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What People Say

As my research progressed I took a deep breath and started sending out a few emails explaining my project and asking for advice and information, and in so doing I have met some very friendly and helpful people.  Here are a few extracts from their emails…

“I am glad that you have found an interest in carving decoys.  It is a very interesting and worthwhile endeavor.  In addition to learning to carve decoys there is much to be learned about ducks, waterfowl, and the history of duck hunting and decoy making.”

Mike Lawrence, The Woodcarvers Cabin

“I was very surprised to hear that you saw birds (duck decoys) in Mystic Conn. I am sure they were in  small coffee Shoppe…. There was a good number of birds in there from a collection by Jim Blair. He was a collector that died back in the mid 90’s. My father also had a number of birds in that collection as well, and yes, many were mine as well. So, I was delighted to see you saw them. Great area of the US, and I miss being back in Conn. I have many fond memories back there. I bet you kick yourself for not scrapping the money up to buy a bird. Your bird would probably have doubled by now.”

“The Carving world is and can be addicting. Good luck with it.”

Tom Matus, taking time out from completing his entries for the 2006 World Cup Championship, extracts from email correspondence.

(Tom has won more than 125 “Best of Show ribbons” and many other awards and accolades. In April 2006 he “swept the board” taking the top three places in the Gunning Pairs section of the Ward Foundation World Championships.) 

“Bill Einsig of Wildfowl Carving Magazine forwarded your e-mail to us and we found it very interesting.  I am the President of the International Wildfowl Carvers Association more commonly known as IWCA and my wife is the Secretary.  IWCA is a non-profit organization.   I carve and JoAnne paints my carvings and we consider ourselves medium level carvers.

IWCA has about 14 affiliated member shows/clubs across the US and our individual membership hovers around 1,000.  We promote wildfowl and fish carving and assist with the shows. In addition we sponsor four national competitions, provide some funding to youth carving instructors, and sponsor carving seminars.

One of our major goals to to promote the "Art of the Decoy".  Another of my goals is to put together a traveling exhibiton and perhaps a competition in Europe.  It will be interesting to see if we can find a funding source for such a venture.

Your e-mail was particularly interesting since just last night I was talking with a carver about trying to extend the bird and decoy carving beyond our national boundries (we do have a number of members from Canada and a handfull from other countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, Russia). 

If you would like to know more about IWCA go to our website www.iwfca.com.  We don't know if we can assist you in what you are doing but it sounds interesting.

We have two decoy competitions the first weekend in August at Dundee, Michigan.  The championship contest will be for what we call the IWCA Style Decoy--a smooth but highly detail painted bird.  The other contest will be for the IWCA Working Decoy--decoys that would be used for hunting.

Keep us posted on your progress and if you ever get to the Pacific Northwest of the US we would love to meet you. Let us know if we can help.”

Byrn and JoAnne Watson, ICWA – email I received after I made contact with Bill Einsig of Wildfowl Carving Magazine  

… and another email from Byrn after I told him I had discovered the British Decoy Wildfowl Carvers Association (BDWCA) and that they were holding a Carving championship in the UK in October 2006 …

“Thanks for the information on the UK Decoy Carving Championship.  I contacted the show director and we are thinking seriously of attending the show in October. (which they subsequently decided to do)  We have also offered to bring an exhibit of Palm Frond Decoys if they are interested.  Palm Fronds were used by U.S. West Coast Carvers at the turn of the century.  They were cheap, same as the decoy carvers (reputation)!” 

And then I went to a specialist forum – more information in the Learn How to Carve a Duck Decoy eBook – and asked the following question:-


How would you describe your hobby? Addictive, Relaxing, Creative, or ...? 


Hi. My name's Pam Wilson, I'm based in the UK, and this is my first posting. 

For the last few months I've been researching for an Internet based project I'm setting up on the subject of "Decorative Ducks".  In the course of this research I've met some really helpful people who have taken time to give me information, or introduce  me to others who can help, and I've ended up totally fascinated by the subject of carving a duck decoy. So much so that in 2 weeks time I will be learning to carve my first Mallard Drake!

My project (Web site, eBook, newsletter) is primarily aimed at beginners, like me, who want to learn how to carve a duck decoy, especially those in the UK and Europe.

And that's where I'd like to ask for some help from you ... I thought it would be really encouraging if I could include some Quotes from people who already carve.  Tom (Matus) has already told me that "The Carving world is and can be addictive", would any of you have some encouraging quotes and/or advice that you would be happy to let me use?


And here are some of the encouraging and supportive replies which came flooding in:-

Hi Pam, welcome to the forum.

Quotes you can use? 'First you get good then you get fast"

The carving should reveal the species prior to painting just in the silouette. Key attributes should quickly and easily identify the species whether it is primed in white gray or whatever.

If you can't tell the species, attitude and what it is doing prior to paint you are not finished carving.

RobS (Mr Magoo of the Carving World), Calgary, Alberta, Canada


Pam, When i was a begginer I remember hearing " carve to the round" alot. And i mean alot. I was told to invision a football. NO flat spots.

Good luck with your new addiction!!!

Nathan, DuQuoin, Illinois, USA


Here's one....

"Under every fancy decorative there was probably a real good gunner"


"adding ornaments and garland to an Maple tree doesn't make it a Christmas tree!"

Tom Matus (TGUN), Boise, Idaho, USA


I always tell my students "You can't carve a decoy until you know what the duck looks like, so gather reference.  When you think you have enough, go gather more, you can never have enough reference".

As for,Addictive, Relaxing, Creative, read my signature line.

While your at the pond taking pictures don't forget to stop and just watch the birds. After awhile you'll see personalities emerge. Ducks are wonderful creatures to just watch.

