Bird Watching

By Linda Dorland


Tennessee is full of bird lovers and watchers, yet it amazes me how few of us incorporate birds in our home décor. And it is so easy, especially when shopping in an antique mall, as bird items have been popular for centuries. Our feathered friends have been used in folk medicine, hunted for sport, kept as pets, revered by artists and watched the world over in all seasons. 


Stone Age drawings show our interest in our winged friends from the earliest civilizations, an interest that has never stopped. The Egyptians made use of birds in their hieroglyphics, and the early Vedic writings of India, circa 1500 – 800 B.C., report the observations of avian histories.  Scientifically accurate bird illustrations can be seen in the early artworks of China, Japan, Persia and India. 


More recently, the invention of field glasses in the 1800s, along with the first printed field guides for identification, made the sport of watching our feathered friends accessible to the masses.   


Bird art is a large category, ranging from rare Audubon prints to modern versions.  Booth B-1004 specializes in Audubon and other famous bird prints. Featured in the photo, above right, is a Green Waxbill chromolithograph ($120).


The keeping of birds as pets was soon to follow the pleasure of bird watching, and the Victorians took this to an art form with some of the most elaborate bird cages ever known; many are now rare collector items.  In Booth B-217, there is currently a large metal bird cage which would be perfect to house such objects d’art (photo, left; $295). There are several other bird cages in our mall made of such materials as wood and bamboo. 


After the Victorians took up the pastimes of bird watching and keeping birds as pets, more visual accoutrements followed. Soon bird designs were appearing in fine tapestry and needlepoint, porcelains and lamps ... and the rest is history.






You can find many favorite birds, even in lighting, including the categories of songbirds and also of wild fowl.  GasLamp currently has a cool vintage mallard duck TV lamp (photo, left; $125; Booth B-101). (As a historic sidebar, these ceramic statuettes of the 1950s, with their back-lit glow, were developed after the advent of the television. The theory went that the TV lamp’s ambient light reduced eye strain. These inventions, which were popular for a decade, were kept on the TV as a must-have ornament).


Figurines and statues of birds are probably the most easy and affordable to find, ranging from a few dollars to hundreds depending on age, material and workmanship.  For porcelain lover, there is a pair of Boehm Canadian Geese figurines priced at $600 in GasLamp’s showcase room in S-547 (photo, right). For fine porcelain figures, a simple mirror or plateau on a table makes a lovely “pond” for swans, geese and ducks. 






Also in showcase S-547 is this set of 11 American songbird plates by Spode, which is a bargain at $300 (photo, left).  These plates could be hung in a grouping, or changed out in your décor to suit the season. 





Many craft artisans have found a variety of ways to feature birds in their art, and one of the most creative I have seen is a felted wool owl figure, a one-of-a-kind piece in showcase S-505 entitled “Winslow the Owl” (photo, right; $125).  


This is only a small sampling of the birds you can find while “bird watching” at GasLamp Antiques. We all love our birds and you will find something in almost every booth in this category.  




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