FOLK CRAFT: FISH & FOWL
This year’s folk craft area features a variety of traditions relating to the hunting, capturing, and celebration of fish and fowl. Local birds and fish are a source of sustenance and sport, as well as subject matter for carving and painting.
Come discover finely tied flies and bamboo rods used in fly fishing, carved waterfowl decoys to dupe ducks, and handwoven creels (baskets) in which to place a catch. Encounter bird and fish taxidermy, the decorative craft traditions of delicate Ukrainian pysanky eggs, and needle felted shorebirds. Try your hand at weaving a fish weir, needle felting a piping plover, or plucking a ukulele embellished with fish or fowl designs. Whether ancient Native traditions or those brought by immigrants to America, Fish and Fowl celebrates the bounties of nature.
Lucy Larcom Park, Saturday & Sunday, 12 – 5 p.m.
2019 Craft Artists
ANCIENT NATIVE FISH WEIR
BY AQUINNAH WAMPANOAGS
Jonathan James-Perry – Providence, RI
Elizabeth James-Perry – Dartmouth, MA
Siblings Jonathan and Elizabeth James-Perry are well-grounded in the boat-making, and wild food harvesting maritime traditions of their Wampanoag ancestors.
Throughout Massachusetts in the homelands of Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Pennacook and Mahican; Atlantic shad, alewife, cod, whitefish, salmon, and sturgeon were abundant in coastal waters, freshwater ponds, and brackish streams. Native fishermen and women placed weirs near the shore on the sandy bottom, in rivers or coastal sandbars. Acting like mazes, the weirs ensnared schools of fish, which were speared or netted in large quantities for fresh and dried food. Wooden fish traps like this one, called muhtuqashap continued to be used into the twentieth century.
As you can see here, rot-resistant cedar stakes have been driven into the ground. Flexible willow saplings, grapevine, and other materials are then woven in between them to form a fence. One side has an opening, through which fish are forced to swim each spring/autumn when they spawn. The other side traps them. Wampanoag also used torches to draw sturgeon, whose plated bodies were difficult to harpoon. Try weaving a sapling into the fish weir.
SPLIT BAMBOO FLY RODS
Fred Kretchman – Kittery, ME
There is something magical about fly fishing with a bamboo rod. Fred Kretchman’s first exposure to bamboo rods was as a boy, fishing with his dad for bass and bluegills. Fred fondly recalls his father’s skill, “He would gracefully cast small poppers or rubber spiders with a Heddon President cane rod. It was exciting to see the fish take his flies on the surface – often with an aggressive splash.”
Now, an avid fly fisherman himself, Fred crafts his own rods. In 1993, he opened the F. D. Kretchman Rod Company. He has perfected a way to hollow bamboo cane while retaining its strength. His split bamboo fly rods are based on classic fly rods that he owns and fishes. He crafts each rod individually using a combination of special tapers, carefully selected bamboo, heat-tempering, flaming, and waterproof glue to create a fly rod that will cast like a dream in the fisher’s hand. It’s all about great casting action in a rod that is easy on the eyes. In Fred’s opinion, a finely crafted bamboo fly rod is ideal for creating memories of time spent on the water, enjoying the feel of a perfectly balanced rod, fishing with family and friends, and soaking up the sights and sounds of running water or lapping waves.
Scott Biron – Bradford, NH
Fishing with hand-tied flies is akin to hunting with duck decoys. A handmade fly is an artificial lure that either floats on or beneath the water’s surface. Made with brilliantly colored feathers, a well-tied fly mimics the behavior of a live insect. Casting a nearly weightless fly requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting.
Scott Biron cut his teeth learning to fly fish and tie flies back in the 1960s in the North Country of New Hampshire. He has fished many of the streams north of Route 26 and his favorite, the Androscoggin River. An active fly-tying instructor for New Hampshire Fish & Game, Scott is a popular demonstrator at regional fly-tying shows. He was awarded the 2017 New Hampshire Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant and studied the art of fly tying under Peggy Brenner in New Hampshire.
In researching historical New Hampshire fly tyers, Scott has recovered some of their lost patterns. Each year he volunteers as an instructor at NH Fish & Games Camp Barry’s Fish Camp where he instructs over 50 young campers in fly tying and fly fishing. He is a member of the Catskill Fly Tyers Guild and contributing author for the NH Wildlife Journal.
