From Harlem to a Virginia Farm.
Carving birds came quite naturally
to Matt Cormons. He had always been keenly interested in nature
and spent many hours of his childhood in the overgrown lots adjoining his
home in New York's East Harlem. It was there that he began
to learn about plants and animals (mainly insects). With reading
and trips to many of the city's parks (which had a surprising variety of insects, reptiles, amphibians,
birds and plants) and zoos, he was well on his way to becoming a fine naturalist. His interests led to a bachelor's degree in zoology from the City College of New York and a master's degree in animal behavior from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Matt had never felt settled in the city and believed that one day he'd leave; it wasn't about to happen soon. After graduating from CCNY he worked for five years at the American Museum of Natural History as a teacher and lecturer, and later as a technical illustrator and field assistant (resulting in two new Venezuelan insect species named after him). After graduate school he taught middle school science at a private school in New York City, followed by twelve years as the director of an environmental education center in a New Jersey suburb across the Hudson from New York.
Finally, in 1985, at the age of
44 (and against the advice of their less venturesome friends, neighbors
and family) Matt, his wonderful, always supportive wife Grace, and their two young sons decided to
leave New Jersey for their dream of living a more self-sufficient lifestyle away from the intense pace
of the city and suburbs. That April they moved to a 43 acre farm on Virginia's Eastern Shore and since
then have been living very full, independent, satisfying and busy lives. Their two sons, schooled at
home by Matt nd Grace, are graduates of the University of Virginia and are also pursuing independent lifestyles (in environmental law and piloting sea vessels).
Geese, ducks, turkeys, guinea fowl, cows, goats, chickens and rabbits provide their meat; the goats and cows also provide milk, cheese and butter, and other milk products. The family also enjoys venison, rabbit, squirrel and other game from their woodland and fields, and a variety of fish from their pond, the nearby bay and ocean. Their fields provide hay for their horses and other livestock, and they grow a variety of vegetables and any fruits they can grow organically (with the help of their honeybees).
For the past four years Matt
has been assisting Grace in her long term study of the endangered RoseateTern,
taking time off each spring from the farm and his carving to trap and band
terns in the Azores (2004 was his fifth year). The resulting data
on the species' movements has been published
in one of the leading ornithological journals.
Matt in the Azores, 2003
Matt's carving, which fits well
into this lifestyle, provides a large part of the family income, but over
the years has been supplemented in various ways, including a "family farm
and nature camp" for children, leading nature walks at nearby Chincoteague
Wildlife Refuge, writing nature articles, reviewing nature manuscripts,
growing organic produce for market, selling livestock and hay, and teaching
adult education and English as a Second Language courses. Recently
Matt has been heavily involved with photography, writing copy, illustrating,
sharing ideas and acting as a "facilitator" for an innovative and very
successful family literacy program initiated by Grace (see his cartoon
of SPARKY, the blue crab mascot for the program, immediately below).
He has also had major input into each of the four acclaimed early reading
books resulting from the program. A children's novel Matt has written
about an operatic starling has yet to be published.
Latent Talent and Good Luck
Along with his interest in nature, Matt showed an early talent for drawing. His parents, however, had discouraged him from pursuing a career in art. Nor did Matt's father, a highly skilled cabinetmaker who emigrated from Italy as a young man, want Matt to follow in his footsteps. But that wasn't the end of it. A year before moving to Virginia, Matt had decided to carve decoys; six months after moving to Virginia he took a decoy carving course with a local carver. Since then Matt has carved about a hundred bird species and, as you can see on this web site, has gone well beyond decoys.
Matt had finally found his niche
- applying his artistic talent to
wood (to his parents' ultimate delight).
By the way, if you're wondering about Cormons being an appropriate name for an Italian cabinetmaker, check out the name in a good atlas or on the internet.
Reach Matt at: E-mail
26201 Dennis Rd.
Parksley, VA 23421