Vintage Japanese American Hand-Carved Wood Bird Whistle

Sale price$25.00

Dimensions: 2-1/4”h x 1-1/2d”w x 3-0”l

Wood carving of little birds was a prevalent craft in internment camps throughout the United States.

To create a bird, artists sketched an outlying on flat wood, carved it with a knife, and sanded it to give the bird three-dimensional form. Finally it was painted with a decoration known to the craftsperson and accustomed to seeing in Japanese Kokeshi design.  Many sophisticated birds were more materials were available were extremely realistic and beautifully refined. Other bird forms such as this little chubby were legless and without feet because it was very difficult to simulate in these in these confined quarters, or to find diverse materials other than scrap wood. Some bird carving were made as brooches with pins and others, as with this charming bird were made into whistles for their children.

This little creature has a point beak, green eyes and red chrysanthemum flower petals on both its head and wings. Its’ body is the sound chamber, (the size of the chamber indicates the pitch of the sound), the tail is the mouthpiece or pipe, with in a form that acted like a dowel, partially flattened and that would slide into the mouthpiece so as to facilitate the sound. The bottom of the bird has a notch or opening for air to flow through to make sound. The are no tone holes as with more elaborate whistles. If the maker was somewhere other than in an internment camp he/she would probably used Bamboo or Elder wood, (Niwatoko no ki) which created a softer sound. We obtained this charming piece from a young American Japanese who said his parents never talked about their experiences, passed this onto him and he no longer had any ties to the piece. He wanted it to go to a person who valued Japanese handicrafts.

Condition: Excellent with some indication of wear but remains a natural well crafted piece of mingei. No chips, cracks, breaks, missing pieces or restoration, and retains its original details and finish. The piece meets all the standards of the collectible Toys.