Archive for October, 2010

The INDIEiana Handicraft Exchange Mini at the Irvington Halloween Festival was a huge success.  The weather cooperated and folks (and a few ghosts and goblins) came out ready to purchase holiday gifts.  I had a few opportunities to sing and play ukulele (with Phoebe) and my sales were much better than expected!

As I’ve shared before, Kelley Jordan, is now shooting the photos to promote my work.  All that needs to be said is that she is a fantastic artist and solid professional.  In fact, it was fun to have her around the studio.

If you have a need to have handwork photographed do not hesitate to contact Kelley.  Not only is her work first rate, her rates are surprisingly reasonable and the process — in my case — inspired a new level of work.

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To purchase work visit ETSY.

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My pieces can be pricey.  I use a pricing formula and I know that they are fair.  They are not TOO expensive.

I also know that If I was in a position to buy one of my birds, I would have to budget and save.  For us “regular folks” they are priced too high to be classified as an impulse buy.

I’ve known for a long time that I needed to produce products that were less expensive.  Thay had to be something that is priced fairly, using my pricing formula, that could be considered an impulse purchase by many more folks.

Saturday I’m selling at a Halloween street fair.  It draws a huge crowd, up to 10,000 folks.  Folks don’t come to street fairs to purchase pricey art.  I plan to use this event to test a new line that that taps into the under $25 crowd.

In the decoy carving world there is a decoy called a “flattie”.  Flatties are flat, two-dimensional decoys that are shaped, painted and decorated just like carved three-dimensional birds.  Last year I produced several hundred small flatties for use as package decorations and ornaments.  For these birds I used the same patterns as the birds I carved.  They are great.  I’ve used them as small gifts and give aways.  Due to their small size they dissapear in my show display and are difficult to promote.

Saturday I’m introducing a new line of flatties called “Bird-on-s-stick”.  These birds are made from patterns specifically designed as flatties.  They are larger than my carved birds and are mounted on a wire and a small stand.  One side is decorated with the same care and techniques that use to decorate carved birds.  For less than a quarter of the price folks can take home a little bird.

At this time I’ve designed and produced blue jays, Carolina chickadees, house wrens, Atlantic puffins, mallards, crows and cardinals.

Perhaps next I’ll get to my little bird suckers….

More about Saturday’s show from the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange webstite.

The Saturday, October 30 show will run from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and will be held in conjunction with the Irvington Halloween Festival outside in the Irvington neighborhood on the east side of Indy. We will have a long white tent on Washington Street between Midwest Scooter and Tiqueables Antiques and will have 30 vendors plus live music. The Halloween Festival also includes local food vendors, costume contests, games, movie screenings and other fun activities.

See you then?

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Last Saturday Kelley Jordan, photographer, was in my studio taking shots of my work for ETSY and for show applications. (More about Kelley later.)  I really enjoy cool autumn air and had the door open.  Kelley came in from shooting outside and announced that I had a bird in the studio.

It took awhile for me to understand.  I have loads of birds in the studio:  carvings, cut-outs, reference photos and field guides litter the room.

She tried again, “There’s a bird in here!”

Perhaps she heard Woody Guthrie on my iPod.

Once more she announced that a bird was in the house.

Sure enough, a small brown bird was flitting around the room.  I’ve handled many birds wild, domestic, alive and mounted and knew just what to do.  You wait until its exhausted and the gentle pick it up and take it outside.  That’s just what I did (but not before it walked on the ceiling!).

When we got outside (Me, the bird, Kelley and her camera) I gentle relaxed my hand.  It didn’t seem to want to leave.  I put a finger to its breast and it stood on my finger and sang! (Kelley shot pictures…I WILL have proof!) I stood for several minutes looking at the bird.

It looked like a wren, but lacked the barred wing patterns and upright tail.  It had a long curved beak and its tail was fanned like a woodpecker’s.  I gentle tried to coax the tail into the upright wren posture, but it wouldn’t go.  It continued to stand calmly watching me watch it.

After a few minutes I walked to the wooded backyard and tried to place it on a sheltered branch.  The bird took the cue and flew into the foliage.

