Fresno man places third in world carving competition

Anthony Donato pictured with his decoys after winning third in the world at a prestigious carving competition.

A block of wood is how it all starts.

"Once you get this done, then it goes upstairs, inside, and I start doing all my knife work," Anthony Donato said.

A duck is taking shape, at the hands of the Fresno man.

"You always start with the bill," Donato said. "And you just chip, carve it," he said.

Donato said he makes sure every single inch of this piece is anatomically correct.

"You’re constantly measuring, drawing on the block of wood, cutting it away," Donato said.

Then, Donato said the process of burning the feathers in, is what separates the good from the champs.

"You have to burn as light as you can," Donato said.

It's a tedious part, one Donato said could take weeks. But he said it takes this kind of attention to detail to come in third in the entire world for wildfowl carvings.

Donato placed third in decorative carvings in the 48th Annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival in Ocean City, Maryland.

Donato said part of him kind of felt it was coming as he watched the judges.

"The judges weren’t ignoring your pieces and they kept picking them up," Donato said.

Donato said this all began in about third grade.

"The guy gives me a block of wood and goes, 'Here you go, go carve yourself a duck!'" Donato said.

Donato admits, he didn't start then. He said he didn't know how to. That is, until he got into his 30's.

"I wanted to create something out of a block of wood that looked real," Donato said.

Donato said he read books, bought videos on how to do it. But he said he also got to see a world champion do it. Donato said he was able to go to visit master carver Dennis Schroeder when he was living in North Fork.

Today, Donato's home is filled with all kinds of decoys, vintage ones, ones using cork, even ones made using palm fronds.

Donato even has one goose that took third in the world last year that will eventually be shipped off to a collector who paid $5,000 for it.

But it's more than just a paycheck for Donato, who by the way, still has a full-time job at a radio station.

"There’s no dollar amount, that just the fact that it’s in someone’s collection and there it’s more rewarding then getting a check for a decoy," Donato said.

Donato said his personal goal is to one day win the prestigious world champion for decorative decoys.

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