Issues with the Artistry of Wildlife

rookhawk

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If you have read any of my posts on the subject, I have had a ridiculous time even getting Dennis to respond at all. Phone messages, e-mail (his preferred method - then he said his ex-wife deleted them all) and P.M. on this site. All I was asking for was a quick cell phone picture of the work he said was done and in progress. Nothing more, no demands or deadlines, just a quick cell picture. NOTHING. I can't even get a response so I can drive 15 hours to pick up my unfinished work. I think you are mistaken about being able to pick things up. Others here on this thread have tried and either got the wrong trophies, and can't find the correct trophies. I understand your thought about giving him time to complete your work, that's your decision. My desire is for everyone to have a good experience with at least some progress being made out of the studio. Good luck with your mounts.

I’ve been reading the posts but it’s hard to see what’s what as time moves by.

my suggestion in the world of phone tag is that I’d be specific with what you want. send a FedEx prepaid slip if you want hides shipped. Or wait for the piece in progress to get finished.

for what it’s worth, when you get the completed piece I’m sure you’ll be glad you got it from Dennis. It’s worth the wait.I have a storage unit of African taxidermy unfit for display so I just realized I would rather wait than get something bad quick.

I’ve met Dennis only twice. The first time I met him he refused to ship my deer to me and insisted he drive it. 9 hour drive, he met me 3 hours from my house. He took at least ten minutes to load the head in my truck because he was worried it would be damaged. The worlds most anal perfectionist. Bizarre, he would rather drive 6 hours to me for FREE rather than ship a whitetail head. I knew I had a master artist.

Second time I drove to drop off salted hides to him. Again he demanded I immediately bring them to him and he again met me after he drove 6 hours. He immediately took them to the tannery that day because he was concerned about delays with SALTED HIDES reducing quality. He even wrote a letter to the dip pack company chewing out them for bad salt on a hide and sent me 20 photos showing me a flaw he will magically cure.

artist, lunatic, genius, whatever Dennis is, I’ll tolerate it because I’ve never seen someone care more for the art produced than he does, regardless of his personal profit.

If he blows you off for another year he’s still faster than most taxidermists with 100x the quality. He’s probably just burning the wick on both ends and can’t deal with the backlog that happened.

I’m basically saying, don’t worry, it’ll be alright.
 

K-man

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Do you think it is unreasonable to have a cell phone picture sent to you of the work HE SAYS IS DONE? That is all I have asked for. I know Dennis and have been a customer for about 6 years, he has done 9 mounts for me, three of them full body.
 

Royal27

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I do find it interesting that the people who think that Dennis should be given time are ones who had their work done in a timely manner.

I haven't seen a client here yet say that they haven't heard from Dennis in the last three years but that they are happy to quietly wait for several more years until Dennis decides it's their turn. If that person is truly here, which I doubt, then I'm happy for them too.
 

JimP

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It would be interesting to hear his side of everything, but then he would need to log on here and post.

For all we know he may no longer be with us since no one is getting any communication from him.
 

Royal27

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For all we know he may no longer be with us since no one is getting any communication from him.

He's fine. He still has time to play on Facebook.
 

Shakka

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All I can say is WOW! I'm sure glad that I read this thread before choosing a Taxidermist ;)
 

JimP

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He's fine. He still has time to play on Facebook.

Perhaps that is where people need to go to get in touch with him. But then a lot of them would have to make a FB account.
 

rookhawk

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Two posts on FB since June. This was from May 31st.

F6A39B6C-B294-4C21-AD8C-C15ED81306A5.jpeg
 

Northwest9

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So after years of shitting on African taxidermists, he hires one.... hahaha

So very pleased to have great artists do my work, without having to put up with seemingly acceptable "artist behaviour"
 

Royal27

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Two posts on FB since June. This was from May 31st.

View attachment 363902

Troy I never said he posted a lot. I said he had time to play there. He was active two hours before I replied to @JimP .

Check his other page too though if you want to post count. He's got some funny and ironic stuff.

Screenshot_20200820-061554_Facebook.jpg
 

Shakka

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Personally, I am amazed at some of the posts here defending Dennis.
I don't care if it were Michaelangelo himself doing my work, I would never tolerate being treated like that

The ironic thing is that this entire thread would have disappeared long ago if Dennis had simply given his customers the respect of a quick email letting them know whats going on with their work, or a quick text photo of progress. No one here seems to care much about how long he is taking to do the work or the quality of his work either

There is NO EXCUSE for his lack of communication

You would think that after reading these posts and getting the heads-up from his friends that he would rectify the situation but it doesn't seem so

Sad to see a master taxidermist lose his reputation for such a minor flaw in his business practice
 

Red Leg

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I don't have a dog in this hunt, and I haven't had any work done by Dennis. I would, however, offer a couple of observations based on several decades of dealing with artists and artisans.

