Bel Air Couple's Love Of Decoy Carving Is The Real Thing

Robinsons Joining Other Exhibitors At Annual Waterfowl Show

February 16, 1992|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,Contributing writer

On a typical evening you can find Dick Robinson in his home workshoptransforming a hunk of white pine or slab of old cedar into an ornate, carved wood duck.

Alongside him you're sure to find his wife, Linda, carving small shore birds and delicate-looking swans.

Married 21 years, the Bel Air couple have come to share a common interest in their pursuit of decoy carving.

Dick, 47, has been carving what are known as workable decoys -- used for hunting -- and decorative models for almost 11 years. Linda, 43, picked up the craft four years ago, after she tried her hand at it just to see what all thefuss was about from her husband.

The Robinsons are two of more than 50 exhibitors appearing at the 12th Annual Waterfowl Show at Harford Day School in Bel Air this weekend. The show is open today from 11a.m. to 5 p.m. Exhibits will feature a range of decorative and hunting waterfowl decoys, and other traditional pieces along with paintings, illustrations, stamps, pins and just about anything else that's waterfowl related. The show annually draws about 1,200 visitors and raises about $15,000 for the school. The school uses the money for a variety of needs, from classroom computers to books.

Other Harford residents appearing at the show will include Tom Harmon, a Churchville resident and a decoy carver; Christopher White, of Aberdeen, a painter who specializes in waterfowl art for hunting stamps; Mark Klunk, ofHavre de Grace, an oil painter who specializes in scenes of antique duck decoys; and Bob and Charles Jobes, Havre de Grace brothers who have a growing reputation as decoy carvers.

As for Dick Robinson, an avid duck and goose hunter, he says he began carving decoys as a way to save on the expense of purchasing decoys for hunting. "I couldn't really afford to buy the decoys so I decided to make them myself," he recalls.

He enlisted the help of Jim Pierce, a decoy carver andfounder of the Havre De Grace Decoy Museum, to teach him decoy carving techniques.

As time passed, Dick got better at carving. The hobby grew into a major pastime and then a business. "It's something that I enjoy," he said. "My decoys, they do the best for me."

"Linda used to do a lot of sewing, and then one day she said to me, 'I thinkI'd like to try to carve shore birds,'" he said.

"I thought it might be interesting to try," Linda explained. Her husband taught her the skills needed for the craft.

As to why she favors shore bird carvings, Linda says that she always liked watching the little birds atthe beach.

Many of Linda's carvings are modeled on birds she has taken photographs of over the years.

Unlike her husband's decoys which are used mostly for hunting, Linda's decoys are strictly decorative.

The couple's work is so good, pieces sell from $20 to severalhundred dollars. Most customers hear about the Robinsons by word-of-mouth, and word seems to get around.

"My husband's decoys are all over the world," Linda said with pride.

The couple have spent the last week getting ready for the show. Dick even took half-days at hisjob as a traffic controller for the county to finish up any last-minute work.

Decoy carving has become a family project at the Robinsons.

Daughter, Kim, 17, helps run the lathe, cutting the large blocks into manageable shapes. Son, Ricky, 12, helps out too. "He's mostly a gopher," Linda said.

"He does some carving, but we don't forceit on him," Dick said.

"About three years ago he carved miniatureswans for all of us."

There's a lot of work to be done, but both confess that they like what they're doing. The couple describe their working method "mass production."

They can't tell you how long it takes them to finish just one piece because they are always working on several pieces.

"Some weeks I just do a bunch of bodies, some weeks I do nothing but heads," Dick said.

Once the blocks of wood are cut into shapes, and then carved with a small knife into geese, ducks, and swans; the heads and bodies are put together and then hand painted.

Woodcarving is a centuries-old craft, but Dick says it's not always an easy craft to pass on to younger generations.

"Every once and awhile a young person will come to you and ask you to show him how to carve.

"He'll be interested for awhile, but then will drop it. The craft is not like it used to be, but it's the people who dotake the time to learn who make it worthwhile and carry the tradition on."


Admission to the Waterfowl Show is $3 for adults and free for children under 12. Senior citizens pay $2.50. Harford Day School is located at 715 Moores Mill Road, in Bel Air. Information: 838-4848 or 879-2350.

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