Ernie Muehlmatt (1927 – 2016) was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania. He has spent over 30 years as a professional carver as well as a graphic and sketch artist, painter, florist and inventor. He is a firm believer that his work ethic, taught to him by his father while working on the family farm as a young boy, is the reason that he has been successful in the fields he has chosen. He sees things and thinks to himself “I can do that.” He served two years in the U.S. Army, stationed in the Aleutian Islands during World War II and afterward returned home and attended a two-year program in commercial art at the Advertising and Art Student League in Philadelphia. He put his skills to good use in the family’s floral business making floral arrangements for weddings. He and his staff once completed an order in 30 minutes, a feat that takes an average of five hours.
The next day Muehlmatt and his brother decided to close the retail end of the business. This was when Muehlmatt’s true love for carving began. Ernie Muehlmatt took over the space and used it as a carving studio, carving six days a week. On the seventh he took his carvings to the Jersey Shore and sold them for a few dollars each. He recalled that he made about $50 a week. He slowly made his wildfowl carving a full time job as demand for his work grew. His journey to national recognition came when he called the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin, disguised as a neighbor and told the newspaper staff that there was a wood carver in Springfield that should be interviewed. He also had an article in Popular Science Magazine about his invention of an inflatable greenhouse.
In the 1972 Ward Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition he won first, second and third place in different divisions and has continued to win throughout the years. Since that time he has won the World Championship, Best in Show, in three occasions: 1979 Miniature Division with the “Woodcock Pair”; 1981 with “Bittern Pair”; and 1984 with the life-size “Needles, Feathers and Bone.” All three of the works are on display in the Championship Gallery. He is most well known for his impressive one-piece cluster pieces and his technique of burning for color and innovative design elements.
He has four wood carving books Wildfowl Carving with Ernie Muehlmatt, Songbird Carving with Ernie Muehlmatt , Single Piece Bird Sculpture and Carving and Painting Black-Capped Chickadees with Ernie Muehlmatt. He teaches woodcarving and designs, is a Member of the Carvers’ Hall of Fame and has over 6000 wood carvings. He has two sons, Eric and Jeff, and resides in Salisbury, MD with his wife, Kathy.
For more on the life of Ernie Muehlmatt, visit the Friends Remembered page.