Pennsylvania Birds

Birds are a frequent subject in just about every folk art tradition in the world. I’m interested in the common threads that weave through the work of different cultures. A couple books I picked up, used, have inspired me to take a closer look at Pennsylvania, where I’ve lived my entire life, albeit over here on the western edge.

Pennsylvania was a common choice for German immigrants to America especially following William Penn’s recruiting efforts beginning in 1677. Many of the examples in the book Just for Nice: Carving and Whittling Magic of Southeastern Pennsylvania (1991) are flavored by that German influence.

And many of the pieces feature birds, like these fantastic bird trees opposite the title page. I may write a separate post about these sometime. Here are a few more peeks at the book:

Many of the birds are decked out with chip carving.

Whimsical patterns and color combinations abound.

The work of well-known carvers such as Wilhelm Schimmel is included, of course, like the eagle and rooster above. A wanderer, Schimmel typically carved in white pine while sitting beside Conodoquinet Creek.

American Folk Sculpture by Robert Bishop features a wide variety of pieces, including a section on “Pennsylvania Whittlers.”

Here’s an example of a spread with Schimmel and some of his work.

And there are lots of birds. Why not?

This summer, maybe I’ll make it over the mountains to the exotic lands to the east to explore some of these things in person. Meanwhile, I’ve got some Pennsylvania birds of my own underway, including this one:

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9 Responses to Pennsylvania Birds

  1. francedozois says:

    interesting with a bird in progress ending–


  2. Dean Joshua Blount says:

    Thanks for sharing as always! I’ve been looking for some ideas for chip carving on some of my


  3. Jerry Alonzo says:

    Thanks David. Your blog inspires me.


  4. Tom Stedner says:


    An artist you might be interested in checking out is Manfred Scheel. He is a bird carver but also carves traditional Pennsylvania folk art. His bird trees are.outstanding


  5. Bill Hanson says:

    OK Dave.

    What is the tool in the last photo? You got me floating on that one.
    Hope our paths meet again some day soon.

    Bill Hanson


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Hi Bill! Long time, no see! Glad you asked… It’s the crooked knife with the very strange handle that I put together a few years ago. I wrote a post about it at the time:
      In the time since, I’ve hardly ever used it, but this bird bowl design I’m working on is extremely undercut and it actually came in handy for portions of the hollow way. back in.
      I’ll look forward to our next face-to-face as well.


  6. Bob Dow says:

    Hi Dave, this post reference to the book”Just for Nice” intrigued me so I went out on the interlibrary network and found a copy. I love folk carvings and this book made my day. The biographical sketches are as enjoyable as the photos of the artists work. Thanks for the heads up. I live in Illinois but birds and bird trees have consumed my carving time for a couple of years now. Ah the rich fertile carving life, nothing beats it.


  7. Dave Fisher says:

    Great to hear that, Bob. Happy bird carving!


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