When it comes to carving birds, accuracy matters — a lot. Size, shape, color, the creature’s unique attributes — achieving these elements takes a blend of artistic skill and the scientific mind, the willingness to observe, take measurements, record data, and check and recheck the facts. And that’s before the very first cut is made on the wood.
For artist Jerry Poindexter, who has been carving birds for more than 20 years, the success of the final sculpture depends upon this preliminary research, and before he embarks upon a project, he gets his hands on some study skins: actual birds, many killed by hitting windows or being hit by cars, dried and preserved, sometimes stuffed with cotton but other times not. Generally not mounted, the skins are stored in trays at places such as Eastern Washington University in Cheney, where Poindexter has spent hours drawing, measuring, and drafting patterns for carving.
After nine years, Poindexter compiled 50 of these measured drawings, complete with coloration notes, into two books, Songbirds I and Songbirds II.
Drafting Patterns for Carving Birds
“The thought of publishing the books started in 2002 when I carved my first bird for the Ward’s World Championships in Ocean City, Maryland,” the Spokane woodcarver says. “It was after seeing the way people were carving their birds, some of which were too big, and others with the color not even close to the actual bird.
“Carvers had been asking me for my measured drawings at classes that I taught, and at the time I was giving them away.”
Poindexter attracted the eye of the carving world early on, when he entered a bird that no one had seen before at Ward’s, an international event which focuses exclusively on bird carvings.
“The bird was a Varied Thrush, which is well known in the West, but not in the East,” Poindexter says. “I did a half size and was awarded third in the world.” He was also approached by Wildfowl Carving Magazine, which took him on as a regular columnist addressing paint notes and bird measurements.
Judging Carvings as Well as Creating Them
For many years Poindexter has also served as judge at various shows throughout the Pacific Northwest, and is both a regular juror and contributor at the Columbia Flyway Wildlife Show in Vancouver, which attracts fish, wildlife, and bird carvers from throughout the Western United States and Canada. He has sold work to private collectors in Canada, Germany, Arizona, Kansas, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
One commission he did for a collector is especially memorable. At a carving show, a man asked how much Poindexter would charge for carving a half-size barn own. Poindexter quoted a price, the man nodded, and walked away. Well, that’s that, Poindexter thought.
“One day, there’s a knock on the studio door, and here was the man holding a piece of firewood. He wanted to have the owl placed on the wood so that he could rotate the owl for different presentations.”
Before leaving, the man pointed to a hole in the firewood and said that he wanted to see a mouse coming out that hole, and the owl appearing to see it. Poindexter agreed, mentally running over the added complexity and difficulty that this would add to the piece.
“When he arrived to pay and said, ‘How much?’ I told him that the owl was now free, but the cost of the mouse would be the original cost we had discussed.”
The man not only agreed to the price, but commissioned a second piece.
Carving for Work and Pleasure
Carving started for Poindexter as a hobby, something to do after retirement, and in his early years he created Santas, bears, deer, fish, and even Nativity scenes, but once he discovered birds, he knew he had found his niche. It’s the motion, the texture, the variety and the coloration that draws him to the world of birds, and it is a place well worth being. There are so many birds, so many projects, that he never runs out of something to create.
“If I kept a count of the number of birds I’ve carved, or the amount of time I’ve spent carving — something I did once and will never do again — I might have quit.
“But carving for yourself is pleasure.”
Purchase Jerry Poindexter’s art online at this link.
Jerry Poindexter is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, June 18, 2018, through Saturday, July 14, 2018.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.