Lynda Goff won Best of Show for her carving and habitat of a western screech owl with chickadee. The smaller display features a lazuli 
bunting, which she carved as a gift for a retiree.
Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo


Local artist makes songbirds and raptors come to life

By From page A11 | July 10, 2013


What: 43rd annual Pacific Flyway Decoy Association’s Classic Wildlife Art Festival

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Double Tree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way in Sacramento

Tickets: $5 general; children under 12 are free

Davis resident and retired UC Santa Cruz professor Lynda Goff has found a unique pastime: decorative bird carving. Goff carves primarily songbirds and raptors and will be exhibiting her work this weekend at the Pacific Flyway Festival in Sacramento.

Goff said she became interested in the art when she first saw examples of it years ago. “I just thought I’d start,” she said, “and see how far I could go with carving.”

She added that “it’s hard to appreciate the entire process of carving, … it’s not just taking a block of wood and whittling it.” Instead, she noted, there are many different steps to the process, the first of which is research. As a carver, one must know the species that one is carving well, she said. Goff is also a professional nature photographer, and she takes photographs of birds and their habitats as part of her process.

After doing research, carvers must build the habitat, which “has to be a habitat you’d find the bird in, in nature,” she said. Habitat building involves metalwork, particularly the use of copper. Once the habitat is done, carvers do the actual wood carving, and the last step of the process is the painting. Of all the steps in decorative bird carving, Goff said, painting is the most time-consuming.

She added, “Painting is what separates the really good artists from everyone else because the really good artists are terrific painters. To get a bird to come alive, it’s not just the actual sculpting of the bird out of wood. It’s making those feathers look lifelike with the use of acrylic paint.”

After creating the carvings, Goff explained, most carvers typically try to sell them. Carvers such as Goff often have orders from relatives or friends who request certain species for special birthday parties.

When asked which part of the carving process is her favorite, Goff replied simply that she loves it all.

“I got into it primarily because I love the art form, but also I find it a very Zen sort of thing to do,” she said. “I love the design, the painting, the carving, the assembling.”

Goff has been a decorative bird carver for 12 years, although she said she has not always done it constantly. She retired a couple of years ago after a career as a professor and administrator for the University of California.

Furthermore, ever since she began carving, Goff has been involved with the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association’s Classic Wildlife Art Festival in Sacramento. She’s primarily been involved as an exhibitor, but she also supports the festival financially when she can.

“I really do respect what they’re doing,” she said. “They do things for the right reasons.”

Goff said the festival has improved tremendously during the time of her involvement with it. She noted that although bird carving had been popular in the 1980s and early ’90s, the number of bird carvings declined about 10 years ago, even though the quality of the carvings actually improved. She added that the Sacramento festival now “has the most numbers of entries and (is) the most competitive in terms of quality, particularly in the ducks and the decoys,” in comparison with other events on the West Coast that she has attended.

To see some examples of Goff’s work, visit the 43rd annual Pacific Flyway Decoy Association’s Classic Wildlife Art Festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Double Tree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way in Sacramento. The Flyway Festival is the second longest-running carving festival in the nation, and will feature workshops for novices as well as hands-on displays for children kids in addition to the carving exhibitions. Proceeds from the festival will benefit wildlife education.

Special this year is the Fancy Painted Decoy National Championship, one of the most popular categories for noted carvers and painters of decoys. Robert Steiner, America’s foremost duck stamp artist and winner of the 2013 Federal Duck Stamp Contest, will be present at the event.

Tickets are $5 for the weekend. Children under 12 are free.

Paul Phillips

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