About Mike



          When you see and hold one of Mike McCarthy’s hand-carved decoys or shorebirds, it evokes images of the old market hunters, who gunned the windswept marshes along the Atlantic Flyway more than a century ago.

          While many of today’s bird carvers strive for meticulous perfection, with burned-in feather detail, Mike has found a love for carving antique style working decoys and shorebirds, whose beauty is in their simplicity.

It all began when he started whittling neckerchief slides and walking sticks with his pocket knife as a Boy Scout. Then, he progressed to relief carving. In 1983 Mike began taking lessons from Sister Gertrude Gaudette in Fall River, Ma.  “Sister Gertrude discovered that I had an aptitude for carving in the round (three dimensional) rather than on flat surfaces, so I began carving caricatures (figurines),” Mike said. “I enjoyed carving something that I could hold in my hand.”

The inspiration for decoy carving came shortly thereafter when Mike was in an antique shop in Maine’s Boothbay Harbor. Being a duck hunter, an old L.L.Bean cork decoy caught his eye, so he bought it.

“I thought it would look really nice in the house, “he said. “And I also bought a book on antique decoys and was fascinated by the ones that the old masters like Elmer Crowell and Joe Lincoln, had carved. They were beautiful. The lines were graceful and the tones were soft. I couldn’t wait to get home and start carving them. “The folk artist was born.

Mike now produces his decoys, shorebirds and waterbirds in a simple workshop in back of his Mattapoisett home. Except for a band saw, which he uses to rough cut a duck shape from a block of wood, he still carves and finishes his decoys by hand, with simple hand tools like knives, rasps and gouges, just like in the old days. It’s become his life’s vocation.

Mike now exhibits his work at about 25 to 30 shows around New England each year. He’s developed a style that’s earned him numerous awards including “best of class” and “first place” at many New England competitions. So that people can see how much work goes into each decoy, he carves while exhibiting at the shows.

“I’m grateful to the public,” Mike says. “Fine people have kept me going. I carve to please myself, but it also pleases other people.”

With its many bays and marshes, coastal Massachusetts is steeped in waterfowling history, which is why people like the antique style—the smooth lines and soft finishes. It reminds them of a simpler time in life, when one took time to smell the roses.

 

From the inner city of Fall River, Ma. where I grew up, to the seaside town of Mattapoisett where I reside, bird watching has had a special impact on my life. Shorebirds and ducks have been of special interest to me; the graceful flight of the Heron, or the awkward yet majestic profile of the Cormorant drying its wings in the wind. We all need to take our place in nature, and preserve what has been around for millions of years. We are just visitors on this planet, and we must enjoy the miracle of nature. We must do our part to preserve it for future generations.

Carving these birds is my way of identifying with God’s creation, and preserving in wood a lasting memento of His perfect world. Happy birding!


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