I started carving in the Summer of 2009 after taking a class by Geoff Davis of 50 Little Birds. Check out Geoff’s site, he’s now working on a gorgeous series of birds from his Northern Forest Canoe Trail trip last Summer. Anyways, shortly after I started researching songbird and decoy carvers on the web, as well as purchasing numerous books on the subject.
From the books, I was drawn to the older, more primitive decoys. It was amazing to see the various styles specific to regions. Starting out, and probably still, I had a hard time figuring out the dimensional aspects of the birds from a single image. Scale, body shape, a clean head to body joint, and beak shape seemed all foreign to me. The blocks of wood and a single photograph didn’t equate. I needed to have a physical decoy in hand to better understand the process. So, I got on eBay and luckily came across a collection of carved, but not finished decoys by Orville Bergmann of Van Dyne, Wisconsin, from 1993. I ended up buying all seven available of various waterfowl and styles. The bodies were carved from Cedar, and the heads from Pine or Basswood. Carving decoy folk art started to make more sense. The picture below is of an Orville Bergmann Heron Lake Style Canvasback. He was truly an amazing sculptor of wood.
Hark! the hours are softly calling
Bidding Spring arise
To listen to the rain-drops falling
From the cloudy skies
To listen to Earth’s weary voices
Louder every day
Bidding her no longer linger
On her charm’d way
But hasten to her task of beauty
Scarcely yet begun.
Adelaide Anne Procter
The long, narrow bill with serrated edges distinguishes mergansers from all other ducks. Mergansers are among the largest ducks. In flight, they appear more elongated than other ducks, flying in trailing lines close to the water’s surface. The male common mergansers have a greenish-black crested head and upper neck. The lower neck, breast and underparts are creamy-white. They have black backs and upperwing coverts with white scapulars. The female common mergansers have a tufted red-brown head that is clearly defined from the lower neck by a clear whitish chin. The back and sides are silver-gray and the breast and belly are white.
Here is another old folk art piece that I completed in 2011, and photographed in March of 2012. This folk art bird carving of a female Common Merganser is carved from pine, painted with acrylics, and finished with various stains to age the carving. The underside is cut to simulate water, add color, and provide a more streamlined look to the carving. I’ve had two of these carvings sitting on the bench for years and need to finish them this Spring. This post may provide the incentive.