Posts Tagged ‘penguin’

Swimming Penguin

_MG_0211Swimming Penguin – 17″l x 9″w x 9 1/4″ t – White Pine, Leather, Found Wood, Steel, Composite Croquet Ball – Available Email Here.

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Click here for Auction information

I love Charles Hart’s quirky penguins!  The personality of his lovely little (and not so little) penguins is one of the reasons that I carve penguins.  I limit my work to Indiana birds with two exceptions  — penguins and narwhals.  I wrote about Charles’ penguins quite some time ago here.

I’m led back to Charles Hart and his work because I came across his non-penguin work today.  Charles was a Massachusetts decoy carver.  Like many he carved miniature birds for the summer people.  When Richard Byrd’s antarctic adventures sparked a national penguin craze (c. 1930) he turned to penguins for the tourist trade.  His work has been featured on Antiques Roadshow and at some important auctions.

Here is a wonderful small grouping of sanderlings.

Click to Learn More

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This Weekend

I took a break from pounding out Christmas ornaments to stock up on new carvings for upcoming shows.

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Etsy treasuries are collections of artwork, sold on ETSY, that an artist decides to feature.  These artists, typically, have an item of their own that they want to showcase with similar items.  Space within the Etsy website for treasuries is very restricted.  When a slot becomes avilable artists compete (and get up at all hours of the night) to get their treasuries posted.

I’ve been featured in several treasuries.  To be honest it usually doesn’t mean much but it does bring a bit of traffic to your shop and it’s nice to know that your work is noticed.

Since I’ve bumped up my Etsy presence my reasury listings have gone a bit nuts.  In the last day my work has shown up in the following treasuries:


Tea With Penguins

Gnarly Narwhals

Wood You Please

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I am chasing may tail again ending a school grading period, working on new (and positive) Folk School projects and preparing for fall and winter art shows.  This is a good thing.  I thrive from beign busy.

Tomorrow evening I have my first art show of the holiday season followed by three weeks of time away from the day job.  I thrive during these breaks can adjust becoming a full time creator-of-things.

Below are photos of some of my newest work.  I’ve recently become enchanted by masses of small birds – birds on wires, birds on branches and birds on lamposts.  These situations present interesting rhythms, physical interactions and color.

In massing series of my carvings I am exploring those themes.  I also find interest in the implications these themes may have upon human interaction.

See these works at the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange Mini, Friday, October 1 from 5:00 – 10:00 at the Harrison Center for the Arts at 16th and Delaware Streets in Indianapolis.

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6 3/4″t x 3 1/2″d x 3″w
White Pine, Basswood, Cherry, Steel
Number 73
Signed: GB Davis, March 2010, Noblesville, IN

Label: 50 Little Birds for Blue Stone Folk School, No. 73, GB Davis, Noblesville


Each of the 50 little birds is designed and carved using traditional hand tools. A specialized finish technique involves up to 20 different steps using traditional methods and materials to achieve a finish that not only looks old, but exhibits complex and subtle colors and textures. A visiting artist once offered that the birds beg to be held in the hand and rubbed.

50 Little Birds is a project begun early in 2009 in order to fund technology and construction costs at Blue Stone Folk School, a traditional arts program in Noblesville, IN. As of November of 2009 over $1500 has been raised for the school. Every dollar of sales of birds numbered 1-50 goes towards the Folk School. 10% of birds numbered over 50 benefit the school. For more information about Blue Stone Folk School and 50 Little birds visit http://www.bluestonefolkschool.wordpress.com.

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My work was just accepted into the Bloomington Handmade Market to be held on April 3.  It’s a good thing as I spent much of the late winter building inventory for this show!
The ladies running this show plan to publish interviews with artists over the three weeks leading to the show.  They sent a list of questions.  I submitted them this morning and they are copied below.

Name: Geoff Davis

Business Name: 50 Little Birds

Location: Noblesville, IN

What do you make?

I carve and paint small Indiana songbird sculptures.  I deviate from this a bit and also offer bentwood boxes, Fraktur (Pennsylvania Dutch Illuminated Painting) and an occasional carved and painted penguin or narwhal.

In Bloomington I will be offering bentwood Easter baskets.  I won’t have many, so please let me know if you are interested.

How did you learn your art/craft?

I grew up in a household where creating things was encouraged and knowledge came from tinkering and exploration.  My mother is was an artist and both parents were woodworkers.  Tools, supplies and creative role models were always at hand.  Over the years I’ve learned to design and build useful things from wood including boats and furniture.  It was when I was training to build ukuleles in Hawai’i that I realized that I had knack for carving wood.  50 Little Birds began last year as an effort to raise money for Blue Stone Folk School, a traditional arts program in Noblesville, Indiana.  I have donated 50 painted and carved birds to the school.  The sale of these birds has raised over $1500 so far.  Some of these 50 birds are still in my inventory. A portion of the sale of all of my work continues to go towards the Folk School and it’s programs.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

To be honest my wife is my muse.  I carve every bird to impress and delight her.  Sometimes it works!

