Duck Decoy Carving : My Creative Outlet #IWSG

Badge for Insecure Writer's Support Group

It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. This month I will be discussing carving a duck decoy, as I answer the Insecure Writer’s Support group question for February 6th

Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

When I was younger I easily could have answered this question. I was actually a talented artist. I especially loved watercolor painting and drawing portraits. It’s been years since I’ve done either (although, I was thinking recently that I ought to try my hand at drawing my husband).

Duck Decoy Carving
Sam and her Bufflehead Drake

These days I have a different creative outlet.

A few years back, my daughter, Samantha, and her sister, Emily, volunteered at a local food shelf. One of the other volunteers was a wood carver and was starting a class to teach kids the art of carving duck decoys.  Sam wanted to take the class.  I had never heard of such a thing, so I dragged my heels, hoping she would forget about it. She didn’t.

So I relented. I called the teacher and signed her up for the class. She was a natural. That year she carved a Bufflehead Drake. She loved the process of both carving, and then painting the duck afterward. I was amazed at the quality of her work. So were the judges in the 2 shows in which she entered the decoy. They were so impressed that she won 1st place both times.

Duck Decoy Carving, Last Year

Last year Sam’s sister, Emily, expressed interest in carving. So, she joined the class, as well. She was also a very good carver. The teacher of the class asked if I would also like to carve. It seemed like fun, so, I said, “yes.”

We carved a duck called the Hooded Merganser. Samantha carved a drake, which is what male ducks are called. Emily and I carved hens, which is what female ducks are called.

Last year, we entered the 14th Annual Rudy Zwieg Decoy & Sporting Collectible Show in Alexandria. Minnesota. My Hooded Merganser hen decoy won 1st place. Sam’s drake took 2nd and Emily’s hen placed 3rd. The Erickson girls swept the competition!

Duck Decoy Carving
Merganser Hens and Drake

Duck Decoy Carving, This Year

Duck Decoy Carving
A Redhead Drake prior to painting

This year, I carved a Redhead Drake. Most carvers make their ducks completely out of wood, hollowing out the body so it will float. For these ducks, we carved the heads and tails out of red cedar and the bodies out of cork. Then we sand the duck and touch up and mistakes with a special wood filler; a type of plaster with sawdust in it).

Painting the Duck Decoy

Duck Decoy Carving
This gray layer was the first of many on top of the primer layer.

Then we prime the decoy, and after that, paint it. There are many different techniques that carvers use to make the decoys look real enough that another duck might be fooled into landing beside it. Each carver has their own style. Mine is to try to be somewhat realistic (much like the style of my art when I was younger).

Often, the paint is applied in several layers. Different types of brushes are used to create different effects.

One popular technique is called “dry brushing.”  You dip the brush in the paint and then “paint” a paper plate or a newspaper so that the brush is almost dry. Then you can brush the decoy, leaving a feathered, almost transparent layer of paint.

Duck Decoy Carving
Texture on a Red Head Drake

Another technique I like adds texture to the decoy. A gel-like paint is applied in a thick layer. Then you take a 1” piece of a comb (just cut a hair comb into 1” pieces) and create “feathers” with it by pulling it through the paint. I like to shake my hand a bit as I do this to create a more rippled look. Then, you can either dry brush over this or paint the second layer in a different color of paint and lightly sand it once it has dried completely. That will allow the color of the 1st layer to come through.

The Eyes Have it

Once all of the painting is done, you peel off any paint layers that are on the glass eyes. Then the duck decoy is ready to be sprayed with a final clear coat to waterproof your duck. If you intend to use it for hunting, it will also need a keel. I don’t hunt, but carving duck decoys is a great way to relax.

Duck Decoy Carving
There is still a lot left to do on this duck. Here it is so far.

 What Are Your Thoughts?

It’s wonderful to be able to exercise your creativity in a variety of ways. How do you get creative?? I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.


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24 comments on “Duck Decoy Carving : My Creative Outlet #IWSG

Those are amazing. I confess to loving duck carvings. I trolled antique shops for a few years in search of authentic creations. They aren’t any better than what you do!

What a fascinating creative hobby! Recreating something from nature is always a challenge, but I think it’d be especially challenging in 3d. Congratulations on your competition win! How cool that you can share this hobby with your daughters.

Thank you, Sadira. You have a lot of talent, yourself! I couldn’t find a place to write my comments. I have thought about learning to belly dance for fitness, even if it isn’t the miracle minimizer that my midsection needs. And, yes-cooking is creative. 🙂

That is a cool creative outlet to have. I always see woodcarvers at craft shows they can make amazing stuff.

Hi Patricia, I love it. It’s totally different from what I normally do. Have a great week!

I did not know that was a thing. Carving looks like fun, though.

Hi Liz. It’s very relaxing, even though it is a lot of work. And there are so many aspects to it…Carving, sanding, painting. Each has its own way of engaging your creative side. All require patience.

I’ve never heard of this before. Your ducks look so realistic! What an interesting hobby.

Thank you, Anstice. Have a wonderful month!

Who knew that was a thing? I mean the competition and all that?
That is very cool all three of you got involved. Time to bond and you were all good at it!

Hi Alex. It really has been a cool experience for us to share. They just took 1st and 2nd in a youth competition with a pair of Cackling Geese that they carved. Have a great week!

Those are some pretty cool ducks.

Thank you, Kim. Have a great month!

Way to go, Erickson girls! Wow, that’s a really neat hobby. Fodder for fiction, perhaps? How funny that I had your blog open when you commented on mine. 🙂

Hi Raimey. I’ve considered a plot which takes place at a duck decoy convention. 🙂 Thank you for the tip about Gravitar. Hopefully, I have it fixed now.

It’s amazing where live can take us, isn’t it? Glad you’re enjoying your new hobby.

Hi Natalie. It really is fun to see different things we take an interest in over our lifetimes. These hobbies and passions really change us and form us. I checked out your website and it’s really impressive! Great information for writers. Have a wonderful week.

I can’t imagine floating them in water. They’re too beautiful! Congratulations to all of you for sweeping the competition.

Thank you, CV. I don’t hunt, so mine stay nice and dry on a shelf. But, yes, they are meant to be thrown into lakes and ponds. Mine do go into the water a couple of times when preparing for contests. In order win, they have to “self-right” when turned upside down. So, they get tested a couple of times to make sure I don’t get disqualified.

How beautiful! And how nice is it that it’s a family craft. That makes it even more special.

Hi Elizabeth, It’s great to find something that I can do with my teens.

Hi again! Just a note that your Gravatar (the icon you leave when you comment on a wordpress blog) is still linked to this older blog of yours: If you update your Gravatar to your new site, you’ll find that more people can find you and return your comments. 🙂 It isn’t hard to do. Just login to gravatar, and if you can’t remember your password, have them email you a password reset.

Wow! It looks so interesting 🙂

Ronel visiting for Feb’s IWSG Day Being an Insecure Writer — And Happy About It

Thanks, Ronel. Have a wonderful week!

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