Born in Crisfield, Maryland, Oliver “Tuts” Lawson (b. 1938) began carving when he was only nine years old, shortly before he began his lifelong relationship with the Ward brothers. His mother worked with Lem Ward’s wife Thelma and one day showed her the boy’s work. He was soon encouraged to show his work to the brothers. After this first visit with the Wards, Tuts was constantly asking the brothers for their opinions on his work. By the age of 12, his carving became a very serious hobby.
In 1954, while his friends were working at the Carvel Hall Company, Tuts carved miniature and life-sized decoys, making him a good living. Tuts realized by the age of 17 that he could make a living as a carver.
Tuts was not just a close friend of Lem and Steve, he also worked beside them, helping them to fill their orders. He was a friend, colleague, and confidant of the Ward family. Tuts is a direct line to the history and knowledge of the Ward brothers, a keeper of the knowledge and traditions that helped to shape the field of wildfowl carving. He is also a founder of the Ward Foundation, seeking to honor his dear friends and their legacy.
Tuts has served as a judge at the Ward World Championship Carving Competition multiple times. In 1999, he served as the honorary chairman for the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum for their festival that year. Tuts’ work was also featured on NBC’s The Today Show. His work is now a part of the World Bird Carving exhibition being showcased in major Japanese cities. Tuts has exhibited in the Easton Waterfowl Festival for decades.
Today, Tuts is one of the region’s best contemporary bird carvers. He researches his art by watching birds in their natural habitats, extensively reading about the ecosystems which he recreates and he has even taken flowers apart to carefully study each petal. Tuts still lives in Crisfield, where he continues to impress audiences with his attention to detail and his passion for his art. Tuts’ work is highly sought after by collectors and is held at the Ward Museum, the Mellon Institute, Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, as well as numerous private collections.
The Ward Foundation is pleased to honor Oliver “Tuts” Lawson with the 2018 Living Legend award because of his contributions to the Ward Foundation, his service to the carving community, and his consummate skill as a carver.