I immediately checked my field guide and discovered a bird between nuthatches (bird that can walk on ceilings) and wrens.  It was the brown creeper.  The creeper is a nuthatch relation that lived near the trunks of trees and is heavily camouflaged.  They are not rare, but very, very difficult to spot.

Every bird has a story.  It looks like I have another.

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I traveled with Ernie to get back to New England.  I traveled with Ernie to revisit my Maine home.  I traveled with Ernie to spend time with a serious and focused artist.  I traveled with Ernie to see and experience places that I’ve never visited.  I did not travel with Ernie to “get my picture took”.

This evening Ernie sent me an email of severial photos of me birding, walking and loving the New England Autumn.

To see more of Ernie’s work and to pick purchase copies click here.

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New England Souvenirs

I didn’t have much time or money to worry about purchasing things to bring home. I did pick up two pounds of Kirschner franks and top split buns.

More importantly I picked up materials for my carved birds. My birds are mounted on found twigs. I’m always searching for unsual and interesting sticks. Along the roadsides of the the Adirondacks and New Hampshire I picked up a nice faggot (How nice to use this word correctly) of mixed silver and white paper birch.

I also gathered a bit of white paper birch bark, a smathering of pine cones, a few wonderful stones and a male eider feather.

Look for these materials in new work.

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Kenny’s Guitar – A Re-Blog

I’m not much into re-blogging…but this is Kenny’s Guitar!

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I spent about an hour and a half drawing and photographing a superb great horned owl mount at a local nature center today.  It was a nice way to get back to work after a week in the field.

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When the girls were little we spent two weeks in Maine.  Julie flew up to join us for the second week.  At the end of our time there we put Julie on a plane in Portland and headed home in an ancient (25 yrs. +) giant Dodge pick-up with a kayak on the roof.

It was late afternoon drove straight west through New Hampshire and into Vermont and crashed into a tiny mom and pop motel.  We had no idea where we were (Visually.  I was a geography major I knew where we were.).  We got up at the crack of dawn and drove around a bend only to find the earth open before us as we emerged from the forest and were overlooking miles and mile of overlapping mountain ranges.  This night and morning has always been some kind of milestone in my life.  I don’t know why.  I never thought that I’d see it again.

Yesterday morning we drove around a bend and the same vista opened before me!  It turns out the Ernie had a similar experience and was moved by just being there.  Wow!

(I now know that we stayed in the Molly Stark Motel and that the spot is called Hogback Mountain west of Brattleboro, VT on Rt. 9.)

A bit further west we stopped to photograph the sea smoke rising from a pond surrounded with fall colors.  My camera didn’t do it justice, but Ernie shot some beautiful stuff.  I got a shot of Ernie shooting this pond.

The highlight of the day was when we crossed into New York and hapened across Joanne Tarbox opening her farm stand east of Troy.  We stopped and asked if we could shoot the farm and she invited us to make ourselves at home while she uncovered her beautiful display of mums and pumpkins. While Ernie shot we chatted about milk prices and the hardship of running a dairy farm.  She explained that they now raise steers to supplement their income.  With the local food movement this has been very successful for them.  They plan to soon pasteurize their own milk and sell independently to avoid the price fixing and government programs that keep milk price depressed.

Later she opened her 1830 corn crib and shared her quilts.  We had a great conversation and a bit of her story in a beautiful place.  I truly hope to drop in on Mrs. Tarbox, her cows and her friendly cat again.

That’s it.  We were on the road over 19 hours yesterday and awoke this morning with our wives and children.




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Photo by Ernie Mills Photgraphy (Of Course)


Ernie, my photo-junkie companion, spent three years driving tourists to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.  If you’ve not driven, or ridden, The Road it simply cannot be imagined.

We’ll try.  Just imagine the narrowest, twisting, steepest road that you can and then imagine that it climbs 4000 ft in just 8 miles (In a recent hill climb a driver topped the mountain in just 6 minutes!)  Then imagine ice and snow (every month) and 60, 70 and even 100 mph sustained winds.  That’s a little like this road. (I didn’t mention the 500 – 600′ shear drops.  Guard rails?  Hah!)

