As an active kid growing up in rural New York, Jeff Rechin found the combination of his love of the outdoors — particularly birds and his artistic ability — to be a perfect marriage for his lifelong career as a carver.
A self-taught carver, Rechin honed his craft by watching his fellow carvers at work. “I watched their different techniques and saw how far they were taking their carvings,” says Rechin, who started out carving “smoothies”, that is, carvings with very little texture or detail, before finding his way to the signature detailed style he’s known for. His inspiration comes from many places, but namely from birds with features that allow him lots of ways to represent the animation background he inherited from his father.
“I have carved all kinds of birds, but the ones I am really drawn to are the birds with really prominent linear lines, there is so much more you can do, animation wise, when you carve them,” says Rechin. “I like carving those birds whose features you can really contort. You can push them to almost exaggeration because of those lines.”
Wild turkeys and Merlins are two of his favorite birds to carve for this reason, the latter being the subject of this year’s Master Carving. Merlins, rather small falcons are compact, fast-flying birds, says Rechin. While he has been carving since childhood, he admits the artistic inspiration and love of his craft is not fading anytime soon.