One Good Tern

Starting with a photograph, Del Herbert added his own twists--and yes, turns--to create a unique "antique."

By: Del Herbert
Photography by Del Herbert

Every now and then, I like to take a break from the rigors of competition. The current trend to contemporary antiques often provides me inspiration for a project that offers relief from the pressure of competing.  During a search of my reference material, a photograph of a common tern decoy by Long Island carver Obediah Verity caught my eye. (Reportedly, terns were hunted in the late 1880s and the millinery trade used their feathers extensively.) Terns are a favorite of mine, and I've spent many hours transfixed by the antics of least terns on the beaches of Southern California. 

Once I started sketching, the shape and form of this project morphed into a sculpture that bears little resemblance to the photograph of Verity's decoy. This often happens when I am developing a concept and drawing patterns. I start with an idea but like to inject my own feelings into the piece. In this case, I wanted a flowing sculpture, not a stationary decoy. 

One last thing I decided was that I was going to mimic an antique style, but not age the decoy with bumps, rubs, and chipped paint. Instead, I wanted to give a pristine look to my contemporary antique.

This article is from the Fall 2010 issue. For more information on our issues, check out our issues page.


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I have enjoyed the least terns nesting on beaches of NEW Florida! Working as a biological tech/bird steward . These birds make the most attentive parents. Beautiful decoy carving!


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