Not only was this road built in such an unlikely place, it was built before the Civil War.  At that time the road led from a valley summer house (The Glen House) to a smaller hotel on the summit (The Tip Top House).  Folks rode in carriages.  The ride took four hours up mountain and 2 down.  Most folks take about 40 minutes in a car (Ernie did it in a little less time!)

Folks die on the summit from falling, exposure and getting lost.  In the long history of the road there has only been one accident with two fatalities.  This safety record indicates the road safer than most neighborhood roads.  These folks work very hard to maintain this record.

The Mount Washington Weather Observatory claims the mountain has the worst weather on earth.  Throughout its history the MWOBS has reported the world’s fastest winds and some of the most extreme temperatures.  Visibility changes in seconds as the clouds wrap around the summit.  It’s an mecca for weather watchers.

We arrived at the base of the road before the 8:00 open time.  We were told by the folks at the toll house (all friends of Ernie’s) that we would be held for and hour or so.  While we waited we visited the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch   We began our of the summit ascent at 9:15.  Ernie was anxious to be at the summit before the tourists and through his knowledge of the road we were able to be the first to arrive.

Ernie, the folks at the summit, the drivers that we hung out with, the experienced climbers all called today the perfect day.  There are only 30 fog free days a year and today was crystal clear.  The weather had been bad (we were turned away earlier in the week) so the summit was covered with a thick layer of rime frost. It was warm for the summit, about 28 degrees with moderate winds.  When we reached the summit we had a clear view of the Atlantic from Portland, Maine  to Portsmouth, New Hampshire (Well over 60 miles).  On the other side of the summit we looked down on a solid mass of stratus clouds that wrapped and spilled around nearby peaks and dissipated.

From the backside of the mountain the world’s first cog railroad operates.  About a half hour after we arrived trains began to arrive.  The first train of the day is always pushed by a tiny steam locomotive shrouded in a plume of black coal smoke.

Adjacent to the weather observatory is a visitor center with a museum, post office, two gift shops and a restaurant.  I enjoyed a wonderful bowl of chicken and dumplings.

After our descent we parked and hiked the Alpine Garden Trail.  This trail leads through boulder fields, along the head wall of a huge glacial valley (I stayed back from the edge) across a tiny stream and through a huge meadow of rare and tiny alpine flowers.  The path, like all AMC alpine paths is marked with a series of ancient cairns.  It was a tough hike.  We walked less than a mile, but the elevation varied by several hundred feet.

Our last stop of the day was to Glen Ellis Falls.  The Glen Ellis Valley was blocked by a series of ancient avalanches.  The tiny river fights and twists as it drops down from the mountain.  The largest drop is 65 feet into a series of pools.  Beautiful stuff!

I’ve been carrying around a Zoom digital recorder.  I’m not sure why I brought it, but I’ve been setting is along various babbling brooks, roaring surf and waterfalls.  It’s nice to listen to.

We’re in southern Vermont tonight and planning a drive towards home tomorrow.  We’ll see what’s in store.

See Ernie’s photos of today here.

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I’ve a bit more time this evening and will make some attempt to organize photos a bit more than I was able to yesterday.  I want to thank all of the folks following us on our trip.  It’s great fun taking pictures when there is  willing audience.  Please make comments.  Ernie and I want to know that you are there.

(I’ve been experimenting with a method of organizing photos and I don;t think it will work.  Take note WordPress gurus!)

We began the day at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.  (Actually we began the day a few hundred yards away at the Hotel Pemaquid, a grand Victorian sumer house.)  I’ve spent several sunrises on the rocks and Ernie was eager to give it a shot.  Unfortunately the sunrise was weak.  I turned to birds and Ernie worked on alternative shots.  We were both successful.

[I forgot to mention yesterday that when I walked into the Hotel Pemaquid I was asked by the lady at the desk if I knew how to build a good fire in the fireplace.  Once the fire was roaring she gave me a reduced rate for helping out!]

