Weybridge carver carries on decoy tradition - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Weybridge carver carries on decoy tradition

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Gary M. Starr has his ducks in a row. And on the ceiling, and everywhere else you look in his Weybridge studio.

"It's almost bred into me," he said.

He opened his business, Starr Decoys, 25 years ago. Cutting carving and painting decoys of birds from basswood, a local, soft hardwood.

Birds are in his blood.  Starr's grandfather was an expert bird watcher and his father started collecting decoys in 1947, the year Gary was born.  "As early as I can remember there were probably 1,000 duck decoys in the house," he said.

His father's impressive collection was featured in books and even National Geographic.
"This here is the back room of my father's house," he pointed out.

Starr carved his first decoy when he was nine. But this wasn't always his full time job. He earned a degree in hospitality from Cornell and made decoys on the side -- never to sell.  When he was 40 both of his parents died from cancer and Starr knew he wanted to spend more time with his family. "It was time for a change and I always enjoyed doing the decoy carvings, so I said this would be a good time to see if it could work," he said.

And it did. Now his biggest seller is bird ornaments. With 66 different designs in production, he sells several thousand a year.

Reporter Gina Bullard: What do you think your dad would think?

Gary M. Starr: I think he'd be very pleased.

He touches each ornament a minimum of 30 times throughout the process. "This is a way to keep up my love of carving -- make a living -- so it makes sense to keep doing it," Starr said.

And the ornaments aren't supposed to look exactly like the bird. Starr said it's more about showing a defining character.

Reporter Gina Bullard:  If you were a bird ornament, which one would you be?

Gary M. Starr: I sort of like the Belted Kingfisher. He's a brazen bird.

Reporter Gina Bullard: What about me. Which bird am I?

Gary M. Starr: I'd go with the Scarlet Tanager -- It's a Vermont bird. They're  quite often up in the top trees -- an upper canopy bird  -- very attractive, very showy but being in the tops of trees they don't show off.

Reporter Gina Bullard: Okay, I like that.

A craftsman carving out a niche that's Made in Vermont.

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