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: