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Monday, 18 March 2019

Thirtieth Annual Canadian National Wildfowl Carving Championship

16 March 2019

     For the second year in a row I was invited to be a judge at the Canadian National Wildfowl Carving Championship and I was delighted to accept. It is an unbelievably enjoyable event bringing together the very best of Canadian carvers displaying their works to an admiring public; at the same time competing for honours in their various classes.
     Anne Forler deserves a huge vote of appreciation for the stellar job she did in organizing and controlling the judges on the day. Everything went smoothly and if there were any hitches she handled them so efficiently that no one else even knew. She was assisted very ably this year by my good friend, Larry Livingstone.
     None of this would be possible of course without all the effort and countless hours invested by Peter Fortune, Show Chairman, and his team. They all worked tirelessly before the weekend to ensure that everything ran seamlessly. The show literally could not have taken place without their dedication and hard work, and we owe them our deepest appreciation for a job well done.
     Here is Anne chatting with Bruce Lepper, one of Canada's most distinguished carvers, an artist whose renown has spread beyond our borders. The work that he creates is the stuff of legend.


     I arrived early and it was much quieter than it would be once the show opened to the public and many exhibits were still being set up.


     Owls are always popular subjects for carvers and certainly these enigmatic creatures of the night evoke keen interest from all who witness them - as carvings or in real life!



     After the customary group photograph was taken I was assigned to a team comprising Tim Forler (Anne's uncle) and Ken Hussey, in addition to myself. Both of these gentlemen are expert carvers, with Ken especially applying his skill primarily to contemporary antique works, a realm in which he is unquestionably a master. Tim no longer carves as much as he did formerly and was bemoaning the fact that he had sold most of his output, and now had little left for his grandchildren. His attempts to buy back some of his works gained no traction as the people who bought these works of great beauty had no intention of parting with them.

Tim Forler, Ken Hussey, David Gascoigne

     As was the case last year, my fellow judges were the very model of kindness and civility, a pleasure to work with, a joy to get to know. It goes without saying that I learned a good deal.

     The lighting in the venue is not especially conducive to photography (especially for a duffer like me) and some of my images are a little dark. The following shots do not do justice to a Least Bittern and a Green Heron.






     Much of today's artistic carving has its roots in the working decoys used by hunters in times past, and in the show there is a category featuring decoys that must be capable of self-righting, (as is this Green-winged Teal female), an homage to the past.


     As already mentioned there is a class called Contemporary Antique Decoy with a section for amateurs and another for experts.











     I know that Ken had several works entered and I was glad that we didn't have to judge that category for fear that even the most subliminal bias might creep into my decision.




     At first blush, it might seem that one has wider latitude in this category, but the requirement to closely replicate the integrity of old decoys imposes its own set of demands.
     Many categories feature songbirds and the degree of precision and the renditions of habitat are quite astounding.


     It seems pretty obvious that  the Wood Thrushes above in the novice class all took their inspiration from the same wood carving class or plan!
     Eastern Bluebirds are everyone's favourite and this male no doubt pleased many.


     If the bluebird is popular then so is the Northern Cardinal. Here are three renditions of males.





    And a pair too.


     There is a category called Interpretive Stylized where the artist has full scope to pursue his creative impulses. I thought the carver had used the natural features of the wood to great advantage in this work.




     Once again an owl was a popular choice. The African Pygmy Falcon also shown below was a subject chosen by numerous carvers in different classes this year.



     This Ruffed Grouse was one of my personal favourites of the show. The attention to detail, not only on the bird, but also on the habitat, was superlative.



     Anyone who has ever seen a bee-eater in life (and I have been fortunate to see about two-thirds of the world's species) will know just how entrancing they are and several carvings represented them in the most splendid way imaginable.





     An American Goldfinch, so familiar yet so beautiful, was portrayed to perfection.



     In the category Champagne Awards, miniatures are created, with the name referring to the size of a champagne flute which the carving must not exceed.



     Who among us has not been left gobsmacked by an encounter with a Scarlet Tanager?



      A Pine Grosbeak, set against the winter snow, always seems to me to be somehow like a northern parrot!