I began to carve birds in an attempt to re-connect with my own ethnic heritage. Many of my projects, kayak, canoe and ukulele building, are so connected with specific ethnic traditions that were not my own.  My people, the Pennsylvania Dutch (actually German) were fascinated with bird imagery.  There was a tradition of itinerant carvers producing beautiful and colorful birds throughout SW Pennsylvania.

The birds are also an inspiration.  I wake every morning to songbirds and crows.  At night nighthawks circle my neighborhood.  We all observe bird behaviors as we go through our day.  I find that most folks have a bird or two that they consider to be their own.  It’s a joy to work with themes that run throughout everyone’s experience and make a strong and personal connection all people.

Do you have a “real world” job?

I teach 5th and 6th grade at the Key Learning Community, an Indianapolis Public School.  I’m also the founder and Director of Blue Stone Folk School in Noblesville.

Your five favorite things (can be anything!):

1 – My Family
2 – Crows in the Morning
3 – Long Solo Canoe Paddles
4 – Really Good Food
5 – Exploring

Who are your favorite artists/crafters?

The great Pennsylvania Dutch bird carvers:  Wilhelm Schimmel, George Stapf and “Schtockschnitzler” Simmons.

Charles Hart, a Cape Cod carver of penguins

William Coperthwaite, a philosopher, educator and hand-crafter in Maine

Where can we find you?


Blue Stone Folk School, Noblesville

INDIEana Handicraft Exchange (I hope to be at the June show!)

They also request 3 images.  I sent these…

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Many of these items are available to purchase here.

I’ve been working to expand my offerings as I develop new skills and to fill interesting niches.

The weeks following Christmas are always very productive for me.  I’ve little money during this time.  We pay cash for Christmas gifts and meals so there is little left for  materials.  I have up to two weeks alone in the shop so I tend to explore projects using the materials at hand.

That’s how I became a carver.  I began carving spoons from fire wood and found wood.  Soon little birds began to emerge from these odds and ends.  Even when I must purchase wood to carve it is relatively inexpensive.

This Christmas (2009) I began to make Shaker style boxes and totes from wood I had in stock.  The wood used for these boxes is so thin than a relatively small piece of wood will produce a great deal of use-able material.

I’m gearing up for the spring and summer shows.  Birds will continue to be the centerpiece of my body of work.  After all I am “50 Little Birds”.  I have completed all of the carvings for the Folk School but several of the pieces are still available to purchase.  I will be offering 2-3 large “art pieces” as well as flatties.  Flatties are two-dimensional painted birds in the style of my carvings.  These less expensive birds can be used as holiday ornaments or simple hanging decoration.

I’ve also been exploring whale forms, specifically narwhals.

In addition to the birds I’ve developed some oval boxes and totes.  I began to build these in order to develop classes for the Folk School.  I’ve quitee a few on hand and enjoy painting them.  I expect to have 8-12 of these pieces with me at shows.

I’ve also been exploring Fraktur, Pennsylvania Dutch illuminated illustrations.  Many of these geometric illustrations feature bird themes and I consider this work to be an extension of 50 Little Birds.

Below I’ve collected a representation of the kinds of pieces that will be available at these shows.  I’ll let you know more about the shows as I am selected (or not) by their juries.

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DSC05647No. 1 Scarlet Tanager

l 5 1/4″ x w 3 1/4″ x h 4″

Red Cedar, Cherry, Wire, found twig

Signed “GB Davis 2009”

The red cedar used to carve this bird was formerly a fencepost in my garden. The cherry for the shield background came from a tree in my mother’s yard (I also built a guitar and ukulele from this log).


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DSC05702No. 2 Redwing Blackbird

l 5 3/4″ x w 2 1/2″ x h 3″

Red Cedar, Cherry, Wire Nails and Found Twig

Signed “GB Davis, Jan 2009, Noblesville

Male Redwing Blackbirds are simply stunning. The thin wing blaze of red and yellow is a sharp contrast to their black bodies. They indicate spring much more accurately than robins. I know that spring is near when I hear their calls along White River.


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DSC05683Nos. 3 & 4 Penguins

l 4 1/2″ x w 1 1/2″ x h 4 5/8″

Red Cedar, Pine

Signed “GB Davis, January 2009, Noblesville”

I am intrigued by the work of Massachusetts carver Charles Hart. Charles was carving working duck decoys when the country was swept with an intense interest in polar exploration. He began carving penguins in all sizes from a few inches to three feet. His penguins have been featured on Antiques Roadshow and are now sought by collectors.


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DSC05687No. 5 Penguin Shelf

L 4 1/2″ x w 1 1/2″ x h 5 3/4″

Red Cedar, Spanish Cedar (Cigar Box), Sycamore, Wire, Nails

Signed “GB Davis, Jan 2009, Noblesville”

A penguin standing alone on a small icicle covered shelf.



DSC05692No. 6 Commemorating Richard Byrd’s Historic Flight Over the South Pole with Peguin

Red Cedar, Wire, Paper, Spanish Cedar (Cigar Box), Nails

l 4 1/2″ x w 1 1/2″ x 5 3/4″

Signed “Honoring Adm. Richard Byrd’s Historic Flight Over the South Pole, GB Davis ’09”

In November of 1929 Admiral Richard Byrd dropped an American Flag onto the South Pole from a Ford Tri-motor and the world watched. The resulting “South Pole Fever” resulted in all kinds of merchandise, books and magazine articles. In this piece I tip my hat to Adm. Byrd and the inspiration for Charles Hart’s penguin carvings.

