On the Tideline exhibition

Mel Barr's stunning work
Mel Barr's stunning work

An exhibition and sale of contemporary shorebird decoy sculptures by local atrist Mel Barr will open to the public on Friday at Whithorn House’s new Red Door Gallery.

Mel said: “Originally from Manchester I moved to Whithorn after living in the Dordogne for many years. A Quantity Surveyor by profession and with no formal training, my carving stemmed from a love of bird watching combined with drawing and painting earlier in my life. Visiting a craft fair some 20 years ago lead to a Christmas present of a tutorial weekend and the production of my first duck which of course still holds pride of place in my collection.

“My first pieces were highly realistic birds designed to reproduce a true bird, right down to the barbs on each feather however after visits to the Chesapeake area of America an interest in antique shore birds evolved and I now mostly carve contemporary shorebird decoys with an antique look.

“All my birds have a basis in the past. Examples carved by respected carvers are readily available in reference books and on the internet, so my designs are influenced by old pieces but I modify them to give them a contemporary look.

“My decoys are carved from either jelutong (a close grained lightweight sustainable hardwood) or reclaimed larch or pine. Some birds have museum quality eyes, whilst for others I use upholstery tacks and even antique nails. Most have hardwood bills but again antique nails feature and when painted I use acrylic gouache paints.

“In 1998 and 1999 I travelled to the Ward World Championships in Ocean City, Maryland to compete in what is recognised as the foremost championship completion where I successfully secured several rosettes and ribbons. As a new comer and novice, this was an amazing experience I shall never forget.

“I have recently become a member of the Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Arts. Last year I opened my workshop as part of the first Whithorn Arts and Crafts Trail and I went on organised and run the Autumn Arts and Crafts Weekends which coincided with the Book Festival.”

The exhibition is presented by Woodducks and the Red Door Gallery and will run from Friday, April 18 to Monday, April 21, 11am to 5pm daily.