A gifted artist and successful businessman or typically very different personalities. Indeed, the qualities of the one are often the antithesis of the qualities of the other. I have a good acquaintance who is a successful artist. Some years ago he was having a show in DC, and we went to cheer him along. At some point in the evening, we were chatting and I made a comment about the great turnout. He turned to me almost angrily and said, "but you don't have to deal with all these bastards." He was very fortunate that his sister ran the business side of things. She had the sort of mind that would make one of our resident engineers happy - but she couldn't paint a wall much less a landscape.

There are several similar sorts of successful partnerships that you will see at DSC or SCI every year if you scratch the surface just a little. One of those, also an artist, just passed away recently. Sadly, it doesn't work all that often because the artist learns to hate his own business manager - or because he simply can't ever get organized enough to afford to hire one.

Instead, we are left with businesses like Artistry of Wildlife, probably 2/3's the custom gunmakers that I have known, most artists who specialize in commissioned work, even antiquarian bookbinders (now their is a class devoted to product rather than schedule).

How we are affected by that sort of thing will drive our frustration levels. If timely communications, photo updates on one's work (animal, gun, landscape, whatever) are important, then it is equally important to know what you are getting into ahead of time. If, on the other hand, if one accepts the inevitability of delay, then very often the end product proves well worth the wait.

Gunmakers (as opposed to gun parts assemblers) have been the worst in my experience. As you reach agreement on the project, and he estimates 14 months until completion, he honestly believes it when he says it. He actually isn't trying to con you. But, he has never in his life done a real assessment of his production throughput - and never will. One of my finest rifles missed its estimate by a mere 20 months - but what a rifle.

I have only seen Dennis's work in photos, but clearly several of our forum believe it is of unique quality. It is also clear that they fully understood the probable actual schedule, and for them it was worth the wait. For others, timeliness/communications/commitment are seemingly of equal importance to the quality of the final product. That is also fully understandable. If nothing else, this unfortunate saga should have the benefit of eliminating those priorities from Dennis's future customer base.
 

Robo2709

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I picked up my trophies about a month ago. I believe there are issues with shipping/trucking right now due to covid. Caused transpo cost to spike. I drove up to Michigan and picked up my trophies- they all look outstanding.
Is he still at the same address and is there someone that can give an update on the status on the mount. I am willing and planning to go to Michigan and pick up the mount myself and alleviate Dennis of arranging the shipping. My assumption is he is overloaded and would welcome anything that allows he to focus on his backlog.
 

rinehart0050

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Is he still at the same address and is there someone that can give an update on the status on the mount. I am willing and planning to go to Michigan and pick up the mount myself and alleviate Dennis of arranging the shipping. My assumption is he is overloaded and would welcome anything that allows he to focus on his backlog.

I would call Dennis using the number mentioned by @BRICKBURN to organize a pick up. That's what I did.
 

Robo2709

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This is a long and deep story
I will make it short
I emailed TAOW to arrange a pickup date and pay my bill.
Nothing for days
Then a lengthy PM here on AH.com
Not at all pleasant about my decision to get my stuff and leave the horrible relationship.
In his PM he tells me he will involve his local police and have them present while my wife and I visit his studio to settle up our debt........nice
Then weeks go by with no replies.
Luckily Dwayne came to my rescue and arranged my property and provided me with a final invoice.
Dwayne dropped off my one finished mount and all of my raw wet tanned capes and horns at my place of buisness a couple weeks into February.
Dwayne to the rescue.....sadly he and TAOW have parted ways.
After some of the things he told me.....he's probably better off for doing so.
Good luck to you sir.
Probably like you and so many others, Dennis' award winning work is what attracted me to use his services. Surprised some have had less than desired outcome on their mounts, that's too bad. I'm hoping he'll respond to my last email sent this morning. He stated back in October everything was in his shop and he thought he'd have it completed at the end of November 2019. That's when everything went silent. At this point I'd would at least like to make contact with Dennis and if necessary I'd like to recover what he has, in whatever state it is, if he is unable to wrap it up so we can complete the transaction. Unfortunate situation.
 

Bivy

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Dennis produced a couple phenomenal mounts for me. They truly are flawless, and, as a result, I almost forgot about the lack of communication, delays in completion and shipping, etc. etc. (not going to beat that dead horse).

