If It's April, This Must Be Ocean City
April is the cruelest month,” said poet T.S. Eliot. (I know because I looked it up online.) Surely that’s true for the carvers who travel each year to the Ward World Championship in Ocean City, Maryland, determined to win a ribbon, only to go home empty-handed. For people like me, who go to see the unparalleled collection of wildfowl carvings in competition, April isn’t cruel at all. In fact, it’s rather generous. This year I headed to Ocean City a day early so I could attend the board meeting of the International Wildfowl Carvers Association (a group that deserves your support, and I’m not saying that just because they advertise with us). We had the board meeting in a conference room in the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, with big glass windows that looked out over the main hall. Afterwards I went downstairs to set up my booth and I found it a little eerie to see all those long tables empty of birds. But competitors soon began arriving with their entries and they transformed the hall into a cornucopia of the finest bird carving around.
This year Keith Mueller won Best in World (Decorative Life-size) with a common potoo, a bird from South and Central America that is related to the nightjars. This nocturnal creature is adept at camouflage and Keith brilliantly created a carving in which the bird and the tree stump on which it perches blend almost imperceptively into each other. Tom Christie’s scaup took Best in World in Shootin’ Rig, Wayne Simkin’s canvasbacks won World Pairs, Pat Godin received Best in World in Miniatures, and Lynn Branson was a repeat winner in World Interpretive.
That only scratches the surface of the magnificent work on display. Other pieces that impressed me included Floyd Scholz’s peregrine (which will be the subject of an upcoming book from Wildfowl Carving Magazine), Larry Barth’s cedar waxwings, Ashley Gray’s flamingo sculpture, and more great stuff than I can mention here. You can see some photos I took at here.
Of course, you’ll see even more when Competition 2013 comes out next winter. But it’s still spring. I’m not ready to think about winter yet.
This article appeared in Wildfowl Carving Magazine's Summer 2013 issue.