The Gift: Carved Birds
Visiting Japan, Danny Kamerath and his wife, Carol, were riding the bullet train. As lush landscape unspooled past their window they noticed a 7-year-old girl, sitting across the aisle with her mother, making an origami crane. When she finished folding, she whispered with her mother, then walked over and offered them the crane. They didn’t share a language, but Danny expressed his gratitude by reaching into his backpack and withdrawing a present for the girl: a small wooden bird he’d carved in his Texas woodshop. For Kamerath, who left a bustling career in advertising design 20 years ago to build furniture full time, it’s not unusual to have a wooden bird on hand. Carved birds are a currency of friendship and karma for Kamerath. He gives them to his family and friends at Christmas and sometimes to strangers on no special occasion. Since carving his first bird from a scrap of ebony as a Valentine’s Day gift for Carol 10 years ago, he’s made some 250 of them. He’s never sold one and has no desire to; he’s given them all away—“setting them free,” as he says—and they’ve migrated all over the world, landing with friends and acquaintances and strangers in Australia, Tanzania, China, Austria. And Japan.
—Jonathan Binzen, Photos by Danny Kamerath
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