Frank Peeters, S/E Michigan, USA

There is a very fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness”


An old freind once told me the easy method of carving a duck. "Cut off every thing that doesn't look like a duck, and when your finished you have a duck."

Wes Townzen, Grafton, Illinois, USA


Pam. It so nice to have some one from the UK  Get bit by the carving BUG. I am sure you will get a lot good advice from the member of the forum. There is a lot of information stored in the minds of the members. ALL you have to do is seperate  the facts from the fiction. My favorite saying was, HOW CAN YOU CARVE IT IF YOU HAVE NEVER SAW THE SUBJECT ALIVE. GOOD LUCK ON YOUR PROJECT.

Bob Sutton, Long Beach, California, USA



   Here is one of the many that my dad used... "if you can peel a potatoe you can carve a duck"

Also.. "watch that knife it's sharp really sharp, sharp enough to cut your ass to thin to fry."

“SMOKE”, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, USA


Pam..........the one that sums it all up for me is " its the most fun you'll ever have with your clothes on!" Decoy carving is addictive, relaxing, inspiring and when you can do it with your children.........its even better!! Hope all goes well with your project!

Jim Romig aka woodwizard, Middleburg, Pennsylvania, USA 


Pam ,

  I'm not good with one liners , but for me making honest decoys to hunt over is an extension of my deep seated love of the natural world. 

It is also an attempt to capture the tradition , history , and craftsmanship of a long standing utilitarian art form in a way that is relavant to todays needs.

Ohh,........and by the way.........it's pretty darn fun too!...............LOL!

Hope this is of some use in your project

Jode Hillman, South Jersey, USA



Frank (Peeters) gave you about the best advice that I beleive is true.  When you get ready to carve a bird or decoy assemble as much reference material as you can find.

Dan Butler, Flushing, Michigan, USA


My advice to beginners is based on my personal initial experiences which were rather unfortunately marked with uniformed decisions and poor choices, which resulted in several years of lost time and personal frustration.

First, realize that there are many disciplines and sub-disciplines in the waterfowl carving world: pure decoratives, miniatures, impressionistic decoratives, competition decoys, hunting decoys, etc.

Then there are choices to be made in materials: wood, cork, canvas covered, and others. Each has its loyal adherents and each demands some  specialized skills for mastery.

My advice can be reduced to this...

 ·                    Make an informed decision as to which carving path you want to follow. Don't be afraid to make your own path, there you will find the joy of self expression. Others will value the individuality of your work.

 ·                    Avoid distractions, but learn from all you see.

 ·                    Avail yourself of the incredible wealth of instructional and reference material to be found in modern publications and media, and on the internet (including this forum).

 ·                    If at all possible, locate a mentor who will guide you through the learning steps. A mentor will enable you to avoid common mistakes,  propelling you to an early entry into productive carving.

 ·                    Don't take it all too seriously. It is, after all just a hobby.

Again, we're pleased to have you join us.

JimD (curmudgeonly old guy), Linwood, North Carolina, USA

“Make your own birds. Not someone else’s. Write that down. Pin it on the wall. Refer to it.”


After completing my first Bufflehead---my (tor)mentor told me---"now come back when you have carved your fiftieth"----

“Doc”, Long Island, New York, USA 


Pam, after eight years of carving, I still consider myself a beginner.  But here is a few quotes that I picked up along the way:

 ·                    If you ain't bleeding, you ain't carving!

 ·                    Life is too short to hunt over plastic decoys.

 ·                    I don't understand, I cut it off twice and it is still too short?

 ·                    If you ask for a critique of your work be prepared to handle the criticism.

 ·                    Do you know the anatomy of a duck?

Good luck with your research.....

Rob Enders, Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, USA


Creativity is essentially a lonely art.
An even lonelier struggle.
To some it is a blessing. To others a curse.
It is in reality the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.

Joe Lich, Sheffield Village, Ohio, USA


Hi Pam!

Welcome! One of my favorites is....

"A decoy with a great head and a so so body, will always beat out the one with the so so head and a great body."

Now if we can keep the guys from commenting on that statement, I'll be surprised.....  

Also I wanted to say, I consider decoy carving an art, rather than a hobby. Hobby sounds so "craft-like". I may be splitting hairs here, but I prefer it to be referred to as art, even if it is perhaps a hobby to some carvers.
Calling Marc Schultz's Pintail (a fantastic carving exhibited in the Decorative Lifesize Wildfowl section of the
Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition - it was awarded 2nd place!) a hobby or craft, rather than art, is like looking at Mount Rushmore and calling it "cute".
Some wildfowl carvers and decoy carvers are hobbyists, some are full-time carvers, I believe we are all artists, creating art.

Laurie Gmyrek (LoonLady), Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


This last message started a “discussion” on the subject of craft vs art, here are some of the excerpts …  

Laurie, I take the opposite view, as I see decoy-carving as a craft with a side of art. I just see it as continuing a tradition that began as a purely functional trade. The art is what keeps the craft moving forward. But, different strokes for different folks.
I find decoy carving relaxing with a bit of frustration mixed in at times. I just like to work with wood and its a bonus when I can add to my rig with a bird that has an attitude.
JD Ebel,
Simsbury, Connecticut, USA

I think the artist is always a craftsman but the craftsman is not always an artist. The craftsman may not find art in their work but fortunately others may.

…What is important is we are keeping alive a tradition that is unique to our continent. Certainly there are artists in our midst but not every carver is an artist. Just enjoy what you do and try to improve every carving. As the old saying goes, "Art is in eyes of the beholder".
Dan Butler


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