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Hummingbird Sculpture

Making Hummingbird Sculptures 

In the fall of 2019, fellow Saturday Market vendor Eli Mazet showed me a straightforward way to make hummingbirds using clear glass. I wish I still had one, or at least a photo to share, but if you attend the Saturday Market and visit Eli’s booth, look at his hummingbird sculptures; you will see my starting point. At the same time, another Market vendor encouraged me to keep going. “Try adding color.” 

So I did. The out-of-print classic Hummingbirds by Crawford H. Greenewalt perfectly illustrates some of the different postures of flying hummingbirds. Perching copies of Greenewalt’s illustrations on my bench, I experimented with different colors, referencing his side and top view views of the birds hovering, flying full speed ahead, flying in reverse and breaking away in defensive upside-down somersault moves.



Greenwalt himself was something of an innovator in the world of hummingbird photography. While we often take images and film of hummingbirds for granted today, it is only relatively recently that we have been able to capture them in any detail at all. Greenwalt managed to capture crisp, colorful photos of the birds in the 1950s, well before smartphones and digital cameras. As for his definitive illustrations (pictured above) Greenwalt achieved those by building on work by another innovator: Harold Edgerton.

Inventor of the modern photographic strobe flash, Edgerton was the first to apply his technology to the filming of hummingbirds in the 1930’s. Then, in the 1950s, Greenewalt equipped a wind tunnel with a hummingbird feeder on one end and into the other released a female Ruby-throat. As she flew into the 0 to 30 mph headwinds, he made high speed movies, freezing the hummingbird wings with Edgerton’s flash photography technology. Greenewalt published his flight research in Hummingbirds in 1960 while serving as president (later to become the Chairman of the board) at the Du Pont Company. 

Here are some of my results of the hovering bird:

        Greenewalt’s Illustrations                                                                                                                 My take

  Hover #1                 Hover #2                          Hover #3                                Hover #4                                 Hover #5                

  Hover #6       




I use dichroic glass to light up these birds with iridescence. Living hummingbird’s iridescence is on their heads and gorgets, but since my supply of dichroic glass is limited to flats sheets, it’s the wings of my birds that get the sparkle. The wings are crafted from 2 thin triangular shapes of dichroic glass stacked and melted together with the metal oxide on the inside to keep it from burning off. The wings are attached to ½” diameter colored rods that have been sculpted and flame worked at 3000° Fahrenheit to make their body, head, and tail. It’s been a matter of experimentation to find those balance points that makes the birds hang properly, and thankfully I have Greenewalt photos and illustrations to help me get them just right.

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At the 2018 Oregon Country Fair a customer stopped by to say his feeder was attracting bees. Initially I didn’t believe him. In all our years feeding the hummingbirds, we’d never seen any honey bees getting through the feeding ports. I was confident my design kept the bees out.



Later that summer during the heat of August however, I did indeed witness yellow jackets and wasps muscling their way into the chamber to feed. I realized my customer was right, but also that he must have been confusing the honey bees with yellow jackets, wasps, and other yellow stingy things. Humbled, I remedied the situation by making the hole a lot smaller – not very aesthetic but the objective was met.

Then I 3D printed some flowers with a small hole and epoxied them onto the cowling. That also worked: the birds could feed and the insects could not.

I then consulted a machinist. Would it be possible to make an attractive metal flower that, when attached to the cowling, would take up some of the hole’s diameter and shrink it the opening just enough to keep the insects out? The process we created goes like this: stack a dozen or so sheets of metal within a cutting template and laser cut flat flower shapes;

Press a cup shape and extrude the corolla in an arbor press;

Use the same arbor press with different tooling to attach/press the metal flower onto the cowling and paint them.



So there it is; the beta version. My concerns at this point, which I hope to get your feedback on:

  • Will the flowers keep the insects out?
  • Will the flower stay attached after years of use?
  • Will the color stay fast after years of use?
  • Do you like the flowers? Are they worth the effort?

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Launching a website is always challenging. It’s especially challenging when the fine product one is selling has over 150 variations, and even more challenging in the midst of a global pandemic. We’d rather not think about the extra screen time our small team has logged over the last few months!


Of course, the hummingbirds don’t care about any of that- they just want a nice feeding station! If you already have one established, you know that hummers are basically unstoppable when they’re on their way to get that nectar.


But what if you don’t have a feeding station established? No worries! Setting up a space for your feeder is not difficult. Here are a few pointers to get started:


  • Consider the time of year. Some hummingbirds migrate, and even the most beautiful and inviting feeding station will go unused if all of the birds have gone on vacation. To learn more about your region, you can check with organizations like The Hummingbird Society or Audubon Society.
  • Pick a spot that is out of reach of common predators, particularly cats. Even if the neighborhood cats aren’t interested in hummers, the little birds will naturally gravitate towards areas that they believe to be safer. Making sure the feeder is high enough off of the ground will help the birds to feel more secure.
  • DON’T USE ANY ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS OR FOOD DYE IN YOUR NECTAR. The red on the bases will be more than sufficient to draw the birds, and food dyes can hurt them.
  • Nearby perches, be they natural or manmade, will make the space more appealing.
  • If the birds don’t find it right away, don’t worry- it may take days or even weeks. But keep it full and clean and once they find it, they’ll keep coming back as long as it’s fresh and full.


Enjoy the show!