However, in reading these posts, I find it appalling that people are willing to accept all associated customer service shortfalls due to an ‘artistic predisposition.’ If you don’t play well with others then you better hire someone that can. Dennis would still have my business if he had hired someone to handle customer inquiries and billing.

Instead I have spread recent work between a couple shops that had favorable reviews. I have a safari at Dewey Wildlife Studio in Cody, WY and an eland with Jerry Huffaker in Abilene, TX. Both have been phenomenal with communication at all stages thus far. The animals I have received from Dewey Wildlife are equally as flawless as Dennis’ work. I have the same confidence in Jerry and I’m excited to see him bring my Niassa bull back to life.

My point is...there are other great taxidermists out there. I will complete a review and post the finished products from both companies so members can make their own judgement.
 

rookhawk

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@Bivy there is taxidermy and then there is art. There are guns and then there is art.

In both situations, I've got shoddy jobs done fast, often for $5000+ and no recourse. I've had amazing jobs done slow, sometimes promised in a year and it took five years. It's the nature of the game.

If you want something to hang on the wall or want something that goes "bang" you can get it pretty quick in a variety of places. If you want the world's best you're going to wait a very long time in both situations. Hence, this is why most of the best gunmakers and taxidermists go belly up as @Red Leg eloquently described above.

I've got a storage room full to the top of taxidermy, way, way over $10,000 in taxidermy that is embarrassing to display. It was done by a "prestigious" African firm that has been known to do good work in the past and in reference photos. I also waited 3 years for a stock to be done on a $30,000 shotgun. I pressured the gunsmith calling every month asking for status and in the end...he did the work. I paid $5000-$6000 for a piece of firewood because I pushed an artist. I could have made a stink, burned a bridge, and moved on...but then he would refuse work for me in the future and there are about 3-5 people in North America that can do the work I need done.

I never want to be that guy again on either count. I'll just be patient and see what happens.

But to come full circle, it comes down to empathy. You don't have to like the realities we may face but you do have to "believe" they happen and "understand" why people may accept those choices.

Remember BATNA - Best Alternative To No Agreement. If you can't agree or abide by a situation you have recourse always, its just that sometimes you've got a lousy hand of cards and making a scene leaves you with pretty poor alternatives.
 

Proneshooter

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@Bivy there is taxidermy and then there is art. There are guns and then there is art.

In both situations, I've got shoddy jobs done fast, often for $5000+ and no recourse. I've had amazing jobs done slow, sometimes promised in a year and it took five years. It's the nature of the game.

If you want something to hang on the wall or want something that goes "bang" you can get it pretty quick in a variety of places. If you want the world's best you're going to wait a very long time in both situations. Hence, this is why most of the best gunmakers and taxidermists go belly up as @Red Leg eloquently described above.

I've got a storage room full to the top of taxidermy, way, way over $10,000 in taxidermy that is embarrassing to display. It was done by a "prestigious" African firm that has been known to do good work in the past and in reference photos. I also waited 3 years for a stock to be done on a $30,000 shotgun. I pressured the gunsmith calling every month asking for status and in the end...he did the work. I paid $5000-$6000 for a piece of firewood because I pushed an artist. I could have made a stink, burned a bridge, and moved on...but then he would refuse work for me in the future and there are about 3-5 people in North America that can do the work I need done.

I never want to be that guy again on either count. I'll just be patient and see what happens.

But to come full circle, it comes down to empathy. You don't have to like the realities we may face but you do have to "believe" they happen and "understand" why people may accept those choices.

Remember BATNA - Best Alternative To No Agreement. If you can't agree or abide by a situation you have recourse always, its just that sometimes you've got a lousy hand of cards and making a scene leaves you with pretty poor alternatives.
Rookhawk,
The communication I have had with Dennis I rate about a 6 out of 10, I can deal with that. Now telling me TO MY FACE that my taxidermy work would be completed 12 months after he received it, (now being 27 months) and still not really sure what state of completion, if at all, is my problem. This to me is totally unacceptable in any business. I am retired now but owned my own business for the last 15 years of my career. I NEVER once made a promise to a customer I knew I could not keep. If I was to busy I would tell them that upfront and let them decide if they wanted to wait, or move on to someone else. It hurt me a few times, but I found most customer appreciated the honesty. I had many occasions where other contractors not keeping their promises fell on my shoulders as the job fell further behind schedule and I never appreciated having a fire lit under my ass because someone else did not keep their end on schedule. That may be where much of my disappointment in Dennis's business practices is coming from. And I refuse to buy the fact that he considers himself an artist relieves him of any responsibility to keep his own promises.
 

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