BROWN ASH FISHING CREELS
Bill Mackowski – Milford, ME
PLEASE NOTE: Unfortunately, Bill Mackowski is unable to demonstrate at the festival due to health issues. We wish him well and hope to bring him to the festival in the future.
Bill Mackowski is a wildlife biologist, bush pilot, registered Maine Guide, and lifelong woodsman. Over the years, he has developed a deep appreciation for the tools of his trade, including snowshoes, pack baskets, and fish creels. The latter is a utilitarian basket used to hold fish once caught. Worn over the shoulder, a creel can be dipped in the stream occasionally to keep the fish cool and moist throughout a day of fishing. Brown ash has long been the preferred basket material of the Northeast and the Adirondacks. Although the most widely used and commercially produced creels were made of reed or willow, the handwoven brown ash creel is deeply embedded in the traditions of the Northeast. Most of these baskets were made as functional working creels and were very basic, no-frills. Bill learned the artistry of crafting a handwoven brown ash creel from a handful of skilled creel makers in the region — Jack Leadley of the Adirondacks, Larry Hurd and Willard Tilton of Maine, and Louis Paul of New Brunswick. Bill makes traditional fish creels in a variety of styles. Come discover what distinguishes a fine weave creel from a working creel, and a Passadumkeag trout basket from an Adirondack fish basket.
Bob Mosher – Hingham, MA
Waterfowl hunters set out a group of decoys on a calm spot on the water to attract ducks in flight, looking for a place to feed or rest. Hingham native Bob Mosher spent time as a teen hunting over decoys crafted by some of Hingham’s finest carvers. It wasn’t long before he took up the carving of decoys himself.
Historically, the town of Hingham produced master decoy carvers, including Joe Lincoln, Elisha Burr, and Russ Burr. Bob’s exposure to their work continues to influence his craft. Today, he is an award-winning decoy carver. His traditional-style bluebill, merganser, black, duck and mallard decoys are shaped from northern white cedar and shaped using basic woodworking tools – hatchets, drawknives, rasps, and hand knives.
Asked the key to carving a decoy, Bob says, “To capture the essence of the bird. If you get the attitude of the head right, it looks like a real bird from 20 feet away.” While some people who purchase his decoys use them as working decoys, most of them wind up proudly displayed on the mantle or bookshelf. In addition to judging wood carving competitions, Bob was one of 16 master decoy carvers chosen to teach at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, Maryland, supported by a National Endowment for the Arts grant.
DUCK DECOYS AND WHALES
Bill Sarni – Hingham, MA
Bill Sarni grew up next door to Joseph W. Lincoln a famous decoy carver, whose decoys are well sought out by collectors today, both here and abroad. Bill spent much of his youth hunting and fishing in the woods. He carved his first duck decoy in the early 1980s and soon after took his first carving lessons. He clearly draws inspiration from the work of four famous decoy carvers the town of Hingham produced: Joe Lincoln, Alfred Gardner, Russ Burr, and Ralph Laurie. He is largely self-taught and has collected and researched decoys made in all areas of the United States.
After taking early retirement from structural engineering, Bill started carving full time. He continues to observe songbirds, ducks, and shorebirds from his home overlooking the Weir River. Many would be envious of his workshop – a spacious, timber-framed building with a pot-bellied stove. His greatest joy comes from carving smooth bodied working decoys, ones used by hunters to lure ducks. They are copies of traditional period gunning birds. He also works on decorative decoys, which capture more realistically the living bird and involve many hours of intricate carving and painting. He also carves fish and whales.
SHIP MODEL BUILDING & RESTORATION
Rob Napier – Newburyport, MA
The ship model world called to Rob Napier as a boy. He did his first commissioned work at 16 and accepted ship modeling as a career at 27. It has occupied him full time for the 45 years since. Rob’s original models are created on a broad groundwork of documentation found in historical, photographic, and artistic records. His work has won awards at national and regional competitions, and he has judged numerous ship modeling events. He is considered one of the best ship model conservators in the country.
A U.S. Navy veteran, Rob has worked with private and public model collections including the Forbes Collection, the Kennedy Library, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the New York Yacht Club, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. He is an active member of the USS Constitution Model Shipwright Guild.
