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As promised I am offering holiday ornaments.  If you pre-order a set of the Woodland Series (and in a few days the Garden Series) at a 20% discount.  Simply go to MY Etsy Store and entire the discount code belsnickel.  Your order will be shipped (at no charge) as soon the gift boxes arrive.  This offer lasts until the end of the October.

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For the last two years I’ve gone into production mode to cut out and paint flat Christmas ornaments based upon my bird carvings.  The very first were made directly from the scraps that I made when I cut out the bird carving profiles.

The Woodland Birds

My mom made similar cut-out ornaments when we were little.  She spent hours hunched over a scroll saw in the basement cutting out Raggedy Anne and Andy, rocking horses, toy soldiers, toy trains, angels and Santas.  This was followed by days of painting on a card table in the family room.  These brightly painted ornaments were freely given to friends and family.  On our holiday visits around to friends in Indiana and in Philadelphia — my grandparents home — Mom’s work was evident on every Christmas tree.  (If anyone still has any of Mom’s ornaments, please send photos.  I would love to have them.)

Up until recently, if you were to ask me if my ornaments sold well I’d tell you that they were slow and probably not worth the bother.  In preparing for this holiday season I gave my ornament sales a more critical look.  It was pretty simple to see —  I have less than five remaining in stock from last year — that they are good sellers.

With the new realization of their popularity I’ve approached this year’s holiday ornaments with much more

intention.

I’ve developed two series, Woodland Birds and Garden Birds. The Woodland Series includes one of each: a whip-poor-will, a indigo bunting, a scarlet tanager, a pileated woodpecker and a Baltimore oriole.  The Garden

The Garden Birds

Series includes a northern cardinal, and American Goldfinch, a chipping sparrow, a blue jay and a Carolina Chickadee.  (Please avoid the temptation to tell me that you see Baltimore Orioles in your garden or northern cardinals in the woods.  I get it.)

Like before you will be able to purchase individual birds.  The difference will be that each series will be available at a

discount and will come in a fancy-dancy clear lidded box — the perfect gift for the bird lover in your family.

These will be available for pre-order early next week.  Orders will be ready to ship before the end of the month.  When they become available you may purchase them from my Etsy store 50 Little Birds.

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I recently spent the weekend in Greenville, Ohio at the Gathering at Garst.  For this show I prepared three carving blanks and three finished bases so that I could demonstrate my process and be productive.  I completed all three bird — this indigo bunting, an American Goldfinch, and a yellow warbler.  the goldfinch sold at the show and was never photographed.  I’ve included shots of the bunting here.

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Two or three folks that know my work well have remarked recently on how much personality my birds have developed over the last few months.  It was even suggested that I teach a class in developing a bit of personality into carvings.

To tell the truth I wasn’t too aware that it was happening.  I like my newer carvings a great deal and upon reflection have to note that they do have a bit more character than my earlier work

In this reflection I’ve identified two changes that I think are particularly relevant to a birds perky character.

The first change is a design change that would have to be demonstrated live to really make sense.  Essentially I’ve moved the round spherical part of a bird design from the breast back to where the tail meets the body.  It does not always represent the most accurate shape for a given bird, but its a stylization that I enjoy.

More importantly I’ve begun to cut off heads.  Typically I cut blanks by marking a wood block and cutting out the profile (side view).  I tape all of the scraps back together and then mark and cut the profile from the top.

Then things get gruesome!  I then take a good look at a very square, but now three-dimensional bird and make a straight cut roughly where the head meets the body.

Modern  instant glues, cyanoacetates (CA), allow me to glue the head back on in a new jaunty position.  Traditional woodworking glues have little strength when gluing end grain and an odd shaped carving is difficult to clamp.   CAs have good adhesion to end grain, especially when the  joint is sanded to a perfect fit.  In the past I’ve had problems with CAs setting properly.  I could get a good instant joint about half the time.  I’ve discovered CA accelerator.  This aerosol causes the adhesive to set instantly.

There always seems to be a split of chip to repair in every project.  This product is wonderful for repairs, too.

When I carve a blank with a twisted head I carefully carve the body and head and then blend the two parts together.  I teach my students to carve octagons and then round them into circles.  This hold true for this.  Eight side the body.  Eight side the head.  Carve the planes that connect these two pieces together.

You, too, can carve jaunty sparrows and buntings.

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The jury for Indiana Artisans is meeting today and tomorrow, at Herron School of Art, to select individuals that will enter into the program.  This is an opportunity for artists to be endorsed by the State of Indiana.

From the Indiana Artisan website:

  • Indiana Artisan supports entrepreneurs who create high-quality art, crafts and value-added foods in the Hoosier state. A venture of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Arts Commission and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, this comprehensive program was launched in 2008 to:
  • Raise awareness about the availability of locally-crafted products
  • Establish a brand for Indiana-made goods
  • Provide artisans, particularly those in rural areas, with access to entrepreneurial support including training and networking opportunities

The benefits to artisans, also from the Indiana Artisan website:

  • Indiana Artisan is designed to help artisans and communities by establishing a brand that gives meaning and recognition to high quality, Indiana-made goods. To accomplish that, the program is:
  • promoting handcrafted and value-added food products made in Indiana, telling the stories of local artisans who produce them;
  • encouraging artisans to leverage the Indiana Artisan logo and branding;
  • providing access to entrepreneurial support and technical assistance, especially to artisans in rural areas;
  • providing Internet representation via the Indiana Artisan website;
  • helping artisans increase revenue and market growth through trade shows, online representation, retail displays and outlets, other distribution channels and collaborative statewide promotion efforts; and
  • aiding and promoting local efforts to develop artisan-related, tourism-focused trail development throughout the state.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I have a vested interest in all of this.  I spent the better part of two weekends, at my busiest time of year, carefully preparing a multi-page application.  I selected photographs of my work to include.

Yesterday I selected three pieces, carefully wrapped and labeled them and delivered them to the door of Herron School of Art.

In reality I’m not really that anxious.  I like my work and it stand on it’s own two feet (and wings).  The only anxiety that I’m feeling is that if not chosen I will miss an opportunity to continue to be a cheerleader for Indiana Traditional Arts.

As I reflect on my artistic life over the last 10 years It’s clear that I am Indiana’s No. 1 fan (Please note tongue in cheek and grain of salt….I may be Indiana’s No. 2 or 3 fan in reality!).

Key Strummers, the Third Satchel Novelty Jazz Orchestra and The Hoosier Hotshot Festival,my work at the State Museum and the National Barndance re-creation at the State Fair were/are about Indiana rural music.

My research of Indiana ukulele maker, Frank Bremerman, my trip to Hawaii to build and play ukulele and the three MidWest UkeFests were about pride in Indiana’s place in ukulele-dom.

My work with Traditional Arts Indiana is to continue to share and document Indiana’s traditions.

Blue Stone Folk School was founded on the notion that Indiana has a lot to share and people should come here and experience it.

From the first bird carving I made I focused on the traditions of Indiana bird carving and Indiana’s naturalist traditions.

If, at the end of the month, I’m not named an Indiana Artisan, life will go on.  I will continue to preach Indiana culture from the rooftops.  Little birds will be carved.  Folks will meet at the Folk School and enjoy music and culture.

…but I’ll feel a little like the Beatles fan that waited in line all night and never got a ticket.

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Recent reference photos for you to use…

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