PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — Rusty Rutherford can turn a piece of wood into a life-like image of a bird, animal or anything that catches his eye.
Rutherford’s carving hobby began after he retired from the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 1990s when a brother-in-law asked him to carve a duck for his cabin at Delta Beach.
“I had always done hobbies involving working with my hands but never carving birds. I bought a book and carved him a mallard duck,” said Rutherford.
Every bird since that carving has won ribbons at competitions, including the Ward World Championships and the Sportsman’s Decoy Carving Championships.
“I entered seven carvings and took home 15 ribbons, including best of show for a hooded merganser hen,” said Rutherford.
Rutherford has won blue ribbons at the Canadian Championships in Midland, Ont., won the Northern Nationals in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and won twice at the Ward World Championships in Ocean City, Maryland.
His carvings have also been featured several times in the Wildfowl Carving Magazine.
He specializes in decorative wild fowl carvings that are detailed replicas of birds.
They are carved from basswood or tupelo, which grows in the swamps of Louisiana and is a soft wood with little grain.
He uses a combination of hand and power tools, then uses acrylic paints with an air brush and for finishing traditional brushwork.
He does his carvings mostly from photographs and bird books.
“The blue jay took about 200 hours to carve and its stand about 150 hours,” said Rutherford, who sells at elite craft sales, art shows and privately.
He also donates carvings to various local charities.
Rutherford recently wrote his biography, A Steep Climb from War Orphan to Queen’s Medal.
It depicts his life in war torn England, the separation from his family and the trials and hardships of orphanages and foster homes.
The self-published book is currently in its fourth printing.
Rusty and his wife, Elaine, make their home at Portage La Prairie. Elaine helped format the photographs for his biography.
He quit school at 16 to make his own way in the world, finally settling on a career in the forces.
In 2012, Rutherford received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contributions to Canada.