Rob’s models are stunning in their detail and accuracy of scale. Indeed, attention to scale seems to be what distinguishes a good ship model from a bad one. “If you place yourself in the model’s environment, ask yourself if things look right for the size you would be, were you on that boat. Ninety-eight percent of the time, the answer is no. Oars would be the size of telephone poles; belaying pins are the wrong shape and wouldn’t hold the line in real life.”
Tom Lauria – Yarmouth Port, MA
Tom Lauria started building kit models when he was seven years old and was hopelessly hooked. In his early twenties, he met William Quincy, a master model builder at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, who made a lasting impact on the way Tom thinks about models and building them. Tom joined the Nautical Research Guild and eagerly devoured all the information contained in their quarterly journals. Numerous trips to maritime museums in the Northeast furthered his modeling education. He started restoring half hulls for the Larchmont Yacht Club in New York and in 1987 moved to Nantucket where model building became a fulltime job.
Tom builds models following standards published in the 1980 Mystic Seaport publication, “Ship Model Classification Guidelines.” These recommendations relate to scale fidelity, materials, methods, research, and historical accuracy. Tom is an active member of the USS Constitution Model Shipwright Guild. The Guild’s range of members has proven to be an inexhaustible resource for anything nautical or model related. When queried about demonstrating at the festival, Tom responded, “Sounds like a blast. Count me in. Two questions: is there electricity at the tents? Are you sure you want Rob, Alex, and me all in the same tent? Lowell may never be the same . . .”
SHIP IN BOTTLE
Alex Bellinger – Newburyport, MA
How do you put a ship in a bottle? As Alex Bellinger says, “That’s easier to answer than why you put a ship in a bottle.” Three basic techniques are based on the same principle: the model is made outside the bottle in such a way that it can be easily disassembled so it can pass through the bottleneck and be easily reassembled or reshaped inside.
Alex was intrigued by ships in bottles from an early age. Self-taught, he has gone on to master the art of the miniature ship in a bottle. In his opinion, “A good ship in a bottle is like a cross between a fine scale model and a spirited sketch or painting. If successful, the ship in a bottle will intrigue with the quality of detail from the first and inspire the immediacy of the second.”
Alex served as an “Associate of Maritime History” at the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, where he cleaned, repaired, researched, and developed the ship model collection. This led to many years of restoring ship models for public and private customers. Though lucrative, Alex eventually found it more satisfying to create new models, most of which went into bottles. In addition to winning many awards, he is active in the USS Constitution Model Shipwright Guild.
NEEDLE FELTED BIRDS
Kim Sheehan – Ring’s Island, MA
Felt is a textile material produced by matting and pressing natural fibers together. When raw wool fibers from freshly shorn sheep are rubbed together, they interlock. Needle felting is a method of agitating and tangling these fibers, so they hold the desired shape.
Before she picked up a felting needle, Kim Sheehan carved duck decoys. “I live on Ring’s Island; there are birds everywhere.” Her day job is restoration carpentry — repairing antique windows and doors. She finds needle felting a natural outlet for creativity.
The needles Kim uses are the same barbed needles found in the 19th-century machinery used to make felt. “They look like barbs, like on a fish hook.” Kim gets her hand-dyed wool from Riverslea Farm in Epping, New Hampshire. Rather than use any kind of armature, Kim begins with a wad of wool.
Some of the shorebirds Kim needle felts are ones she sees in the maritime environment of her home on Ring’s Island — egret, dunlin, sanderling, avocet, piping plover, and curlew. The basic form is built up of wool, the eyes are glass beads, and the beak and legs are wood. She often adds blades of marsh grass. Come pick up a clump of hand-dyed wool and try your hand at needle felting.
Fr. Paul Luniw – Terryville, CT
Pysanky, decorative and symbolic Easter eggs, are a beloved Easter tradition in the Eastern Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Fr. Paul Luniw was raised in England in a Ukrainian immigrant community. He learned to “write” Ukrainian pysanky from his mother as well as friends and relatives. In 1994, Fr. Paul moved to Connecticut where he currently serves as parish priest at St. Michael’s Ukrainian Church.
