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King of the Carvers

"Paul Burdette"

When he was a very successful construction superintendent for the Otis Elevator Company eleven years ago (1980), Paul Burdette suddenly chucked it all and went to work as a full-time carver of wildlife. Today he is rated one of the ten world Masters of the International Wildlife Carvers Guild. His works sell for up to $45,000 each and are displayed in galleries worldwide including the Smithsonian Institute.

It all started back when he whittled for badges in competitions in Cubs, Scouts and Venturers.

"Carving was always something I wanted to do. But it took a lot ofguts to quitagood jobandmove awayfrom myhometown ofTorontotothecountry where we opened "Gallery in the Country" at Orton, Ontario near Orangeville. I finally won enough prizes and gained enough confidence that I knew I could make the break."

Paul won the world championship in decoy carving in 1974 and finished second in the world championship in decorative lifesize wildfowl in 1976.

"Decoy carving ofducks is the roots for wildlife carving as it is known today. The old antique decoys were the functional decoys: the utilitarian tool which is now collectible. In the beginning that was what got me going. Now, people like myselfhave just expanded on that old art and brought it up to the real bird."

The decoys entered in carving competitions are placed in a tank of water to be judged, just like the bird in water. His really look like the real thing, but ...

"I've gone far beyond decoy carving. I do many full-bodied birds flying and perching and preening. I go beyond even calling myself a carver. I use wood but I don't use as many sharp-edged tools anymore; I use lots of types of grinders, stones and cutters. There's a lot of electrical equipment for doing my work these days."

A piece can take up to eight months to complete and although it may sell for $45. 000 or more, Paul figures that is underpriced.

"When you consider the amount of work that goes into a single piece and compare it with painting, it is very underpriced. The painter on the other hand, who paints two-dimensional work, might do eight to ten pieces in eight months and sell themfor $10,000 or $15,000 each. There is ofcourse, the satisfaction of knowing that when you are creating something there is somebody out there who will pay $45,000 for it. Anytime you do what you love to do, and to create and have the piece come out so it pleases you, it is very satistying."

Is there a reluctance then to sell it to some stranger who will take it away forever?

"All the people I've had who've gravitated towards my work have all had the same feelings towards art and wildlife. So when something goes away it is going to a good home. It's like raising show dogs and everybody wanting one of their pups. They want them to go into good homes. With some people you can go to the extent of screening them and going into their homes. I have done that but ofcourse I can't screen buyer's homes when they come to mefrom the U.S., England and Germany."

Opening the gallery in Orton has been a mixed blessing. While it has given work and a good living to his wife Dolly and sons Glen and Mark, it has its disadvantages too. But that was not apparent when he first made the move to the country.

"When I started off with the gallery business, which evolved because I wanted to expand upon having a studio to show my own work, I created a tail that wags the dog. I ended up having less time to carve than I thought I would. Whereas I thought I would have more time for my sculpture, I ended up having less time than when I was working for Otis."

It's a classic example of nothing succeeds like success and everything has its price. But Paul is not complaining. He's a success on two fields now.

"Right from the day we opened it was like a fairytale come true. It was beyond my expectations and my wife's expectations. I just never expected we'd get that kind of response. We knew that it was fitting to have a gallery in the country because we knew we're going to be dealing with a lot of wildlife and floral scenes and the country was a fitting setting for them."

Word of the gallery's success soon spread and others began to emulate the Burdettes.

"It's a compliment too. We've had people call from the United States and who've come up to see why it worked for us and to see if it would work for them. They would all love to be out where we are. I guess a lot ofthem never wanted to take the risk-to make the move."

Paul's gallery has expanded to include original paintings by many of the world's most noted naturalist artists. I asked Paul what his advice is for anyone wishing to start a business?

"You have to have honesty and integrity in everything you do. With the people you deal with; with the general public. People look to me to guide them, especially in our business. They rely on me to tell them if it is good work or not good work.

We have a basic philosophy, my wife and sons and myself, which I have tried to instill: we will never sell anything in the gallery that we wouldn't be proud to have in our own home. Another thing a person going into business has to realize is you have to work hard. Your days are not going to be 9 to 5.

ing Paul and doing his story I now check hotels where I stay. Usually I find the hotel is equipped with his products.

"The key to the whole operation was the nozzle. We have a patent on both design and invention. The difference between our nozzle and the conventional type is that first ofall it' s a constant gallonage nozzle, which is a firefighting term: it just means the pumps don't have to fluctuate as the stream changes from wide angle to the straight stream.

"To have this in an industrial firefighting nozzle was a first back in 1975. Beyond that, it was simply designed around a molding principle because it was ofpolycarbonate rather than brass. Polycarbonate is a space-age material which lends itself to our industry because it will not support combustion and it is so strong. It is used on nose cones on rockets. We have tested these nozzles to 1,000 pounds p.s.i. (per square inch), and you still can't break them. "

A very good product indeed. And one that sells in 52 countries around the world!

I never expected we'd do so well. I thought if we promoted it and sold it, our product would maybe make us a living. Now it's more than that."

It's not a big firm for providing jobs:

"Four in Canada and six in the U.S., but these people just assemble and test the products because the parts are molded for us outside. But I can assure you that we employ a lot ofpeople in the process ofputting that product where it is."

And 'where it is' even surprises Paul Campbell.

I was sailing in the Virgin Islands and I remember sitting down in one of their little chase boats that they use in the event that your sailboat is five miles away and has some problem. Everyone of those chase boats had our hose and nozzle on a rack in the back. It made us feel just great knowing our products were in use in the Virgin Islands!"

What advice does designer-inventor Paul Campbell of Dundas, Ontario have for other hopeful Canadian Achievers?

"Ifyou have a dream andyou have a designfor some product, and you're honest with the people who are going to work with you, and with your bankers, go ahead andfulfill your dream. Do it because you can have a lot offun and it's very satisfying when you see everything up and running.

"Ifyou have covered all those bases and you have a good product to provide to a needing market, do it! It'll fly!"

It certainly has flown for Paul Campbell. He's happy now because he was denied the promotion he felt he deserved. So he got mad and quit, and hasn't looked back. He's another Canadian Achiever.

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