A Bufflehead Tweener, Part One: Carving

This drake offers a mix of the old and new.

By: Text and photography by Thomas F. McCollum

Several years ago, I visited the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, Maryland, and encountered a dozen or so decoys by Maryland carver Oliver Lawson. I was awestruck by the simplicity and the subtle blending of his colors. Those carvings have stayed with me, some 10 years after I first saw them.

I recently decided to do an Internet search for Lawson’s decoys and found plenty of images. One that caught my eye was of a bufflehead drake he did in 1969. It had a pleasing attitude, nice texture on the head, and sort of a Ward brothers look about it. The decoy intrigued me so much I decided to try to make one similar to it. I did change a few things because I had some ideas of my own in mind.

Another reason I was excited about this particular carving is because I had seen some decoys by Willy McDonald that he referred to as “tweeners,” a cross between decoys and decorative carvings. I kept telling myself that one day I would carve a tweener, and when I saw the Lawson bufflehead, I had my inspiration for one.

I want to say a very special thank you to Oliver Lawson, and also to Willy McDonald and Pat Godin for their willingness to share their carving and painting techniques.


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