Mark Benfield takes a womanâ€™s powder brush and smoothes down the feathers on some of the wild birds he has in his workshop.
He points out where the feathers are noticeably darker. He said using womenâ€™s mascara makes the feathers stand out more.
Benfield of Lincolnton has been running a full-time taxidermy service called â€œMarkâ€™s Waterfowl Creationsâ€ for five years.
â€œI have a passion for ducks, I love the birds and waterfowl,â€ he said, â€œItâ€™s so pretty when it is done right.â€
Most of his clients bring in the birds that they have hunted and Benfield starts the process.
It begins with the skinning of the birds starting with a breast incision. The next step is removing the insides which are then replaced with a body made of Styrofoam. The birds are then wired up, with the bones left in them. The heads are all artificial.
Dawn dishwashing detergent is used to get the grease out of the birds and liquid Tide is used for a refreshing scent. A mineral bath is also given to help remove more grease.
The feet are injected with plastic which hardens so they donâ€™t shrink.
Then come the finishing touches-glass eyes are put in place and the bill is airbrushed.
â€œMy favorite part is when the customer comes in and comments on how realistic it looks,â€ Benfield said.
His workshop displays a lot of the work he has done. Some birds are mounted on rocks or are placed on artificial water. Others are perched on cat tails or duck weed.
Benfield has been hunting all his life. He first started his work in his parentsâ€™ utility shed, but once it got too small he decided to build his own workshop.
When he is not working on his creations, he spends lots of time going to shows and entering competitions.
He has won an award from the state for best waterfowl three times in a row, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
His collection in his workshop covers most North American species. Benfield said he hopes to expand to try and include more South American species.
Many of his clients come from all over, including Charlotte, Monroe, Winston-Salem and Raleigh.
He does shipments if desired. So far he has shipped as far away as Georgia and Maryland.
â€œI take every opportunity as an experiment,â€ he said. â€œI try to do better on each one.â€
by Amy Wadsworth