July 14, 2010

New exhibit here at the Science Center

We are proud to announce that we have just opened a new exhibit featuring a collection of intricately carved and hand painted life-sized birds. The 80 carvings representing 74 species of fresh water and ocean birds are part of a collection of 241 pieces donated to the Science Center earlier this year by Joyce and Marty Briner.

Joyce and Marty Briner are a team. Not only a partnership through a marriage of more than 60 years, they have collaborated as artists for almost as long. Joyce grew up in a family of birders in Westtown, in southeastern Pennsylvania. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. She was an elementary school teacher, a teaching aide for special education students, and also did illustrations for magazines and children’s science textbooks. Joyce taught Marty how to carve; she always uses hand tools and still carves and paints her own designs. Joyce also meticulously paints all the sculptures Marty produces, using numerous books as reference to get the colors and patterns just right.

Marty grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Muhlenberg College, which he attended on the GI Bill after serving in the south Pacific, including Okinawa, during World War II. Prior to the war, Marty worked as a machinist, where he learned about dimensioning in his job making rocket shells, skills later translated to creating animal carvings.

Marty Briner explains that the process of carving starts with a block of clear wood (no knots) of even hardness and straight grain. It is cut to the rough size of the finished piece and then coarse sanded to round the edges. Next, a soft sander brings out the form a bit more. Fine hand tools are further used to shape the piece. Wood burning tools form the feathers and other details. Eyes are glass; the same as taxidermists use. “Then the sculpture is painstakingly hand-painted by Joyce -- including building an eye ring. Realistic feet are made of pewter casts purchased from a supplier,” explained Marty. The bird is mounted on a piece of driftwood or a finished base.

Retired since 1983, the Briners have won awards from carving clubs where they also did demonstrations, lessons, and served as judges. The Briners have lived in Elkins, New Hampshire since 2003, with one of their three daughters. They also have one son and nine grandchildren. In their 80s now, they plan to move later this year to a retirement home in Durham, North Carolina. Downsizing their belongings, they made a decision to donate most of their Birds of New England collection to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, where it will continue to teach children about the natural world

“This display shows only about a third of the whole collection,“ said Iain MacLeod, Executive Director of the Science Center. “We would like to create a permanent exhibit of the entire collection of 241 carvings as a lasting tribute to the Briners and their years of pains-taking work.” MacLeod added that as a birder and an artist himself he can appreciate the amazing level of detail and skill that went into each and every piece. “We at the Science Center are thrilled to be the recipients of this collection and proud to showcase the Briner’s body of work,” he added.

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