Maynard native Curt Soine was recognized as this year’s Artist in Residence at the Maynard celebration this past weekend. Though Soine has been living in Granite Falls for the past 32 years, he still makes his way to Maynard about once a week to have coffee.
Soine made his way back to Maynard this Saturday where his duck and fish decoys were displayed as part of the Arts in The Park event.
Soine has been making duck and fish decoys since the 1980s when his wife Paula Soine pointed out a decoy of a wood swan she wanted. It was priced quite high and Soine decided to take on the challenge of making the swan himself.
“For 400 dollars—I could make that. I did., And went from there,” Soine said.
The original swan is still displayed in the Soine household in Granite Falls along with a few other swans and other decoys he has made. “My wife claims some swans, she likes swans,” Soine said. The swan is, for the most part, still in its original form. The beak had broken once and has since been fixed, along with a bit of a paint touch up, Soine said.
Though the swan was first made in 1983, Soine has recently become more interested in spending more time making decoys. “I started planning for retirement and was looking for a hobby so I got into it more,” Soine said.
Soine retired from UPS last December and has been spending more time in his shop since. His shop is located in the basement of his home in Granite Falls. Soine said he has been spending about five hours a day in his shop working on projects.
Soine likes to listen to rock-n-roll or country music while he works in his shop. “When I can hear it,” he laughs. Most all of the patterns he uses are his own and he uses the bandsaw to cut the patterns. He then rounds the decoys with rotary tools.
An important machine in his shop is the dust collector. His hobby can make a lot of sawdust really fast, he said. The dust collector works pretty well. “I try to keep it clean,” he said.
The bodies of the duck decoys are mostly made from cork, which comes in big sheets and he can order that online. He gets some of his other wood from a friend he knows in Paynesville with a sawmill. He often gets white cedar from Duluth and pine from Perham, Minn.
The carving of the ducks and fish is his favorite part of this tedious process. Soine has many reference books on birds and he also gets pictures from the internet for tips on how to paint. Sometimes he enjoys taking photos of geese and shorebirds, if he can get close enough he said.
Page 2 of 3 - “Painting is more of a challenge, but I’m getting better,” Soine said.
Though he gets much joy from creating these decoys, the biggest joy he gets from his hobby, Soine said, is all the great people he meets through it.
Soine has been part of a carving club in the Twin Cities for the past three years. “I’ve gotten to know some carvers and some really good people,” Soine said.
He is also part of the Minnesota Decoy Collectors Association and the National Fish Decoy Association.
Other events Soine is a part of that helps him meet people and get his work displayed is The Gathering, which is a fish decoy show in Perham. The event takes place every year in April. He has come back from this competition with many ribbons. Soine has been going to The Gathering for about seven years. “It’s a fun show, there are good people and good carvers,” Soine said.
Some of his fish decoys are also displayed in the Center for Art in Wood, which is a museum in Philadelphia. This museum is a center to display the art made from wood.
Soine also has some award winning decoys. He carved a duck, which won first place in 2012. He carved a walleye decoy, which won the second place Service Working award. One of his duck decoys won the Ward Chesapeake Challenge in Salisbury, Maryland. The Ward brothers are famous wood carvers and have a museum of old decoys. The Ward Chesapeake Challenge is for decoy carvers to come together and compete with each other.
Most of his work, Soine said, can be seen through the award-winning Art Meander that takes place during October and is a self-guided tour of artists in the Upper Minnesota River Valley. The Gathering is in April and the Art Meander is in October, which gives him time to get decoys ready for each event, Soine said.
Starting in July, Soine’s work will also be featured in the K.K. Berge Building in Granite Falls. Each month a different artist in the community is featured in the building to display art of local residences.
Soine’s wife Paula has also recently joined him in painting the decoys. Soine described their painting as “folk art.” Paula also makes stone encrusted pots, Soine said.
Soine does sell some of the decoys he has made, but doesn’t have an official website for selling items. Most of his work is displayed on the Arts Meander website.
“I mostly sell stuff through word-of-mouth and I have some repeat customers that come back to look at different things,” Soine said. He also added that Paula will sometimes post decoys on Facebook, but not before she picks out her favorites.
Page 3 of 3 - “She grabs the best stuff,” Soine said with a smile. Their house displays some of Paula’s favorite decoys that Soine has made. Soine also has a small collection of other people’s work. He said that he and his friends will trade fish every once in awhile.
“It’s a lot of fun and I’ve met a lot of people and I can make a bit of money off of it,” Soine said. “But I’m not going to get rich doing it,” he added.
Soine’s work will be displayed at the Arts in the Park this Saturday as part of Maynard’s 125th anniversary celebration. He is looking forward to the Maynard celebration to display his art as well as attending the all-class reunion Saturday night.
“I’m looking forward to seeing people I haven’t seen in a while,” Soine said.
As for future plans with his decoy hobby, “I plan to just keep it fun and low key,” he said.