Paul Morrissette sits on his back deck. It is an early morning in May 2010. The chorus of life echoes from the dense woods beyond him. He sips his coffee slowly, savoring its taste and the moment. He reminisces of a childhood spent finding a similar joy and peace from nature, kayaking on the Farmington and hiking in Vermont. That was before he was laid off from his job as a printer for an insurance company two months earlier.
Paul was introduced to the art of bird carving while on vacation in Hyannis, Mass. He was at a store named Call of the Wild when he saw his first carving. Always having had an affinity for birds and the outdoors, he was hooked. Paul read everything he could about the art: Its history, prevalence, and techniques. Through his research, he came about the Wood Carvers Shop in Meriden, where he studied with Keith Mueller. From there, he began to carve on his own.
To put it in perspective, imagine spending 10 days with your favorite athlete or chef or musician, heeding their advice while building a personal connection in the process. By comparison, Scholz is one of the world’s top carvers, having been a professional carver since 1983. Not surprisingly, Paul gave a resounding yes. For 10 days, he spent 10 hours a day learning from and working with a world–renowned carver. They discussed everything from banjos to RC helicopters. “Floyd had the most influence on my carving skills. He is a friend and a mentor,” says Paul.
“All right” is quite the understatement. Mr Morrissette can turn an unassuming block of tupelo wood into a magnificent bird, mounted on a wood base similar to its habitat. Only the eyes, legs and talons are not wood. The eyes are glass and the legs are metal rods coated in epoxy. The legs and talons are then painted over with acrylic paint. With some birds, he carves an open beak and inserts an epoxy tongue with tweezers. His pieces are so lifelike that he now has to hide his birds of prey when his grandchildren visit. “I wish I could mount one of my hawks on a mouse or a rabbit, but if my grandson or daughter saw it I’d never see them again,” he jokes.
Morrissette’s first carving was a western tanager. He has since done everything from smooth hunting decoys to a red-tailed hawk whose tail feathers he purposely staggered and overlapped to make more realistic. Paul has entered a number of his birds into carving competitions, where he has placed anywhere from honorable mention to second best -in-show.
Morrissette stresses that bird carving isn’t just a crafty hobby. It’s an art form. It’s turning something rough into something magnificent. It’s turning a rough time into a wonderful opportunity, much as Morrissette did seven years ago.
If you would like to see more of Morrissette’s carvings, go to his Facebook page Morrissette Bird Carvings. If you would like to learn about bird carving or Morrissette himself, or purchase one of his works, feel free to email him at email@example.com.