenging and well executed carving if I was to have a chance of any kind of a win. I knew I had the technical skill to carve a difficult piece, but the painting was a different matter. A mediocre painting of the carving would not be good enough. So the plan was to create a carving that was such that the viewer would wonder, “How in the world did he do that?” It would turn out during the carving process that all my skills were required to “pull this off”. At times I was not sure if I could do it, since problems like, how do I attach this extremely delicate carving to the base, and how do I ensure the carving will arrive at the competition without breakage?

After many hours searching fish photos on the internet, it was decided the carving would be a Leafy Seadragon. Incredibly beautiful in shape and colour. There would have to be sufficient reference material for both the carving and painting. It was necessary to contact researchers in Australia for good photos of the long pipe-like snout and mouth. The Leafy Seadragon can be found in Australia’s southern waters and nowhere else in the world.

The most difficult part of the process was carving the fragile leaf-like appendages and not breaking them. Also for the longest time, I was trying to determine a way to attach this delicate carving to the base. Finally I came up with the idea of attaching the seaweed stem to the back of the fish’s head. A small steel rod was required for strength, and is the only exception in the rules where metal can be used on a carving. The seaweed stem was constructed from copper rod and the remaining parts of the fish, seaweed, and base were made from wood. Even the eyes and tiny appendages below the snout and on top of the head were made from wood.

The other challenge was coping with my arthritis, especially two very painful knees. 

Prior to the flight to Reno, I received cortisone injections in both knees to reduce swelling, pain and stiffness. Even with this help, it was still quite painful to make the long walks through the airports, around the competition areas, and standing for any length of time.

After a long day, Susan and I finally arrived at the Silver Legacy Casino and Resort in Reno, Nevada. I attended a few of the seminars while at the show, and met some fellow carvers. Then came time to drop my carvings off at the convention centre where the competition was being held. For some odd reason, organizers would not allow competitors to carry their carvings into the competition area. Susan and I had a rental vehicle lined up and we drove around to take-in the sights, including Lake Tahoe.

The three judges for the fish carving competition were Simon Blackshaw, Jeff Mourning, and Mike Orthober. All highly respected taxidermists and judges. The one hundred or so fish carvings were judged and ribbons placed on novice and intermediate level carvings but not on open class. When the competitors were finally allowed to view the carvings, no one knew who the winners in open class were. My carvings were critiqued by Simon Blackshaw who spoke very highly of my Leafy Seadragon. After the viewing of carvings, I did not expect to win anything as there were many extremely well done carvings.

It was not until the banquet and awards presentation that everyone would find out who the major award winners were, not only in fish carving but also taxidermy. I had entered the Leafy Seadragon carving and a Spotfin Lionfish carving in Open Class, Decorative Lifesize. Andrei Tunikov from Russia took Third in World with a Sterlet (sturgeon) carving and received his awards on the “big stage”. Then it was announced that I had taken Second in World Decorative Lifesize with my Leafy Seadragon. Needless to say I was astonished to hear that. So I made my way to the stage and the award was presented to me by Simon Blackshaw. It was a great honour not only to win second, but to have my award presented by Simon. Best in World Decorative Lifesize went to Clark Schrebeis for his sculpture, “Danger at the Cleaning Station”.

The World Taxidermy and Fish Carving Championships are presented every two years by the taxidermy magazine “Breakthrough”.

It was an amazing experience to attend the championships, one that I will remember for a very long time.

The Cost to Attend the Competition

  • Registration Fee $165.00
  • IWCA fee $10.00
  • Spouse Pass $65.00
  • Entry Fee-2 carvings $60.00
  • Awards banquet-2 people $77.00
  • 6 nights Silver Legacy Hotel (Host hotel for the competition)-$581.00
  • Plane Tickets Detroit to Reno-(2) $645.00
  • Flight and Travel Insurance-$115.00
  • Transportation-To and from Detroit airport(Limo)-$345.00
  • Car Rental in Reno-$154.00
  • Meals- for (2)-approx $325.00

Grand Total=$2,542.00 us dollars or approx $2,923.00 canadian dollars @ 1.15

This Blog was posted July 24,2012

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