Posts Tagged ‘crow’

_MG_0014I’ve been stocking The Artisan’s Bench in Brighton, Michigan with a very complete representation of my work. I’ve been sending off groups of pieces as they are finished. The gallery is as enthusiastic as I am about including 50 Little Birds.

The pieces in the photo on the left have arrived at the gallery and are available for purchase.



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As school becomes less hectic I find myself returning to my artistic (and most authentic) life. I’ve resumed birding and carving and am convinced that my work will continue to improve.
In college I was a jazz trombonist — and pretty durned good at it. When I began my family I put the horn away for over ten years. To my astonishment, when I returned to playing I was a much better player. I didn’t have the chops to play in the upper register, but I had, somehow, internalized a huge library of hot licks. I realized I had spent that inactive ten years listening to jazz and running the solos in my head.

Carving is much the same. I took off five months to complete the restoration of one side of my house, do some odd jobs for Mom and get Phoebe off to college. I regretted every day I wasn’t at the bench. I continued to read and research and think about how birds could be put together using wood and found objects. When I finished this Great Horned Owl I realized the even without picking up a knife I was continuing to grow as an artist. I believe that there is a lot more where that came from!

I’ve just begun to re-establish my Etsy store. Click the icon on the right to visit. I’ve offered the Great Horned Owl and Quintessential Murder pictured below.

I believe my next project may be a similar barn owl. We’ll see.

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I’m completing a few last pieces for the Indiana Artisan Marketplace, my most important show

A Murder Most Grand!

A New Style of Mount - Tall Corkscrew Willow from Dennis Maddox and Greg Adams


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I was interviewed yesterday for an article in Travel Indiana Magazine.  I like interviews.  I like talking about my work, inspirations and my creative process. (That’s why I have this blog.)

There are two questions, that I’m asked a lot, that cause me problems-

  • How long does it take to make a bird ?
  • What’s your favorite _______?

The first question is no longered answered.  Ever.

My projects begin with field work and book research and end with a painted and mounted bird.  Sometimes there are many steps and sketches and patterns and trials.  Sometimes I sit down and knock it out in a few hours.   In some cases, like the skin-on-frame cardinal, this process took years.  How long is difficult to quantify in a way that is meaningful.

When folks get an idea of the time involved in producing a piece they begin to calculate the figure in terms of profit and wages.  Without understanding the lifetime of acquiring a specialized skill set, maintaining a studio, building show displays, research, travel, lodging, meals, printing, bank fees and taxes it is impossible to understand and interpret the time/wages/profit relationship.  Folks still try so I don’t supply the numbers.

Quick aside – My wife recently had many serious eye surgeries (She’s better, thanks.) and spent five or six hours under the knife.  It would be crazy for me to think I could figure out how much the doctor made each hour.

Learn more about this here.
I’ve no logical or ethical reason for disliking the second question.  It’s just hard for me to answer.

I don’t pick absolute favorites.

I don’t have a favorite movie.  I don’t have a favorite book.  I don’t have a favorite song.  I don’t even have a favorite ukulele.

My interests change with my projects.  My interests change with my research.  My interests change with need.

My favorites are lists.

Yesterday I was asked what my favorite bird was.  I gave an answer, but not just one, because it was expected — the common crow and the belted kingfisher.

I present here a list of favorite birds.  It’s in no particular ranking and birds may move on and off the list as my projects and experiences evolve.