     I have only scratched the surface here of all that there was to see. From the rankest newcomer to the art, to the maestros of the genre, everyone who placed his work in the competition deserves our admiration and respect. It is a glorious show indeed, and I would urge all of my birding friends who have not attended this event to mark it on their calendar for next year. 
     For me, it is a distinct highlight in my ornithological year.

48 comments:

  1. Oh my, what wonderful sculptures! I would like to have the Pine Grosbeak in my kitchen to match my pink radio :)

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  2. I remember your post about this last year. Such amazing skill on display, some of the birds are incredibly life like!

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  3. Wow, that is some amazing carving and art.

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  4. Hello, I would have a hard time judging these bird carvings. The owls are lovely, I can see why they are favorites. But, they are all beautiful carvings. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your day, have a happy week ahead.

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  5. What amazing artisans! We see a lot of the eastern bluebirds and cardinals here. They are so beautifully portrayed in the carvings. I would love to see a European bee-eater someday. What a beauty.

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  6. What talented people, David!
    My favorite is Eastern Bluebird, Ruffed Grouse and Goldfinch.
    Thank for sharing!

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  7. Hi David.

    I enjoyed watching this.
    How beautiful this is.

    Greeting from Patrica.

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  8. Some brilliant work there, wish I could carve, I would have a house full of owls. Have a good day Diane

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  9. Hi David - it must be so difficult ... I loved the middle Cardinal, and the American Chaffinch - but all so talented ... something I am incapable of doing let alone attempting ... just lovely - so thanks for sharing - cheers Hilary

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  10. Underbara konstverk som jag aldrig sett här, en sådan vacker skulptur skulle jag mer än gärna ha som en prydnad i mitt hem. Däremot kan jag inte förstå att människor vill ha uppstoppade fåglar eller andra uppstoppade djur i sina hem.

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  11. I remember this event from last year! It's very enjoyable and there are so many talented artists there. I like all their work but my favorite is American Goldfinch and an Owl. Wonderful event!!!

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  12. ¡¡Que maravilla!! Y que gran responsabilidad para otorgar los premios. Debe ser muy complicado con tanta belleza elegir las más meritorias. Cuanto talento y que gran evento amigo David todo un espectáculo de belleza.
    Gracias por enseñar y compartir ese evento.
    Un fuerte abrazo de tu siempre amigo Juan.

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  13. I love owls as well...however, all carving are beautiful.
    have a great day.

    # I follow you

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  14. Beautiful array of birds carving, and I love the Owls, so gorgeous.

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  15. Hari OM
    I kid you not, I was telling my father only last week about the bird carving show I had seen on your blog last year and that I wondered if we would get a viewing again this year... it only took you seven days to catch up on that vibe!!! Amazing work. YAM xx

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    1. Hello YAM: I am glad that the memory of last year's show was vivid and that you enjoyed this one too.

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  16. How utterly beautiful. The carvings took my breath away.

    this is a book I used in second/third grade: Daniel's Duck by Clyde Robert Bulla, My father-in-law had an obsessive collection of ducks, and allowed me to borrow some.

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    1. Hi Susan: I think some people would consider my collection obsessive too, and that doesn't include the artwork on the walks and the soon to be overflowing books!

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    2. That should read "on the walls" not "on the walks."

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  17. Hi David,
    I remember your appointment at last years carving championship and the quality of the works exhibited.
    My personal opinion is that this years exhibits look even better than last years. Once the carving works are complete, then the finishing works commence with the painting of the subjects.
    You had a most difficult job with the standard of the works from these such talented people.
    All the best, John

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    1. Hi John: Occasionally one entry in a class is clearly worthy of first place, but often the selection of first, second and third positions is quite difficult, with the precision, quality and detail of the carvings being very close to each other.



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  18. Quite an exhibit! Terrific photographs!

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  19. Una exposición fantástica, todas las tallas de aves son preciosas y muy bien realizadas. Que pena vivir tan lejos para poder asistir a estos eventos. Bonito reportaje David, un fuerte abrazo desde España.

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  20. Que maravilla!! Los señuelos son perfectos David.
    Hay personas que tienen habilidades especiales en las manos y crean verdaderas obras de arte. Una entrada estupenda.
    Un abrazo.

