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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Kelly is a contributing editor at Our State. She is the author of By Accident and the novels Now You Know, The Last of Something, Even Now, and How Close We Come, winner of the Carolina Novel Award and an alternate selection of Book-of-the-Month Club. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lives in Greensboro.