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Handcrafted Heritage

Shaun Tolson

If you’re familiar with Joel Oppenheimer’s gallery of natural history art in Chicago, you likely would expect a similar environment and shopping experience at its sister establishment, the Audubon Gallery (www.audubonart.com) in Charleston, S.C. In some respects, that’s what you’ll find; but the Charleston storefront differs in a handful of ways. Director Burton Moore has outfitted the gallery with significant examples of contemporary and antique sporting art—everything from etchings and paintings to hand-carved wooden hunting decoys. When Moore was growing up, his father worked as a professional sporting artist and amassed a noteworthy collection of antique hunting decoys. Moore’s upbringing led him to integrate similar works of art into his gallery. “I’ve added my own lifestyle to this store,” he says. “I love to hunt and fish and bird-watch, so I’ve taken all of that and put it into one store.”

Beyond the subject matter, it’s the method of production that guides Moore when determining which new products to introduce. “My focus here is that things be handmade,” he says. “If it’s a print, I want it to be an engraving or etching or a painting done by hand. None of my carvers use power tools or Dremel sets; they’re all working with traditional woodworking tools.” When it comes to the hand-carved decoys for sale in Moore’s shop, most range from several hundred dollars up to $10,000, though Moore acknowledges that there are plenty of antique decoys out there that are even more valuable. “Several of my carvers are making decoys that you could throw out in a marsh and hunt over, but most will end up right on the mantel,” he says. “Not too many people would want to throw a $5,000 wooden decoy in the water and start shooting over it.”

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Courtesy of Shakespeare and Company - Paul Foster Books - the NY Antiquarian Book Fair
Photo courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery, New York; Li Hongbo