Originally developed entirely as a utilitarian object, the sole purpose of the decoy was to lure prey to the hunter. With the advent of Game Protection legislation, decoy carvers turned to the production of decorative decoys to sustain their livelihood. This artistic endeavor evolved from simple reeds woven together by early Native American, to the intricately carved, wood burned, and hand painted decoys created by accomplished craftsmen.
There are three general styles of carving; decoy, decorative and interpretative. Decoy style is simple in design and must encompass the character of the natural bird, which is considered the true style of decoy carving for it most closely reproduces the true shooting decoy. In carving decorative decoys, carvers are allowed much greater freedom in expressing their carving skills. The Interpretative style only requires a decoy to clearly depict the character of the natural bird, allowing the carver freedom from conventional restraints.
Decoys are customarily carved from cork or woods such as cedar, white pine and basswood. Basswood carves well and shows few grains, though it is soft wood susceptible to surface abrasions. Cedar is tougher, however if not thoroughly dried it can experience checking, which is a splitting along the transverse axis. White pine is heavier and denser than cedar, however the sap it contains will gum the craftsman?s tools.
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