Paul Rutgers (master) and Cole Van Oosten (apprentice)
Cole Van Oosten
Decoys by Cole Van Oosten
Photos by LuAnne Kozma
Paul Rutgers and Cole Van Oosten 2011 master artist and apprentice
Kalamazoo (Kalamazoo County)
Paul Rutgers was a youth when he started woodcarving with his grandfather and enjoyed spending afternoons listening to his grandfather and his grandfather’s friends talk and tell tales. Paul’s earliest hobbies were making things from wood such as birdhouses, bicycle ramps, bows and arrows, and fishing poles. He spent a lot of time in the woods and loved being outdoors and working on wood projects.
Paul discovered decoy carving after meeting a carver from Idaho at a waterfowl show and then spending a few days learning from him. He began researching Michigan working decoy styles and soon was devoting all his time to carving working decoys. In 2008, Paul invited some friends over to his workshop to carve decoys. For each regular carver, Paul outfitted his workshop with hand tools and chairs each etched with the carver’s name. Paul’s generous spirit invites new people interested in carving decoys and nurtures the group into a thriving community of carvers. Fourteen-year-old Cole Van Oosten, also of Kalamazoo, started carving with Paul three years ago, along with his uncle. Hunting since he was six, Cole is an exceptional young person who already knows carving basics and chose the apprenticeship with Paul to learn the art of decoy carving more seriously. Paul says of the apprenticeship that it will be a lasting relationship and “we’ll be carving together for a good long time.”