Artist Insight - Interview with Richard Smoker, Master Decoy & Waterfowl Carver
How did you learn your tradition?
I was fortunate to learn many aspects of carving from my father. He was an Industrial Arts teacher at the local high school. We spent many hours in the late 60’s teaching ourselves to carve decoys to use for hunting. Over the course of years, time spent with other carvers to ask questions and learn new techniques. In the late 1970’s I began to enter various carving competitions. Since then I have spent time with other Master Carvers, enrolled in several painting classes, and done extensive studios of reference materials in order to improve my skills as a carver, and to ensure a more realistic decoy.
How has this tradition played in important role in your life?
I have been a professional Decoy & Wildfowl Carver since 1979. Over the past 39 years I have spent my time carving in my shop, participating in decoy shows and competitions, volunteering at decoy related events, and teaching carving classes to students of all ages.
What significance does this tradition play in the life of your community and in Maryland?
Somerset County, Maryland is often referred to as the birthplace of traditional decoy carving. The Ward Brothers, and others like the Sterlings and the Tylers, are all names easily recognized by both decoy carvers and collectors. Decoys were made by these and other carvers in order to use in rigs to hunt ducks which was a popular pastime. The Ward Brothers have been credited with some of the earliest decorative carvings. This helped to start a new direction in the decoy community back in the early 1960’s. Of course, both the history and present day popularity of decoy carvings has expanded beyond Somerset County and now includes much of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There are museums featuring decoys and decoy carvers in Salisbury, St. Michael’s and Havre de Grace.
You can find more information on Richard’s Facebook page!