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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Heritage Awards

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Deborah Caryl
Deborah Caryl
Photo by LuAnne Kozma

Deb Caryl
Deb Caryl demonstrates how to shear a sheep at the 2011 Great Lakes Folk Festival.
Photo by Gary Morgan

Deborah Caryl
2011 awardee, Davison (Genesee County), sheep shearing

Deb Caryl comes from a family of traditional champion sheep shearers and farmers and from a county with a long history of sheep breeding and shearing contests. Her father, Jerry, taught her how to shear 27 years ago when she took over his shearing business. Her son Sy has also followed in the family’s tradition and, likewise, become a champion sheep shearer. Together, mother and son raise sheep in Davison on their D & S Farms. Sheep must be sheared every year. Shearing sheep is a traditional art and skill that is honed over time. Expert shearing is done quickly, kindly and adeptly, with the shearer moving the animal in 37 different positions during the process. Deb regularly shears for owners of small flocks and is known for her shearing style that creates a single fleece with no second cuts, a style preferred by spinners. She has held many leadership roles within the sheep industry, including serving as a member of the Genesee County Agricultural Board and National Merino Board, coordinator of the Michigan Sheep Breeders Photo Contest, and coordinator of the Michigan State Fair Shearing Contest and National Sheep Shearing Contest, bringing the latter to the Genesee County Fair

Deb believes strongly in the sharing and passing on of this tradition to others. In addition to her busy spring shearing work, she mentors and trains young people how to become shearers through her 4-H club, noting “it takes about two years to know the right moves.”  Deb is known for her tireless promotion of the tradition with public audiences, and  volunteering and demonstrating shearing in public school classrooms and at numerous festivals, fairs, and other events.

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