'I've got bird fever'

Sculptor uses forest finds to re-create avian beauty

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SANDGATE — Bryan Richheimer likes birds. He likes the colorful plumage, the sound of their song and the fact that he can create a sculpture of his favorite breeds using bark, twigs and root remnants he finds during his numerous treks through the Vermont forest.

But mostly he likes the creative process. And the birds.

"It's a funny thing," he said. "I've got bird fever. But it's a lot of fun."

Having only begun this artistic sojourn into the world of avian style in November 2016, he already has about a dozen pieces on display at the Vermont Welcome Center on Route 7 in Bennington, and has sold more than a few pieces - through his new business Aloft - to private buyers at prices that range from $200 to $400.

Richheimer works out of a small studio in his Sandgate home where he is surrounded by the hills and forests of Vermont. He has plenty of feather-bearing critters to watch from his deck.

On the shelves of his studio are little bits of bark and branch he has gathered during his hikes. Sometimes he'll be looking for something to use on a work of a specific breed he is trying to create. Other times he'll pick up something that reminds him of a wing or a tail of a species of bird he is familiar with, and will decide to make that his next project.

"Sometimes I pick something up and I don't know what I'll use it for, but I know I'll think of something," Richheimer said.

He molds the bodies from air-dry potter's clay, and applies elements from the forest for their legs, wings and tails, maybe the beak.

Once assembled, he'll be meticulous in applying paint to fill in the colorful details.

Last summer, Richheimer won Honorable Mention in Saratoga Springs at the Trask Museum annual fund raiser with his very first bird, 'Homer.' He has also been juried and accepted into the Manchester Vermont Artisan's Gallery, EPOCH starting in May.

He became fascinated with the concept from a friend, who makes birds from driftwood. That inspired him to make a heron from his favorite hunk of driftwood he kept at home. Since then he has shifted his focus to smaller birds using materials the forest offers up.

Richheimer, a retired Honeywell lab technician, says he's done 28 sculptures of a wide variety of birds including songbirds, cardinals, a heron, and a chickadee.

And he isn't sure how long he'll be sculpting birds.

"I make a lot of birds," he said. "I'm always working on another bird. But that's okay. There are a lot of birds. I'll never run out of birds."

For more information, https://birdsataloft.com.

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