Things are ducky at show, sale Waterfowl display continues today

February 21, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Tami and Don Matts had the same thing on their minds as many others who visited Harford Day School this weekend -- ducks, the artificial kind.

The young Aberdeen couple collect decoys and knew they'd find plenty to choose from at the school's 13th annual Waterfowl Show and Sale, which continues today until 5 p.m. They spent close to a half-hour surveying the selection of Havre de Grace artist Dan Carson before honing in on a ruddy duck to add to the four dozen decoys in their collection.

Mr. Carson joined about 60 artists from the mid-Atlantic area displaying works at the annual show. While decoy makers dominated, the show also featured painters, potters, woodworkers, sculptors, floral arrangers and jewelers.

Ducks, of course, were plentiful -- in watercolors, on wreaths, in wood shadow boxes, on throw pillows, on note paper, even dangling from earrings.

Margaret Todd of Towson painted a duck on a handbag as visitors browsed through her selection of paintings. She and her husband, Claude, who buys and sells decoys and duck stamp prints, have been regulars at the waterfowl show since its early days, when farmland surrounded the school on Moores Mill Road.

"I remember sitting in the computer room where the show was, and painting and looking out on Reedy Farm. We actually got our inspiration right here," Mrs. Todd said. "In '84, the geese were so thick out back, you could see nothing but farm and geese."

Her display of paintings included a wooden chest whose lid was decorated with a scene of Reedy Farm.

The waterfowl show is organized each year by the Parents Association of Harford Day School, where 255 students from prekindergarten through eighth grade are enrolled. Diana Harloe, chairwoman of this year's event, says proceeds pay for school projects not covered by the budget.

Last year, the sale raised $18,000, much of it used to complete a new library. In previous years, the Parents Association helped buy computer equipment, build a gym and send children to camp.

This year's show was expected to draw 2,000 people over two days. While visitors come from as far as New Jersey and Virginia, most are from Maryland. And all are in love with waterfowl art.

Like Lee Otto, a Baltimore County high school teacher who lives in Belcamp. He was taken with the clean, unadorned look of the wooden shore birds carved by Gus Weber of Forest Hill.

"I like the uniqueness of his work," Mr. Otto said. "After a while, the painted ones can look alike. But his are so natural."

Mr. Weber, a meat cutter by trade, has been carving decorative wood pieces as a hobby for about 10 years. Before that, his artistic outlet was watercolor, he says.

His pine and spruce carvings depict sandpipers, herons and "an occasional sparrow or chickadee." Once they're sanded and stained, he rubs them with tung oil and mounts them on driftwood pulled from the Susquehanna and Big Elk rivers in Cecil County.

The shores of northeastern Maryland provided the inspiration for most of the exhibitors at this weekend's show. Most of them, like Bryon Bodt of Churchville, expressed themselves in decoy carving.

Mr. Bodt, 29, became interested in decoys when he was a youngster and his father was an avid hunter. Later, while in college, he worked for Jim Pierce, a well-known decoy carver and founder of the Havre de Grace Decoy Festival. Today, he makes working decoys for a living.

"I call them 'gunning' decoys, because traditionally they were designed to be used by hunters," he says. "But only about 1 percent of working decoys are ever used. Most go into collections."

The flat-painted working decoys are simple in design and have no wing detail carved into them.

That makes them more affordable than decorative decoys and extremely popular, says Mr. Bodt, whose decoys typically cost around $50.

Canvasback geese and mallard ducks are big sellers, he says, because they're plentiful in this area. "People recognize them, especially the ducks, because they're so widely seen in parks and even in people's back yards."

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