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  21. The talent required to carve these just blows me away. I like the owls and the Cardinal.

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    1. And all the ones I have met, Michelle, including several world champions, are as modest as could be.

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  22. Maravillosa exposición, me gustan todos. David, tengo la suerte de ver todos los años abejarucos, en mi pueblo hay bastantes. Besitos.

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  23. WoW!! i do believe i remember this from last year, the carvings are incredible!!

    i can imagine one could take a lot of pictures here and be totally captivated by the talent!!! how could anyone pick a winner??!!

    i could never pick a favorite but the goldfinch is outstanding and since that is our state bird, i will go with that!!

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  24. Wonderful carvings of the birds along with lovely clear photos.
    The middle man looks like a carver :)

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  25. Impressive work and carvings, David! It takes a lot of time and patiense to make them.

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  26. An astonishing level of detail and accuracy in those carvings - most of us wouldn't even know where to start on a project like that.

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  27. I saw my first tiny Green Bee-eater on a trip to Sri Lanaka last year - I was so excited to spot it.
    I have a small collection of carved British birds made in the 1970s which we love today as much as when we first purchased them.

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  28. Beautiful birds carving!Some are really realistic.
    I remember your post of the championship last year.
    Good to see the fifth photo of you. Hello, David!

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  29. Superb, marvelous works and carving!! I like all of them. You´re fortunate to be able to attend such a magnificent event.

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  30. A fantastic show! Wonderful sculptures . I particularly like the wooden ducks super!
    Regards,
    Maria

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  31. Splendid post and photos. True works of art and these artists have my utmost admiration.

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  32. What a stunning eye opener this post is. Amazing craftsmanship on display. I feel great dismay for Tim.

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  33. David - congratulations on your second selection as judge. An honor indeed. I admire the work of these artists - not just the carving, but ensuring the color is true to nature. Wonderful!

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  34. Congratualtions on being selected as a judge once more, David, and thank you for this mouth-watering post.

    The British Decoy & Wildfowl Carvers Association have a stand every year at the British Birdfair at Rutland Water, and I always spend time here, and have nearly been tempted to have a go myself - I used to do a bit of woodcarving in my younger days. This association also have an annual event, rather like the one you show here, and, as it is only in the next county to us (Derbyshire), I really must go sometime.

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  35. Hi David. Well done in being honoured a a judge again. I'm sure your birding expertise and experience adds a great deal to the process, even though your whittling leaves a lot to be desired. Those carvings are simply amazing and I'm not surprised that once acquired, they become objects of great pride and value.

    I am trying to think if this carving is a tradition fairly unique to North America, perhaps with origins in native Indians? It's not something that is practised in any such degree here as far as I know.

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    1. Hello Phil: It is primarily a North American art form to be sure, with its origins rooted in the working decoys made by hunters to lure their quarry onto the water.

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  36. Many congratulations on being selected as a judge again this year.

    I enjoyed seeing all of your photographs, the work and craftmanship is truly amazing.

    All the best Jan

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  37. You know how much I enjoy the living birds but I enjoy every photo in this equally. I so admire the ability of carvers -- I have trouble getting an accurate shape out of anything and add to it sharp tools and I'm in trouble! But the painters deserve equal credit.There is nothing simple about mastering subtle shading and color and getting it just right. Being in your position would be both a joy and tremendous responsibility. I'm not sure I could come up with a "best" because these are magnificent.

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    1. Hi Jeanie: The carver and the painter is one and the same. And you are absolutely right about coming up with the right shade. Once in my days of naivety I commented to a carver I know quite well that it would have been "relatively" easy to paint a Scarlet Tanager, which is basically red and black. "Not so much," he told me and went on to explain that he had mixed the colour twelve times to get it exact, and that even then the colour is not uniform throughout the entire bird. It is not easy!

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  38. Hello David, these people are realy gifted being able to carve these birds like they are real. Amazing!
    Regards,
    Roos

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  39. My personal favorite is the interpretive stylized, although the high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail is wonderful in them all. I was interested to see 'antique decoy' as a category. I once met a man in Louisiana who carved decoys for hunting; there aren't many of those fellows left.

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