The 2019 Featured Carver is Dr. Stan Rule Beaufort, NC, and the featured bird is a Harlequin duck. 

Dr. Stan Rule lives in Beaufort, NC, and was introduced to carving by long-time Guild member John Panaccione in 2003. He recalls his very first visit to the Guild, where he also met Curt Salter, one of the seven founding members of the Guild and a man who became his mentor and close friend: 


“I met John and he encouraged me, knowing I loved working with wood, to come to the Guild to try carving.  I was off the next day and went down empty-handed and naive and Curt was there and had just cut a coot out on the bandsaw—he marked areas for me to carve and handed me a knife….pencil….carve…

pencil..carve…and he guided me step by step through the entire process.”


Stan credits John with teaching him to use the biggest brush feasible for each task, which creates a smoother appearance, and to think about the type of light the bird will be seen in when considering how to paint the decoy.  “John was always very supportive.  He thought everything I did was wonderful,” remembers Stan.


Dr. Rule says that Curt taught him that a pencil is “your key tool, and that the best carvers have an inner vision of the bird they will finish with.” And, most importantly, Curt showed him that a day spent carving with friends was better than a vacation. These two men created a lifetime of memories by carving together weekly for over a decade.


Tony Bua, of Vilas, NC, was instrumental in educating Stan about anatomy and proportion on his decorative birds, as well as offering him tips to improve his painting skills.  Tony’s instruction may have created a bit of friendly competition – in 2017 Stan won the paint bird contest at the Decoy Festival, and Tony placed second, only to have the tables turn in 2018 with Tony taking the blue ribbon.  A big aspect of decoy carving and painting is patience, something Tony reminds Stan of often. “He (Tony) tells me I rush too much near the end of projects…wanting to see the final product,” Stan shares.


Upon the recommendation from Brother Gaskill, Stan began entering his carvings in competitions to enhance his knowledge and experience and to advance his skill. He also volunteered to assist with the annual Core Sound Decoy Festival decoy competition as a way to closely see the variety of carvings as well as hear and see what the judges were looking for.  His hard work and determination paid off – Dr. Rule has won a Best of Show in the Novice Decorative category, the Core Sound category, the Root Head category, as well as the painting contest throughout the years at the Core Sound Decoy Festival.  He also won a blue ribbon in the Decorative Floating Division with a red-breasted merganser, placed third in the Novice Decorative Shorebird Division at the Wards World Championship with a Black-necked Stilt, won a Best of Species ribbon in the Novice Decorative category, and his ruddy hen was awarded Best of Species at the Lem and Steve Hunting Decoy Division.  Among his favorite memories is a killdeer that won Decorative Novice Best of Show against strong competition that he entered as an afterthought, and his favorite carving is a hummingbird that he made for his sister.


Stan likes to carve a variety of birds, including waterfowl and the occasional songbird.  He enjoys learning the anatomy and life traits of each species, and prefers to carve decorative birds using his own photography.  He loves to carve rigs for hunters, serving the truest purpose of the decoy.  Stan continues to improve his skill set and style, and confesses that he’d love to hide many of his early carvings! 


Aside from his busy medical practice, Dr. Rule is very involved with the Guild and has been so for over 15 years.  He has served on the Guild’s Board of Directors, and currently leads the very successful Kids Carving and Painting program, which was started in 2004 by Brother Gaskill and Curt Salter.  Over the years Stan has helped youth carve and paint hundreds of decoys and other waterfowl. He coordinates the youth day activities during the decoy festival and has been an integral part of running the decoy competition since 2004.  He often mentors adults in creating Core Sound style decoys or decorative birds.  A busy and talented fellow, he also serves as contributor to Wildfowl Carving Magazine’s Competition edition, reporting on the annual decoy festival and various carvers.


Many people agree that the best part of decoy carving is the people – the friends you make from all over who are brought together over the common denominator of decoys, and Stan wholeheartedly agrees.  He says, “The best part of this social experience is the fellowship of Guild members year round and the festival community.”  Like so many other carvers, he finds carving a “relaxing and rewarding addiction that promotes the retention of sanity.”  Stan cherishes the connection to the beautiful environment and to the rich Down East heritage that carving affords, and the storytelling just enriches the experience.  He’s honored to be chosen as the 2019 Featured Carver, especially considering the past Featured Carvers he now joins, and feels that this honor is the best award yet.


Above:  Harlequin duck.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo credit: peggycadigan [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons