carvings earn worldwide honors
When Shawn Smith of Holden picks up a piece of wood and a knife you can rest assured he has more on his mind than whittling and whistling. In fact, the 28 year old decoy maker, whose shop is located outside of Ellsworth on Route 3, is cutting a blue ribbon trail through decoy competitions that include this country premier carvers.
Perhaps you know his carving of a Barrow goldeneye won of Show in the decoy contest held at this year State of Maine Sportsman Show in Augusta. In that competition, Shawn decorative bird pulled the judges attentions away from a raft of 205 other decoys. Obviously, A smooth bird is not finished with individually carved feathers. Instead, the smoothly finished decoy displays, artfully, the carver knowledge of waterfowl anatomy, plumage, and, equally important, his painting ability.
The next stop for the beautifully rendered Barrow goldeneye Shawn favorite duck was the 1992 Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition in Ocean City, Md. There, the young carver wings would be tested by a flock of world class competitors.
You heard, of course, the saying, only as good as your competition. With that in mind, you can imagine how Shawn Smith spirits and confidence soared when he received word a week ago that his carving won first place in the decorative decoy category at the World Championship Competition. There were 600 entries in the decorative category. Overall, more than 1,000 decoys were entered in the prestigious competition.Canada Goose online
You could say the Holden carver came by his talent naturally. He was introduced to the art by his grandfather Holger Smith of Mattapoisett, Mass., a coastal game warden and avid outdoorsman. A nice touch to the story, you say? Absolutely. But swallow your coffee before you read this: Holger Smith was introduced to carving by none other than Elmer Crowell, the legendary Cape Cod guide and decoy maker considered to be the dean of American bird carvers. To give you an idea of the collectible value of his work, Crowell decoys have brought up to $300,000 at auctions. He died in 1951.
Another interesting point in this story is that Shawn Smith close friend and colleague, Bill Conroy of Orland, also a world class carver, began turning out decoys after meeting Holger Smith. Years later, Bill walked into Shawn shop and the two discovered they had more in common that carving decoys.
Not surprisingly, they became duck hunting partners and what do you suppose they use for decoys? Shawn admitted they often shoot over a rig of handcarved eider decoys that has a value of about $8,000. have to be careful, though, he said, taking a shot riddled decoy off a shelf.
In regard to the improvement in carving tools and power machinery, Shawn allowed that carvers such as Crowell, Wheeler, Joe Lincoln, Harry Shourdes, Ira Hudson, and the like were true artists. worked with knives, wood rasps, and spoke shaves, and painted with brushes. They didn have Dremmel tools and air brushes.
he continued, are turning out birds that are so close to perfect that it hard to tell a picture of one from the real thing. Trouble with that is, there no identifying style everything looks the same. But you can tell a Crowell bird from a Shang Wheeler a mile away; they had distinctive styles.
can buy just about anything you need to turn out a decoy today patterns, roughed out blocks, molded studies of heads, bills, feet, feathers, you name it; and book after book about how to use high tech tools and how to paint feathers. however, starts from scratch, selecting, cutting, and drying his wood. He prefers basswood for decorative decoys, pine and cedar for other birds. His first step in starting a decoy is to glue several sections of wood together. Afterward, using a pattern, he roughs out the shape on a band saw. The next step is to split the block vertically and hollow out each section. This eliminates the possibility of the finished decoy checking and splitting. Then comes the shaving, carving, shaping, sanding, sealing, and, finally, the painstaking painting. When the final touches have been completed, the decoy is lacquered with a satin finish varnish.
Heads and necks are carved separately, and as you might imagine, the imparting of lifelike attitudes the curve of a neck, the tilt of a bill requires not only carving skill, but firsthand knowledge of the subjects. That, naturally, whittles down to years of observing and studying waterfowl in their natural habitat. Only by such dedication, however, will a carver attain the intangible quality that adds dimension and distinction to his work.
the past 15 years I carved everything from swans to teal, said Shawn, I figure I got a bird or two in every state with the exception, maybe, of Hawaii. His price list ranges from $85 for a miniature bird to $2,500 for a life size decorative Canada goose. love carving, I don think of it as work, he said casually. I love seeing the work of other carvers. I like holding their decoys. You can feel the time and talent that went into them and I always learn something. there you have the reason Shawn Smith is a world class decoy carver.