Studio Tour with Harkers Island's Walter Gaskill
photograph by Lissa Gotwals

walter-gaskill-duckFittingly, a gooseneck lamp curves over Walter “Brother” Gaskill’s marvelous, meticulous workspace, where he carves purple gallinules and red-breasted mergansers for collectors and competitions. The chisels, knives, spokeshaves — to “true it down” — sanders, and calipers that he uses on his decoys are arranged in a foam organizer. Dozens of bird bills dangle from nails, so that Gaskill can study their features, like the wartlike bumps near the mouth of a Ross’s goose. Or he can sit outside beneath the scuppernong arbor and watch the real things paddle around a natural habitat he created. When it comes to decoys, details matter.

Gaskill and other decoy carvers will sell their creations at the Core Sound Decoy Festival on December 3 and 4. Learn more at

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Susan Stafford Kelly was raised in Rutherfordton. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of Carolina Classics, a collection of essays that have appeared in Our State, and five novels: How Close We Come, Even Now, The Last of Something, Now You Know, and By Accident. Susan has three grown children and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Sterling.