Decoy carving historical art form

Everything about the head was shaping up; the neckline was smoothly flowing, the shallow trough where the bill meets the crown was visible, and even the slightly rounded cheeks were beginning to take life.

Unfortunately, my eyes staring at the forming head were as blank and devoid of life as the glass eyes which had not yet been inserted into the wooden decoy's head. Other than a vague concept of what and how the bird would look, I had no clue of where to go with this decoy, an important carving in the context of events.

The task is to make the bird — head, eyes and body — look, not like a wooden carving of a duck, but literally to take life as much as possible. A reasonable facsimile will not do, in the Ohio Westlake show, nor in the World Championships in Ocean City, Md. Attitude is central, life is given to the glass eyes by awareness that puts the carving into an area that is more than craftsmanship, that crosses the line into art and interpretation.

So the entry forms having arrived, I had undertaken the challenge, but unfortunately the muse hadn't hit me yet.

Laugh if you wish, oh reader bathed in cynicism! After all, I too occasionally collapse in mirth at another's geeky hobby-fueled pursuit of internally bestowed accolades. Cupcake Wars? Who cares — they all taste good! Chess championship? My probable ADHD kept me from ever sitting still long enough to learn the game.

But another ribbon from the vaunted Westlake venue on the shores of Lake Erie, or the even more acclaimed Ward World Championships — aye, there's a prize worth the chasing! In the small but select world of waterfowl carving, such prizes are not to be regarded lightly.

Never mind that you do not know who won the World Championship in Gunning Rigs last year — most people are also stymied by the challenge to name the loser of last year's World Series;fame is a fleeting and fickle mistress. Fame is not the challenge which drives me to perfect this block of wood; I am driven by the knowledge that, ribbon or no ribbon, win, lose or draw, I am competing against myself.

As the Russian boxer portrayed by Dolph Lundgren in one of the "Rocky" movies said "I don't fight for Russia! I fight for ME!"

The selected focus is a female teal, to potentially be paired with one of the three drake teals which nest atop my bookshelf. The lineage of the wooden handcarved decoy is, of course, rooted in the tool used by duck hunters for centuries. Most duck hunters don't hunt over wooden birds anymore, except under highly controlled conditions — in other words, it's not going to float off where you can't get it. Google the price of a handcarved decoy, and you'll understand why.

Nonetheless, decoy carvers, like muzzleloader shooters or longbow archers. both of which I also engage in, continue to perfect our historically significant art form. Maybe I was born out of time…but then I would have had to live without indoor plumbing, a truly negative idea.

There is, of course, a happy conclusion. Driving home from Lubbock, seeing the ducks on their lake, the muse struck. A sleeper-waterfowl sleep with the head tucked under one wing. The little teal hen was meant to be a sleeper. Westlake, here we come.

Everything about the head was shaping up; the neckline was smoothly flowing, the shallow trough where the bill meets the crown was visible, and even the slightly rounded cheeks were beginning to take life.

Unfortunately, my eyes staring at the forming head were as blank and devoid of life as the glass eyes which had not yet been inserted into the wooden decoy's head. Other than a vague concept of what and how the bird would look, I had no clue of where to go with this decoy, an important carving in the context of events.

The task is to make the bird- head, eyes and body- look, not like a wooden carving of a duck, but literally to take life as much as possible. A reasonable facsimile will not do, in the Ohio Westlake show, nor in the World Championships in Ocean City, Md. Attitude is central, life is given to the glass eyes by awareness that puts the carving into an area that is more than craftsmanship, that crosses the line into art and interpretation.

So the entry forms having arrived, I had undertaken the challenge, but unfortunately the muse hadn't hit me yet.

Laugh if you wish, oh reader bathed in cynicism! After all, I too occasionally collapse in mirth at another's geeky hobby-fueled pursuit of internally bestowed accolades. Cupcake Wars? Who cares- they all taste good! Chess championship? My probable ADHD kept me from ever sitting still long enough to learn the game.

But another ribbon from the vaunted Westlake venue on the shores of Lake Erie, or the even more acclaimed Ward World Championships- aye, there's a prize worth the chasing! In the small but select world of waterfowl carving, such prizes are not to be regarded lightly.

Never mind that you do not know who won the World Championship in Gunning Rigs last year- most people are also stymied by the challenge to name the loser of last year's World Series;fame is a fleeting and fickle mistress. Fame is not the challenge which drives me to perfect this block of wood;I am driven by the knowledge that, ribbon or no ribbon, win, lose or draw, I am competing against myself.

As the Russian boxer portrayed by Dolph Lundgren in one of the "Rocky" movies said " I don't fight for Russia! I fight for ME!"

The selected focus is a female teal, to potentially be paired with one of the three drake teals which nest atop my bookshelf. The lineage of the wooden handcarved decoy is, of course, rooted in the tool used by duck hunters for centuries. Most duck hunters don't hunt over wooden birds anymore, except under highly controlled conditions- in other words, it's not going to float off where you can't get it. Google the price of a handcarved decoy, and you'll understand why.

Nonetheless, decoy carvers, like muzzleloader shooters or longbow archers, both of which I also engage in, continue to perfect our historically significant art form. Maybe I was born out of time … but then I would have had to live without indoor plumbing, a truly negative idea.

There is, of course, a happy conclusion. Driving home from Lubbock, seeing the ducks on their lake, the muse struck. A sleeper-waterfowl sleep with the head tucked under one wing. The little teal hen was meant to be a sleeper. Westlake, here we come.

Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis Christian High School. He can be contacted at:

clyde_davis@yahoo.com

Speak Your Mind

*