Ocracoke Waterfowl Festival to feature carver Scotty Robinson

By on April 10, 2023

By Peter Vankevich/Ocracoke Observer

Islander Scotty Robinson is the featured carver for this year’s Ocracoke Waterfowl Festival April 15 in the Berkley Barn. (Photo: P. Vankevich/Ocracoke Observer)

The Ocracoke Waterfowl Festival will be in its fifth year, but in a way, it’s into second generation. A founding principle of this event was to celebrate a featured carver and this year it is Scotty Robinson, whose father, Dan Robinson, was featured in the second year of the festival.

The Ocracoke Waterfowl Festival, produced by the Ocracoke Island Decoy Carvers Guild, will take place at the Berkley Manor Barn and grounds from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 15.

The Robinsons have a family history of decoy carving and serving in the Coast Guard. Scotty followed his dad, who had a long and distinguished tenure, by enlisting in the Coast Guard when he was 20 years old, retiring 20 years later.

“I was fortunate to spend my Coast Guard assignments in Virginia and North Carolina,” he said. “My favorite was Cape Charles. Chincoteague Island, which has a long history of decoys, was not far away.” While stationed on the Delmarva Peninsula, he became enamored of the Virginia style of decoys.  “They are hollowed out and very detailed, especially with the painting,” he said.

A graduate of Ocracoke School’s class of 1979, Scotty grew up around decoys. His grandfather, Eldon Willis, a renowned carver, also was an inspiration. His first stab at helping with a decoy was in the fourth grade. Eldon had carved a miniature duck and asked Scotty to paint it.

It wasn’t until he was 14 or so that he tried carving himself. “I liked piddling with carving as a boy, but I was more interested in collecting decoys,” Scotty said. “My uncle Roy collected them, and I admired the craft and liked to study them.”

A Robinson tradition: Dan Robinson, father and carving mentor to Dale, center, and Scotty at the 2022 Ocracoke Waterfowl Festival. Dale won the decoy carving contest. (Photo: C. Leinbach/Ocracoke Observer)

Scotty’s interest in collecting also came from attending decoy festivals in Virginia Beach and Maryland as a youth with his father and John Simpson, last year’s featured carver. But it got to a point that they were becoming too expensive — an incentive to do more carving himself.

While in the Coast Guard he did some carving, and those decoys were used for hunting. After retiring from the Coast Guard in 2001, he began to do more carving, especially in the last 10 years, he said.

His first decoys were not for the shelf but for the water. “My first attempt was to carve a rig of hollowed mallards and black ducks,” he said. “I made a few rigs of decoys, but none of them are still around.”

Decoy carvers have a variety of techniques and wood preferences. Scotty likes to hollow out the wood so that the decoys will be lighter and able to float. “A lot of my decoys can be used for hunting, but most likely will be seen on a shelf or in a bookcase,” he said. He does his own painting and prefers oil, which seems to take forever to dry. Acrylic is his alternative.

“For me, carving is a mood thing. You gotta be in the mood to carve,” he said. “Some people just sit down and do it because they’re bored. They gotta have something to do with their hands.” When he is in that perfect groove, he can carve a decoy in one day.

The American Widgeon, carved and painted by Scotty, is the featured duck for this year’s festival and in the festival’s tradition, it will be raffled.

American Wigeon carved by Scotty Robinson. (Photo: P. Vankevich/Ocracoke Observer)

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