  • Common Crow –  This is a sound memory.  My happiest moments of childhood — foggy Maine mornings — include a soundtrack of crow calls.  Once I was touring a college campus with my family.  My wife turned and found I was gone and asked the group if they had seen me.  One observant woman reported that I had wondered off talking to the crows.
  • Belted Kingfisher – A wonderful, resourceful, chattering clown.  this bird did play a minor role in my Maine summers, but moved onto the favorites list when I observed one outwit an attacking Cooper’s hawk.  The bird nests in long underground tunnels.  Pretty cool!
  • Blue Jays –  I’ve a love hate relationship with blue jays.  Every time I hear one I am returned to my grandparents’ wooded Philadelphia yard — another favorite childhood place.  One a couple of occassions I’ve witnessed blue jays killing other birds for no apparent reason — once dropping from a tree onto a boat I was building.  A few years ago I could not spot a blue jay.  This went on for months.  I heard them, but never saw one.  I’ve added peanuts to my feeders and now have loud daily visits.
  • Baltimore Orioles – This is about aesthetics.  I’ve few early memories of orioles.  They are pretty.  I’ve always like black and orange and it all comes together on the oriole in grand style.  I’ve not seen an oriole nest, but if I do it’ll be another reason to love them.
  • Red Winged Blackbird – These guys let me know that spring is here.  Like the oriole, I love the red winged blackbirds’ colors — black, red and yellow.
  • Penguins – I don’t know much about penguins.  I’m not driven to learn more.  But, boy are they cute!  I loved watching the penguins at the old Indianapolis Zoo in Washington park.
  • Bufflehead Ducks – Many years ago my step-daughter gave me a gift certificate at a local woodworking retailer.  On a complete whim I purchased Antique-Style Duck Decoys: Contemporary Techniques to Carve and Paint in the Folk Art Tradition by Tom Matus.  This book may be the reason I eventually began to carve birds and is without a dount my inspiration for distressing my birds.  I was hooked on waterfowl and began to haunt areas I thought should be full of migrating waterfowl.  I never found anything but cold and wet grass.  Last year I was driving by a modern suburban neighborhood and spotted some tiny ducks.  I stopped the car and identified a pair of bufflehead and a pair of redheads.  These were my first really good ducks!  I’ve since learned where to look and see great ducks every week. This week I’ve seen goldeneyes, buffleheads, redheads and hooded mergansers.
  • Chickadees – I remember a tiny window feeder in my boyhood bedroom.  From my bed I could see chickadees visiting, taking one seed, flying away to eat and returning for the next.  It’s probably the first time I learned a specific bird feeding behavior.  I love their friendly call, ” chick-a-dee-dee-dee!”  It wasn’t until a few years a go I learned that my Indiana chickadees weren’t the same as my Maine chickadees.  In central Indiana we’ve Carolina chickadees.  Maine has black-capped.
  • Double Crested Cormorant – From our Maine front porch we’d watch these sleek black birds fish.  They stayed under for, what seemed, an eternity and swam several dozen feet.  On take off they beat their wingtips on the water leaving a traing of concentric circles on the surface.  I was taken completely by surprise the first time I saw one in Indiana.  I was canoeing tiny Cicero Creek below Morse Reservoir in Noblesville when one surface adjacent to the canoe.  I’m not sure which of us was most surprised!
  • Osprey – Another Maine regular.  When I was young most osprey were gone from the Maine waterfront.  When DDT was banned and it worked its way out of the foodchain osprey made a speedy recovery.  From our front porch you could watch three nests.  Their calls were heard all day.  It was hard to believe that they had ever been rare.  I see them regularly when canoeing White River in Hamilton County.

This really just scratched the surface.  I could name another ten with no problem.  heck I could name ten waterfowl or passerines!



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Put A Bird On It Artist Reception and Open Studio Night at the Harrison Center, Friday, March 2, 6 To 10pm

I’ve three works in this show — a murder of crows, a box of chickens and my giant skin-on-frame cardinal.  I can’t lie.  It was pretty awesome to be named in the press release!

Fans of the show,Portlandia will recognize the title of this show from the skit of the same name that pokes fun at hipster-crafters who will seemingly put a bird on just about anything.  On March 2, with the help of over 75(!) artists, the Harrison Center will indeed be “putting a bird on it” as four of our exhibit spaces combine to form a giant art aviary.  Participating artists include Ryan Abegglen, Teri Barnett, Justin Cooper, Geoff Davis of 50 Little Birds, Kyle Herrington, Tasha Lewis, Kate Oberreich, Carolyn Springer and many more.