The Ukrainian form of pysanky takes its name from the verb pysaty, (to write). The name reflects the way that decorative lines are inscribed in beeswax on an unblemished egg, dipped into dyes several times (once for every color), and then revealed by melting the wax. Pysanky requires patience, concentration, and precision; for Fr. Paul, the process of designing and writing eggs becomes like a prayer, a meditation, and a service to the world.
Fr.Fr. Paul works with ostrich, duck, goose, quail, chicken, and finch eggs. His pysanky are based on traditional designs dating thousands of years and represent natural elements, such as the moon and sun, stars, flowers, and animals. With the advent of Christianity in Ukraine in 988, symbols such as fish, churches, and crosses blended in with the pagan designs. Colors play a symbolic role as well, with red signaling happiness and love, yellow as prosperity and fertility, green promoting abundance, and blue for health.
Rick Krane – Hinsdale, NH
Catch a fish and want to preserve it? Whether a mounted fish ends up as a trophy on the wall, as an entry in a taxidermy competition, or in a natural history museum, the art of fish taxidermy involves great skill and knowledge.
Rick Krane began at age 15, learning from Richard Christoforo, a legend in the industry of taxidermy. Today Rick is well known in the world of competition level taxidermy and museum quality work. A gifted teacher, he has traveled the world teaching students. He is also a go-to judge at state and national taxidermy conventions. Although prizes are awarded at competitions where he judges, the greatest reward for competitors is learning to improve one’s craft. As a judge, Rick evaluates colors, seams, and anatomy lines. Did the taxidermist get the color right? Does the fish appear lifelike or does it suffer from “dead features”?
Students of taxidermy must learn how to mold and cast one’s own specimens, understand the bone structure and anatomy of a fish, as well as the natural swimming movements of its fins in the water. In addition to learning how to fill in or grind away unnatural lines, one must learn how to mix realistic colors and scale patterns. A good taxidermist captures the essence of a fish, making it lifelike.
JOPPA FLATS WATERFOWL TAXIDERMY
Victor Cole – Newburyport, MA
Victor Cole knows his birds. Retired from a career as a biologist, he does part-time bird taxidermy. “I’ve mounted everything from alligator to deer head to foxes to bobcats, but I just like birds.” Asked what makes a great bird mount, he says, “Making it as lifelike as possible.”
Birds are protected by highly regulated state and federal laws. “If you find a bird that has died naturally,” he warns, “you can’t take a feather legally.” Salvage permits are reserved for educational facilities like Mass Audubon, for whom Victor does work. He also mounts waterfowl and game birds for hunters. “Most of the birds you can mount are the ones you can hunt legally – pheasant, turkey, and ducks.”
The showroom in his home is an aviary display of more than 200 specimens. Lifelike eiders, teal, pheasants, quail, and turkey take up space on every surface. Works-in-progress for clients — owls and scoters – have tiny pins and bits of tape on them. Unlike mammal taxidermy, which often uses mannequins, the wings, head, neck, feet, and tail all have to be positioned.
Nicole Baldelli has her own taxidermy business specializing in mammals. She took up Victor’s offer to teach her bird taxidermy and she’s been training with him for a while. “She’s serious. She knows the process of mounting birds pretty well.”
MAGIC FLUKE UKULELES
Drive along Route 7 in the Southern Berkshire town of Sheffield and it’s hard to miss The Magic Fluke Company. Founded by Dale and Phyllis Webb in 1999, the company turns out several thousand musical instruments a year. All design, finishing, and assembly takes place inside a timber-framed manufacturing facility, whose solar panels provide electricity.
“Fluke” refers to the original style of ukulele the company makes, which resembles a whale’s tail. The Webbs and their six employees pride themselves on making musical instruments that sound great, are well designed and affordable, and are assembled from mostly locally sourced materials and parts. Indeed, 90% of their materials and parts come from the USA, but most come from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.
One of the more unique things about Magic Fluke is their ability to produce one-of-a-kind instruments using a process called dye sublimation. Original artwork can be transferred directly onto the face of the instrument, embedding it right into the wood using a heat process.
Magic Fluke’s instruments find their way into the hands of musicians around the globe. They are also supplied to area libraries and schools, replacing the once ubiquitous recorder as a 3rd-grade starter instrument. The company’s presence in the community has even inspired the multi-generational ensemble, the Berkshire Ukulele Band.
Maggie Holtzberg (Folk Arts & Heritage Program), Massachusetts Cultural Council