We had the good fortune of connecting with Lee Duckworth and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lee, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
At first, my thought process for starting my own business was to identify myself as an individual in my career and not just another “worker behind the scenes” of a larger shop. As I ventured out on my own, I had realized that my own style began to develop which made me stand out differently from other shops in the industry of taxidermy.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The monsters I create are the pieces that speak of me the most. Whenever I see “demon animal taxidermy” I’m floored by the amount of people who recognize or are referred to my work. The goats with teeth are what I’m most known for, along with my faux taxidermy fawns and gazelles that appeal to the vegan-friendly crowd. I believe what sets me apart from the others in my field is my attention to detail, and the customization that I can offer to the commissioners that would like their very own personalized piece. It wasn’t easy in the beginning when I was getting my bearings on the service that I offered. A lot of my art would go unseen, until I advertised on a few more social media platforms as well as attend a few big shows and expos. A major lesson I learned early is that communication in this business is a keystone to being successful. Many people can see the art, but to be successful, you need to interact with your audience. People like to know that there is an actual person behind the name and it isn’t all remotely done like ordering from a factory. It took a while, but I managed to grow a larger presence, was able to branch out, and enjoy doing my artwork full-time!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If you are friends with me, you likely share the same enjoyment of nature and taxidermy. First on the list of places to visit would of course be the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Their expansive collection of artifacts, taxidermy, and (my personal favourite) prehistoric animal bones will never cease to astound me. It would take us a good full day to really skim through it all and appreciate it. After that, my number one dinner destination for a visitor would be The Fort in Morrison. Not only is the old western theme in the scenic mountainside charming, but their food is eclectic for the themed era! Elk steaks, bison ribs, braised quail and pheasant, among other “exotic” meats are a carnivores delight, not to mention their tasty Sacred Sisters salad (always choose the Damiana dressing, it’s wild and delicious!) Another day’s adventure would consist of traversing Estes Park. A true gem of a town that melds the scenic nature of the high mountains with the ease of having a variety of tourist attractions within arm’s reach. Horror fan? Definitely visit the Stanley Hotel if you enjoyed Stephen King’s “The Shining.” In October the hotel even holds spooky haunted tours for the paranormal enthusiasts. If you are lucky, you’ll see the famous elk lounging around the town of Estes Park as well. If going into the wilderness is your vibe, there is so much to see on Rocky Mountain National Park, especially the majesty of the bighorn sheep and mountain goats. I enjoy hiking, but I don’t want to go overboard bringing someone new to treacherous vertical inclines or high altitudes, so my first recommendation for an enjoyable hike is the Royal Arch in Boulder. The trail is moderate but well worth the jewel of seeing the arch at the end with a view so vast, it makes you feel like you are on your very own mountaintop like that in an adventure movie. All this traversing is bound to make you hungry again, and I would always be recommending sushi. There will never be a day that I decline a sushi dinner. If quality is what you are after, I’d highly suggest Hapa Sushi in Denver. The taste and freshness along with the bright atmosphere and sake variety is highly enjoyable with friends of all sorts. If you desire massive quantities of good sushi without breaking the bank, I will personally hold an eating contest with you at Sushi Katsu in Aurora. Bring your appetite! To wind down on a visit to Colorado, I’d want to show you a couple of my favourite shops in the Denver area. The Terrorium Shop is a lovely boutique, owned by a couple of good friends, that specializes in exotic house plants which also has a natural history vibe to them as their terrariums showcase the beauty of both the living and long passed while also inviting a “green witch” feel to a few of their oddity pieces. If crystals, fossils and mineral carvings are your thing, I’ll be sure to suggest visiting Desert Gems in Lakewood. I’ve been visiting that shop for years accumulating pieces for my collection as well as supplies for use in my art! There is so much to do in Colorado, you can’t quite absorb the true majesty of this state in one week. You will leave with a lasting impression and a lot of good memories!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would love to give a shout-out to my friends who believed in me. Though all my friends were very supportive of my art, I have to name my greatest friends Laura Airey Le and Diane Fickeria for being the biggest voices of reason and inspiration in these past years. I also cannot forget my teachers along the way that proved to me that there was no single way or correct method to doing any part of my art. And lastly my family, who have been more than supportive of what I create. Especially Chris Weskamp, who puts up with all the craziness along this journey. I love him for all he does behind the scenes of my shop, be it helping with the tedious tasks, keeping me on track, making sure I don’t overwork myself, or just being there as emotional support.