Low Country Birds

Made by Kelly Richard

Last year Hunting Island State Park off the coast of South Carolina transformed its Visitors Center to feature life-sized sculptures of native birds, a huge Loggerhead Turtle and a full-surround interactive mural. I was commissioned to create these extremely realistic and light in weight sculptures. These creatures were made of aluminum wire and foil and many layers of Jonni’s Silky-Smooth Air-Dry Clay recipe. I will be forever grateful to Jonni for sharing her recipe.

Bald Eagle made with air dry clay
Bald Eagle
Osprey made with air dry clay

21 thoughts on “Low Country Birds”

  1. All your birds are fantastic!!! the detail and painting are perfect. I have made several birds but none are flying. That aspect really makes your sculptures come to life. Wonderful work!!! Congrats!

    • Dear Pat,
      Thank you so much. I really enjoy creating birds. The flying birds pictured were a commission and I had never created a flying bird before that time. Now I look forward to finding opportunities when I can create more flying birds. Most people don’t know what to do with a flying bird. One of the challenges is what to do with the bird form while you are working on it. I had to build temporary bases to hold them in place.
      Thanks again! Kelly

  2. Hi Kelly,

    My name is Lisa, and I am a paper mache artist myself. I absolutely love your birds. They are incredible to look at. Great job. Thank you for sharing. The details are so life like. Keep up the good work. Your so amazing.

  3. Hi Kelly,
    Jonnie encouraged me to connect with you since you were commissioned by the museum to sculpt these beautiful birds. I’m very interested in finding work creating sculptures for museums. I’ve recently sculpted 2 pieces (the blue shark and the giant tarantula hawk) posted elsewhere. Could we connect so I can get some insights from you?

  4. Hi Kelly! I have a young student who I’m teaching over Zoom who has always wanted to make a flying snowy owl out of paper or paper mache. She does have some past experience working with paper mache, but I’m not sure how to get her started with the armature etc. It’s especially hard since I can’t be with her in person. Is there a good step-by-step I could use to help her through the process? Your birds are incredible!

    • Dear Caitlin,
      Unfortunately, there is no step by step process-it was more like figure it out as I went. I wish I had documented the process. One of the most important things I did was really study the structure of the birds. I used actual size photos from every angle. Making sure the wing span was appropriate for the bird’s body was also important. I used aluminum sculpture wire for the body, head and legs. I used one strip of 1 3/8” flat steel for the wings (it ran from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other wing). I cut the steel the appropriate length and bent it in a vise. I put angle iron in the back of the birds to attach 2 eye bolts for hanging.

      I would suggest creating the wings flat as if the bird is gliding. As soon as you bend the wings it is much harder to balance and hang.

      I hope these tips are helpful. Good luck. Thank you for asking ?.

  5. Wonderful work! I get excited every time I catch a glimpse of the osprey that nest on a cell phone tower on my way to work, not far from Lake Greenwood in South Carolina.

    • Thanks so much. I certainly have a great appreciation for Osprey and their huge nests.

      Hope you can get to Hunting Island sometime. The park is the second most visited state park in SC.

  6. Fabulous, just fabulous! Kudos to you to get such a highly visible commission! I am jealous(but happy for a fellow artist!) I can’t decide which bird I love the most. Really great!

    • Eileen, thank you so much for the lovely compliment. I really enjoyed creating them but space was an issue. They are quite large. Each bird has a wingspan of five feet and they were delivered at the same time. I had birds everywhere in my house. ?

  7. Wow! You ought to be proud of what you have done. They are all great.

    I just have one question! What keeps them flying? What a great project.

    • Thanks so much, Rex. I have carefully concealed the hooks and wires that are keeping the birds flying in my photos…more accurately I used Photo Shop. Each bird is built with a strip of angle iron embedded in it’s back. 2 eye hooks are threaded through the angle iron and bolted. Wires attach the birds to hooks in the ceiling.

      It was a great, challenging project!

      • Thanks for the information. Flying needs a little practice and pre-planning! I have a Pterodactyl that is hanging from strings (attached to curtain rod and hanging light!). You have a good idea. I really like them.


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