Also that night:  In the City Gallery – new work by Erin Drew.  Representatives will be on hand with information about great urban Indy neighborhoods including Mapleton-Fall Creek, home of the Watson Bird Sanctuary.  Throughout the building, 23 HCA artist open studios.  In the gym – demonstrations by Rock Steady Boxing, a program designed to improve the quality of life for people battling Parkinson’s disease through non-contact, boxing training.

The art hangs through March 31st.

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I love to spend time on the water!  I grew up around boats sailing, paddling and motoring the backwaters of the Sheepscot River near Boothbay, Maine.  Being around traditional boats has been in my blood for as long as I can remember.

When my mother sold the house in Maine it cut me off from my watery obsession.  A schoolteacher with a family and a house cannot afford to “summer” in the backyard, let alone 1200 miles away.  I gave up boats (but not reading about them).  I don’t like the Indiana’s small water, pack-the-lake-with-over-powered-boats-we-have-no-need-for-tradition-or-common-sense.  I have a need to accomplish something when boating — to go somewhere.  In Maine I would travel for mile to explore a salt marsh or uninhabited offshore island.  Indiana’s house ringed lakes have no appeal.

Then I discovered canoes.  Canoes fulfilled all of my requirements for boating.  I get a good workout.  The are a traditional Indiana means of transportation.  I can go somewhere.  I can experience solitude.

I’ve wanted to do some winter paddling for a long time.  The conditions have to be right. You have to be prepared.  A mistake can be fatal. A dunking in sub-freezing weather leads to hypothermia.  An iced up river makes navigation difficult.

(How many times have you read about some idiot in a canoe that gets stuck somewhere they should not have been in sub-freezing weather? You never hear about the ones that are prepared.)

My level of preparedness, water levels and my available time seldom align.  Yesterday they did.

I’ve been birding an interesting spot for a couple of years.  Stony Creek, Noblesville’s traditional rural stream and namesake for farms, streets, neighborhoods and a school, meanders through a few miles of mixed grass and trees.  It is the most beautiful stretches of water in Noblesville.  Several years ago development exploded along the creek and I thought it was going to be bulldozed and channeled.  That never happened.  The development has been respectful. A small pond, designed to hold flood water has actually enhance the creek and attracted waterfowl.

Along the adjacent development (an appliance store, a movie theater, a tire shop and a car dealership

H.H. Gregg, Office Max and stripmall landscaping.

I’ve felt pretty free to wander its banks.  It’s a great place to watch waterfowl, kingfisher, great blue herons, muskrat and other wildlife associated with small waterways.

Access beyond the businesses gets a little uncomfortable.  The grass is tall and full of stickery nasty things.  It can get very wet walking.  I have a sense that I’m in a place I’m not supposed to be in.  (I remember walking up and down the creek behind my mom’s house.  I remember having the same feeling every time we crossed a fence or property line.  Was I supposed to be here?  What is someone calls the police?

Creeks are magic.  They are my favorite field environment.  Creeks are intimate.  You can see the bottom and the fish and the mussels and the snakes and the crayfish.  They banks of the creek provide the margins that wildlife loves — water and trees, water and grass water and fields.  Around every corner is a surprise — a new scene.  When you do come across a great blue heron or a muskrat it’s just a few feet away.

(I once came around a bend in Cicero Creek (another great Noblesville waterway) and over 20 deer pound through chest high water less than 20 feet ahead of me.  Another time on the same creek a double crested cormorant surfaced right beside me.)

Creeks also offer a balance of challenge (fast, shallow water) and the comfort of knowing that the water is shallow enough that you can walk away from a disaster.

I’ve thought that, in the right conditions, a cone would be an ideal way to gain access to a mile, or so, of prime wildlife viewing on Stony Creek.  Yesterday was the the day.

I paddle a small (13′) fiberglass canoe that I picked up for song.  It had been left on the ground and all of the wood had rotted.  It took about a week to replace the ash rails and cane seats and paint.  I would prefer a wood and canvas boat (and that is the dream) but this will do.  I carry traditional pack baskets.  These packs evolved for canoe use stand about an inch from the bottom of the canoe and keep my gear above sloshing water. I carry two paddles (a Shaw and Tenney beavertail and a long otter tail that I made.) and a pole.