Visit Here to Bid


DSC05701No. 7 Goldfinch (Ditlefink)

Red Cedar, Cherry, Wire, Found twig

l 4 1/8″ x w 2″ x h 4 5/8″

Signed “GB Davis, Jan 2009, Noblesville”

Distlefinks (Thistlefinches) are an important symbol in Pennsylvania Dutch decorative painting. I remember a dower chest at my grandparents decorated wth this symbol. When I was very young my mother included these birds as she painted a variety of boxes and containers.

We love to watch these little birds at our feeder in late winter and early spring as they change from oive green to the bright yellow of summer. I also have a fond memory of millions (dozens) of goldfinches eating the seeds from my sunflowers.

Visit Here to Bid

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DSC05686No. 8 Blue Swede Duck

l 5″ x w 1 3/4″ x h 4 5/8

white pine, cherry, nails, wire

Signed “GB Davis, May 2009”

We’ve kept chickens for years. This year we had difficulties finding the breeds that we desired. My youngest, Phoebe, talked me into allowing her to have a pair of blue Swede ducks. They have been a ball to watch grow up and have earned their keep eating bugs, snails and grubs from the garden (I think.). I plan to do another of our crest blue Swede.

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DSC05679Nos. 9 & 10 Dominicker Chicken Pair

l 4 1/4″ x w 2″ x h 4 1/2″
White Pine, Cherry, Wire, Nails, Paper
Signed “GB Davis, May 2009”

Domickers (Dominiques) are the oldest American chicken breed. We’ve raised chickend for years and dominickers are among our favorites.


No. 11 Red Breasted Grosbeak

l5″ x w3″ x h5 1/2″
White Pine, Cherry, Wire, Nails, Found Twig
Signed “GB Davis June 2009”

The Red Breasted Grosbeak was one of those birds that I saw in bird books and never thougt that I’d see first-hand. I still haven’t but my wife and daughters have. A male has visited our birdbath and I’m hopeful and watching.

Photos Soon

No. 12 Eastern Bluebird

l5 1/4″ x w2″ x h4 1/2″
White Pine, Cherry, Wire, Nails, Found Twig
Signed “GB Davis June 2009”

No. 13 Eastern Phoebe

l4 1/2″ x w3 1/2″ x h4 1/4″
White Pine, Cherry, Wire, Nails, Found Twig
Signed “Eastern Phoebe, GB Davis, June 2009”

Photos Soon

Photos Soon

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Geoff Davis, Director – Blue Stone Folk School

When John C. Campbell Folk School was organized, near Brasstown, NC, in 1925 a call was put forward for community support. Folks in the community did not have much money and offered what they could: land, stone, lumber, labor and narcissus bulbs.

Like the Campbell Folk School in its beginnings Blue Stone Folk School has a need to raise money and to develop community support. For the first two years of our struggle to emerge much of our financial support has come from the pockets of just a few folks. These donations were generous but where difficult to sustain and did little to develop community ownership. As the economy has slipped these limited donations have dried up.

Like a handful of others my family and I have often paid out-of-pocket to support Folk School programs. This is neither healthy for the organization or possible to continue. Like the folks that helped support the beginnings of the Campbell Folk School I’ve searched my own resources to find ways that my work can generate financial support and community involvement in the School.

In response to this I am pledging the next 50 birds that I carve to Blue Stone Folk School. I’ve birds in all stages. Some are finished and hanging on my kitchen wall. A few more are in the shop in various stages of completion. Most fill my head and my sketchbooks waiting to discovered within a piece of wood.

Along the way I will document my carving and design process. The School will organize bird carving classes and demonstrations. You’ll see little birds at Folk School events. Look for them at Porch Swing Jams, Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, Folk Series Concerts at Noble Tea and Coffee, In the end I hope that we can raise some money, share some passions and engage folks in our community.

The John C. Campbell Folk School was able to build their school from its initial donations. The school stands on donated land and is built of donated lumber and stone with donated labor. The donated narcissus still bloom on the hillsides. The legacy of those early partners is evident all around the school.

We cannot build a school with little carved birds. We need to develop the means to convert these birds to computers, to insurance premiums, to rent, to heat and light, and to visiting artists and performers.

This is where you come in. Support the Folk School by purchasing little birds to give as gifts. Collect little birds. Donate little birds. Think of the Folk School and an opportunity to support local tradition when shopping for gifts and treasures.

Every time that you buy a bird every penny will go directly to supporting the Folk School. The fund will be transparent and you will know exactly where your money is being spent.

It is my wish that other folks supporting the Folk School step up and make donations in any way that you can. A gift of your time, talent, vegetables, carvings, rugs, needlepoint, photography and website development will all be appreciated.

As birds are completed they will be photographed and cataloged here. Links will be available for you to further explore or purchase these little birds.

More soon!

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