Art speaks to the soul, it speaks to the heart, it speaks to the mind. Art can speak to all three and more. Taxidermy is one of those arts. The definition of taxidermy is “The art or operation of preparing, molding, and mounting the skins of dead animals for exhibition in a lifelike state” as stated in the Free Dictionary. Taxidermy speaks to a moment in time, a treasured time spent with a loved one, a memory of a time spent in nature and it preserves that feeling for eternity. Kirk Culak is such an artist.
Kirk takes those moments and creates a lasting reminder of beauty in nature. Kirk is a taxidermist. This is a gift not available to everyone but for Kirk he enjoys what he is able to bring to a family to pause that moment in time.
When Kirk first began his journey 23 years ago to become a taxidermist he was sitting in nature and realized the value in what nature had to offer and how he could make his mark in its preservation. This was dual gift as with taxidermy he could preserve a memory or moment in time or feeling for someone while preserving the beauty of what nature provided. Kirk’s calling is to provide that service affordable so that all families can preserve the moment with a beloved family member, a buddy, friend or just a quiet minute of solitude one has in nature.
Kirk performs his artistic talent not looking for accolades but the joy of his clients. Kirk seeks to recreate the memory as true to the moment as he can. When someone is considering the preservation, Kirk encourages clients to contact him ahead of time so that he may help them develop a successful process when they find that perfect moment. Certain states have different requirements in preserving an animal’s integrity so it is imperative that one contacts the proper authorities for clarification. Kirk retains the integrity of his process of preservation by completing the steps himself. Some taxidermists outsource and some hire help to multi task the journey. Kirk does not, when one uses Kirk they get his complete dedication over the preservation. He is the process. He is the quality. Kirk owns his work. This can also lead to higher pricing which is something Kirk does not embrace. His craft is directed solely on being available to all who are interested. Kirk feels “it is about trust” Kirk takes pride in his craft and strives to preserve the treasured memory accurately. Kirk’s customers are largely repeat clients who have been happy with their experience and come back for more. Kirk always welcomes new clients.
Kirk concentrates on the quality of the project and not the personal exhibition of said project. He displays at the Kendall County Fair but only to show the public what they can enjoy in their own home. Kirk is a very humble and devoted steward of nature and it is exhibited in his work. His joy comes from the client’s happiness in the finished product.
The taxidermy process is not an overnight event but requires a journey in the preservation for both himself and the client. After the animal is harvested, the journey becomes more specific in its requirements. Proper tanning of hide, searching for the precise eyes, shape, direction facing, form, molds, glues and the proper stitching to retain the integrity of the piece. This requires a devotion to the art. It is important to understand that to preserve the honesty, quality and integrity of the memory reasonably requires a year of time. Kirk’s first work of art was a white tail deer and it created challenge for him but he persevered and was successful.
A little delve into Kirk and his business. Kirk has been married to Tricia Culak for 23 years. They have one daughter, Hannah, who is in college at Texas Tech studying to secure her future in Agriculture Communication. His wife and daughter have always supported Kirk in all of his endeavors. They do not take an active role in his taxidermy work on a daily basis but they are his sounding board, his honest backdrop to his work. They give him feedback based on their role as his support system.
Kirk devotes as much time as he can to his family and understands the value of preserving those special moments in time specifically one recent family event that resulted in Hannah being chosen Kendall County Fair Queen. She reigned with the same dignified beauty that her father and mother have exhibited as role models in her life.
Kirk first began his career in taxidermy as a novice. Information was not widely shared in that world as others in the same business kept what they knew to themselves fearing an overstimulation in the field. But soon they too learned the need for more information and slowly books and advice became shared more easily. There was no internet to research the necessary information. Kirk gives credit to Jet Smith of Jetz taxidermy as one of his mentors. Kirk said that Jet shared information with him and supported his advance in the art. Jet has advanced his craft to creating quality molds to ensure others in the field have necessary tools to preserve nature with integrity. Kirk has kept his craft limited to typical wildlife found in nature. He prepared a porcupine once, a baby fox that a young man found on the side of the road and wanted to preserve the vision he had of the baby fox jumping on a bug. Kirk has had clients from out of state and clients who have travelled out of state to pursue that special memory. He does not provide his service for safari animals choosing to preserve nature as he knows it closer to home. Kirk has successfully created art with many subjects, he has preserved deer both whitetail and axis, fish, birds, squirrels, some big mammals and even buffalo. His talent has been shipped to California and Wisconsin. Kirk’s favorite animal to preserve was a black buck but axis and whitetail are his staple.
Kirk’s talent exploded. His modest start grew at such rapid pace that he had no time to devote to pursuing competitions or even exhibition shows. But Kirk is a true champion in his work. Humble and caring about nature are some of his attributes that shine.
Many people believe that taxidermy is the preservation of an animal that is just a stuffed mannequin. That is not a correct assumption. Taxidermy is the process of preserving nature’s animals by means of a process that gives the client a lasting reminder of that special event. They can look at their art and remember the moment, feeling, brotherhood, family moment or even the smells of the day. Kirk feels that “Kids are an important part of preserving nature and if we do not instill the beauty, conservation cannot continue.” Taxidermy is an art and the craftsman must be able to preserve nature for our future. Quality and devotion to the art is important. The preservation of domestic animals such as family pets is not something Kirk has expressed an interest in providing. According to Kirk that is more of a freeze dried process and not something he wants to pursue nor does Kirk provide novelty items from animal body parts choosing to remain true to his conservation of nature.
Kirk welcomes anyone who thinks they may want to pursue taxidermy as their calling in life. He is always open to giving advice, sharing information or just showing off his art craft in his shop. The art requires much practice and Kirk is always looking to make it more perfect. Kirk can be reached at 830-446-9494. Feel free to call him and set up an appointment to see this artist yourself.
Culak Taxidermy, 121 Rust Lane, Boerne, TX 78006, 830-336-3392.