Family Affair

Josh Guge looks at the past, present, and future of his family's artistic tradition.

By: Tom Huntington
Family Affair

“Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms,” Sherlock Holmes once said. In Josh Guge’s case, it takes the form of birds and fish. These creatures are the foundation of his professional career as a wood sculptor, a path blazed by generations of Guge artists.

Carving in the Guge family began with Josh’s grandfather, Roy Guge, who studied with Harold Haertel (1904–95), a noted decoy carver in Dundee, Illinois, who taught a weekly class at his home at nights. Roy attended those classes, honing his skills and eventually becoming renowned for his shorebirds and ducks. At one point, Roy brought his son, Bob, to meet Harold. “That’s how it all started,” Josh says.

Bob Guge, Josh’s father, was a house painter when he took up carving, starting with decoys. During a vacation on Chincoteague Island with his wife, Jody (a creative writer), he decided to look up famed carver Delbert “Cigar” Daisey (1928–2017). “We pulled up in front of this guy’s house, way off the beaten path,” Bob told WILDFOWL CARVING MAGAZINE in 1988. “He had an old garage with a bunch of windows across the doorway. And there, behind the windows, in the middle of the work week, was this guy with this big cigar hanging out of his mouth, sitting at this big desk with his feet up on it, whittling on this duck. I looked at my wife, and I pointed to him and said, ‘That’s for me. That’s what I want to do.’”


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