Nelson, Albert “AL” – Cadillac, Michigan

5/5 - (1 vote)

{Info provided by Al & Gail Nelson – 1/2024, some grammar corrections done by Larry Christy}

Al NelsonMy name is Al Nelson. I am the son of Lousie and Delsie Nelson of Cadillac, Michigan. I am one of 10 brothers and 5 sisters. We were blessed to live all of our lives on beautiful Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell. James Nelson (referred to as Judd in our family) is one of my brothers. We grew up doing a lot of hunting and fishing. To our large family, this was our way of putting food on our table. In the wintertime, our days were filled with ice fishing to provide food. I recall many times fish was all we had to eat. We grew up around ice fishing and spearing as it was a big thing for our family. Through the years all of my brothers became productive and avid fishermen. As a result, we all learned how to make decoys in some fashion or another. Growing up, James was the most advanced at carving. He started making decoys in the 1930s. As time went on, James was a promoter of fish decoys and keeping Oscar Peterson’s legacy alive. I believe James was one of the primary reasons Oscar got the notoriety that he deserved. In addition, our uncle Jess Raimy, who was married to my mother’s sister, was a well-known contributor to the carving legacy. He also made many decoys from the 1930s on up. He and Oscar were very instrumental in developing what is known as the “Cadillac Style” of carving. When one thinks of the “Cadillac Style” of carving, it is Oscar Peterson who we all recognize. As a result the city of Cadillac Michigan has received the honor of having a style of decoys, “Cadillac Style” named after it.

I would describe my brother James Nelson’s style of decoys as folk art. He didn’t do a lot of blending when painting, but his paint went together well. He made approximately 6,000 to 7,000 decoys from 1938 until he died in 2013. His favorite decoys to carve were Pike and Suckers. Most of my inspiration for carving and painting style came from that same “Cadillac Style”. My decoys are more of a blended type and to date I have made a little over 2,000. To make my decoys, I start off with a piece of Michigan white pine and carve everything by hand. All of my paintings’ is done by hand with a paintbrush. No air brushing or spraying is used. Upon completion of each decoy, I will take it to Lake Cadillac to ensure that they are leaded and weighted properly for a successful swim. On all of my decoys you will find a little letter “T”. That indicates that the decoy has been tested and is a good swimmer. Most of my decoys that I carve are 9 or 10 inch decoys. I have made a few plaques, figurines, a platter, a partridge in a pear tree and a tribute to Oscar Peterson over the years. I am so grateful to be part of a rich carving heritage and I enjoy sharing my decoys to fishermen/women and collectors. I also love teaching others about the rich history of carving fish decoys as well as teaching them how to carve and paint fish decoys.

AL Nelson SIgnature  

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