A blog sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Sharing news and information about the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Quilt Index, the MSU Museum's traditional arts activities, Great Lakes traditional artists and arts resources, and much more. Development of content for this blog supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Family Tradition of Ice Fishing Decoys

Myron “Mike” Ballard (1917 – 2005)
1989 Festival of Michigan Folklife, East Lansing


The 1989 Festival of Michigan Folkife, produced by the MSU Museum and held on the campus of Michigan State University, featured the theme “family traditions. One such family tradition was carried on by three generations of ice fishing decoy carvers: 1990 Michigan Heritage Award winner Dave Kober (currently living in Tustin, Michigan), his son Travis, and his uncle and mentor, Myron “Mike” Ballard. This video footage, shot by Gary McCuaig of the MSU Department of Communication Arts, shows Mike Ballard as he demonstrates the decoys in a water tank. The video excerpt clearly illustrates the family trademark: use of the natural wood grain combined with metal painted fins, a skill Mike learned from his father, Lester Ballard. Footage of completed decoys also show another family technique—carving the dorsal fins so the decoy “stands” on these fins when out of the water. Most carvers choose not to place the fins below the fish in the natural position, but the Ballard-Kober family insists on this practice. For more information on the Michigan Heritage Awards, see http://museum.msu.edu/s-program/mh_awards/mha.html. For more information on the Kober-Ballard ice fishing tradition, see http://www.koberdecoys.com/.