This trip has been very fast paced and I’ve not had much time to really slow down and really get a look at smaller birds.  We’ve seen crows and heard blue jays throughout our days.  On most long drives we come across large flocks of turkeys.  Along a pond adjacent to the Erie Canal I was able to pick out a pair of wood ducks among the mallards.

Today I was banking on sea birds and am pleased.  Huge rafts of eiders were rolling outside the surf line.  Small groups of eiders were working among the rockweed.  It was amazing to see them slammed by breakers only to bob to the surface and continue feeding.  When I was younger I paddled kayaks among eider famales with their young.  The chick would scatter and dive, bob to the surface and re-collect.  The males were rarely seen in the summer.  They send the season feeding alone.

Cormorants (“coots” to the locals) were in attendence fishing outside the surf.  Several flew up onto a large rock and dried their wings.  I was able to approach fairly closely and get shots (Ernie got some great ones!).

From Pemaquid I went home.  I knew it wasn’t ome anymore, but not living on Sawyer Island still leaves an empty place inside.  It was great to have Ernie along to listen to each trivial memory that I spewed. (“That house wan’t there. That tree was smaller.  I used to sit on that rock.”)

We made a brief stop at Trevett.  This general store general store sold us stamps, supplied Dad and Uncle Gary with beer and the kids with candy and Moxie.  It’s still a small market, but much different that it was in Stan Hodgdon’s day.

From there we drove the short mile to The Nest, my summer home for nearly 20 years.  The Nest, now over 100 years old, was the annex to The Sawyer Island House. The Sawyer Island House served as the summer home for tourists that arrived by steamer at the nearby Isle of Springs Landing.  Several visitors recorded their visits on the bedroom walls.

I peeked into the front door and was pleased to see evidence of our time there.  The kitchen floor that my parents put in was there,  the pegs for coats and jackets were as I remembered.  Even the fan above the stove was the same.

On the dock I found that the flagpole I had fashioned from an old mast found on the shore was still on the dock.  The cleat that I carved still held the halyard in place.

I swung Ernie through Boothbay Harbor, the tacky tourist town adjoining Boothbay.  Since Columbus day is behind us the bus loads of New Yorkers have gone.  The shoulder to shoulder crowds have vanished and the year ’round folks have their town to themselves.  We walked around a bit observing folks at work and closed shops and restaurants.  I had heard that the  Romar (duckpin) Bowling Alley was gone from the Byway.  (Just thinking about the bowling alley evokes memories of slamming hardwood balls and pins as well as the mixed smells of wax, sweat, cigarettes and beer (Kinda like Syd’s at home!).  I am happy to report that it is still there — put to bed for the winter — but still there.  I remember the place being packed with sailors and Coast Guardsmen when their ships were in the harbor and the boys had shore leave.

On the way out of town we swung by Wall Point to visit Linekin Bay Resort. I stayed at the resort as a young child (and as a young father) and worked there, as a sailing instructor, in college.  I thought it had changed little until I met the bartender.  The Linekin Bay Resort I knew did not allow alcohol on the premises (Except in those big cups everybody “snuck” around).  It’s a great place full of 1940s resot charm.  There are few places like it left here.

We met Ernie’s sister, Meryl, for lunch in Wiscasset.  Meryl lives in Portland and drove from a job in Freeport to meet me see her brother and spend some time together.  I got my second (and last) crabnmeat roll of the trip and we ate on a small wharf overlooking the Sheepscot River and Route 1.  It’s in the spot near where the Schooners Hesper and Luther Little were tied up, sank and became Maine’s greatest landmarks.  They’re gone now.  Wiscassett, Maine’s most beautiful village, seems  not-quite-right without them.

We’re in Gorham, New Hampshire now.  On the way we wound through a series of camp regions and small interior villages.  We made a stop to mail a package (Watch the mail Hannah!) and to buy a few pumpkins for the Davis family porch.  We met Todd at the Stevenson Farm Stand in Winthrop and picked up a white and a warty pumpkin.  Todd and Ernie had a nice chat about photography and shared stories about great places to shoot the Maine Coast.

Tomorrow we are going to re-attempt the summit of Mt. Washington.  The weather report is favorable and we expect good visibility.

Click here for a sampling of Ernie’s pictures.

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