I always wear a life preserver with an affixed whistle.

I live in wool in the winter.  I wore wool pants (bought for $6 at Goodwill) two cotton shirts and a wool vest and a Stormy Kromer hat.  On my feet I wore an ancient pair of LL Bean Hunting Shoes with Gore-tex liners.  The air temperature was in the mid 50s.  I never checked the water temperature but it was cold.  There was a skim of ice when I put in.

I mention the clothing because it worked so outstandingly well.  I know from experience and research that wool keeps you warm even when wet.  This is essential in winter paddling.  I got pretty wet from the knees down and I never felt cold of wet — even when the wind kicked up.

I put in at the little flood control pond below H.H. Gregg and Office Max (There was plenty of free parking).  The grade is steep but the canoe slides easily on the grass.  I wanted to begin in the pond so that I could hone my skills. I didn’t want to get out into moving water only to discover I couldn’t stand and handle a pole.

After tying my gear in I slid out into the pond and paddled to the middle.  The water was very shallow.  I stood to practice poling.  It took a few minutes to get myself situated.  I ended up moving my gear forward so that I had more room to work.  the bottom was really sticky and I had to get the hang of twisting the pole free from the bottom.

I moved out into the moving water and began poling my way upstream.  It felt amazing to be on the water. In spite of the highway noise, the PA at the car dealership and the looming movie theater I really did feel like I was alone. This is really when I’m at my very best.

The creek offered a series of tight meanders punctuated by riffles and deep pools.  I had the wind at my back so it made sense to paddle the pools and to pole the faster water.  The meanders left a variety of great spaces to nose in to rest and to scope the trees for birds.

Winter birding is much different than any other season.  Most of the birds that we relish in the other three seasons have left and a few have arrived from elsewhere.  There’s often not a lot to see and many trips are about seeing one or two specific birds.  I wanted to add the belted kingfisher to this year’s list.

I progressed upstream for about an hour and encountered a fence across the creek.  It was flush with the surface of the water and had trapped a variety of creek junk — trees, plastic buckets, boards, etc.  I decided that that was as far as I needed to go.  I would like to progress further in the future.

I paddled downstream and found the strong wind a bit challenging.  In many spots I had to fight the wind to continue downstream.  When I arrived back to the put-in a continued downstream, under Cumberland Road and S.R. 37 through a series of strong and shallow riffles.

Downstream from the bridges the landscape changed drastically as the trees closed in and formed a wooded canopy over the creek.  A rounded a meander and came up under a huge house with a deck over the creek.  I began to feel like the kid following Mom’s creek through neighbor’s yards and decided it was time to go back upstream.  As soon as I stood to pole back up, A hound dog began baying at me and continued until I was well out of sight.

Working my way back up through these shallow riffles was out of the question so I lined the canoe up through them.  Lining — towing an empty canoe from the shore — is a traditional way to work through impassable water.

MacMansion of the Starboard Bow!

I encounter dozens of fresh and huge deer tracks beneath the bridge.  I would love to have seen this herd!

When I arrived back at the pond I nudged up into a small inlet and soaked it all in.

The temperatures will plummet (I think) and I’m going back to school on Monday.  This may be my last chance to be on the water until March.

Not many birds seen but I wasn’t disappointed — mourning dove, American crow, European starling, a variety of sparrows (I have to learn sparrows!), mallard, great blue heron, belted kingfisher and northern flicker.

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Automated Crow!

I’ve added this item to my Christmas list.  It’s offered by the same dealer handling the Gus Walson Robin.

Unusual Mechanical Crow Decoy
Charles Perdew, Henry, IL, Ca. 1920’s

Ingenious mechanized carving with traces of original paint. Articulated sheet metal wings, beak opens and closes. Pieced wood with metal strapping, mounted on an iron bar. Wire runs through bar and attaches to wire legs.

17″ long.


Click here to find out more or to purchase.

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