Sam and Lily Nottleman Decoy Makers

Brenda T. Weitzman

Behind every quality decoy is a quality sculptor. Two of the industry’s leading craftsmen are Sam and Lily Nottleman. If you’ve begun collecting decoys then you should definitely know these names. They form a team that creates some of the top decoy pieces available. Here are some fascinating details that you should know about them:

1. They live in Minnesota.
Sam and Lilly create their magnificent decoys from their home-studio located in Winona, Minnesota. They’re surrounded by rolling bluffs and the lovely Mississippi River. Both Sam and Lilly are interested in both waterfowl and folk art. With Sam’s and Lilly’s respective skills being in carving and painting, their marriage formed a team that has produced a magnificent decorative decoy collection that has become renowned.

2. They create decoys for Loon Lake Decoy Company.
Those interested in collecting decoys should certainly consider the magnificent decoy creations from Sam and Lilly. They began working for Look Lake in the early 1990s, and have since created several quality sculptures for them.

3. The process begins with a block of wood.
If you buy a decoy from Loon Lake, then you can fully appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into the carving and painting of the piece. The entire process begins with a block of (tupelo) wood, which originates from Louisiana. Sam first draws the decoy’s pattern. He then uses a variety of grinders and other tools in the process of refining the block of wood. Amazingly, the shaping of the wood requires more than 100 hours for a single bird. Meanwhile, larger birds can require as much as 400 hours to create. Sam then uses a burning pen in order to create the feather patterns of the bird. This process can require as much as a month to complete!

4. The detailed painting adds the finishing touches.
As those interested in collecting decoys now, the painstaking process of creating a handcrafted decoy continues with the addition of detailed paint patterns. Lilly uses a wide variety of brushes, and various acrylic paints, to work her magic. To give the decoy a more natural appearance, she uses an airbrush in order to merge the individual colors on the piece.

5. Their creations are lifelike.
In fact, the decoy collection of Loon Lake has become world renowned for the natural appearance of its pieces. This includes the lifelike features of the birds, as well as their realistic action poses. Anyone who is serious about starting a decoy collection of high quality pieces should definitely consider those from Loon Lake.

6. Their Master Carver series is the best-of-the-best.
Sam and Lilly have created various sculptures such as; “Columbia” which is part of their Master Carver series. This single work that honors the American Bald Eagle represents over 600 hours of labor.

If you have a decoy collection or may start one, you should definitely consider the works of Sam and Lilly Nottleman. Their exquisite craftsmanship is displayed in the carving and painting of each piece that they create. The Nottlemans’ works represent the beauty, precision, and quality of a handcrafted decoy.

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