bird footprints Wendell Gilley




Wendell Gilley is a name well known among carvers and carving collectors. Author of The Art of Bird Carving: A Guide to a Fascinating Hobby, one of the earliest instructional books on the subject, Gilley was a pioneer in the field of decorative bird carving. By his estimate, he created “ten thousand birds of pine and paint” between 1931 and 1983. (Gilley also loved alliteration; it should be noted that most of his carvings were made of basswood.)

Early years

Before gaining renown as a master carver, Gilley was best known around his hometown of Southwest Harbor, Maine as a master plumber.

A new calling

In 1930, Gilley visited the New England Museum of Natural History in Boston.


The museum idea was supported by many others, however, and late in 1979 the Wendell Gilley Museum of Bird Carving was incorporated as a non-profit organization by public-spirited individuals who sought to ensure the preservation of Wendell Gilley’s unique contribution to American heritage.

wooden bird carvings