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The 2012  35th annual conference took place over the weekend 23rd - 25th March

Invited guest speaker this year was Swiss fish
taxidermist Matthias Fahrni, whose astonishing
attention to detail and flair for research and
technique were complemented by showmanship
and humour

—I didn’t expect to be carried away
by talk of a minnow,

 but there was no resisting
here, and certainly no bigger fish to fry! Matthias
generously shared his knowledge and some of his
secrets against a backdrop of stunning close-ups
of fins, scales, and tiny fish heads at various stages
of expert preparation. He invited the audience to
guess at the function performed by his intriguing
clay beds, stainless steel pins, or gauze supports—all
aimed at protecting the delicate skin before it even
got removed for mounting. This was a moment
laden with suspense which was not released until
several hours into Matthias’ fascinating account.
In between Matthias’ methodically organised chapters,

Historian Pat Morris took to the stage to report on his visits to
the World Taxidermy Championships in St Charles, Missouri,
and Salzburg, Austria, entertaining the audience with pictures
of sometimes rather daring mounts. His comments on differences in style and approach led to an interesting
debate on ‘taste’, or the lack thereof. On his way to St Charles, Pat was offered the opportunity of a look
behind the scenes at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where several of the large-scale
dioramas were in the process of being renovated. The audience was treated to a rare peek into the entrails of
a spectacular display technique.

On Sunday, two short practical workshops featured on the programme. Mike Gadd
explained how washing and re-freezing a bird repeatedly might help overcome
freezer burn. He also encouraged the audience to take up the challenge of repairing
damaged bird specimens by transplanting feather groups from another species. We
were told how tea can work miracles on ptarmigan feathers to make them blend into
an osprey’s plumage. Dave Hollingworth provided a demonstration of airbrushing
on the bill and feet of a pheasant, while members of the audience enthusiastically
tried out the tool on the flip chart.
After the competition winners had
been announced and congratulated,
Emily Mayer passed on the Don
Sharp Memorial Trophy to Chairman
Rob Marshall, to general acclaim.
The organisers noted with pleasure
that the number of submissions
for competition had increased
significantly. The Avian Challenge,
a partridge, however, had not
attracted enough interest to
warrant a discussion of the mounts. At the suggestion of the Secretary,
James Dickinson, it was decided that the partridge theme would be
carried over to next year to enable more novices to join in.
Kim McDonald, who had opened the convention with his much
appreciated and very necessary legal update, acted as auction master in closing. Matthias’ photographs
and his drawing of fish eye mechanics (think car wheels attached to an axle!) fetched pretty prices amid a
colourful range of raffle donations, and quite a few Guild members were pleased and excited to take home a
trophy from what proved to be a highly enjoyable and stimulating convention.