By Abby Selden
Where can you find every Tennessee game animal imaginable, peacefully coexisting in one room?
Welcome to the Wildlife in Wood Studio at Jackson’s Casey Jones Village, where sculptor H. Dee Moss creates magnificently realistic carvings of everything from elk and wolves to bears and birds of prey.
Carving his niche
“Tennessee has always been my home, and because of the abundant game and the beautiful scenery we’ve got, it’s just been an inspiration all the time,” he says.
But Moss hasn’t always been the artist he is today, a master woodcarver whose pieces often sell for thousands of dollars. In fact, his goals as a young man couldn’t have differed more from his eventual career.
“When I was in high school, my ambition was to be a professional football player,” Moss recalls. “I never supposed I’d be, or thought I would be, an artist.”
But when an accident during his junior year of high school left him unable to play football, Moss had no choice but to explore other passions. He started as a pre-med major at Memphis State University, but quickly realized medicine was not the field for him and graduated with a degree in interior design.
Moss produced paintings throughout college, but a duck-hunting trip at Reelfoot Lake inspired him to make his first attempt at sculpture, creating duck decoys. That soon evolved into designing decorative decoys, and eventually Moss was making detailed carvings of Tennessee game animals.
Art for the birds
Moss carves a variety of animals, but his main focus is Tennessee game birds.
His bird repertoire alone consists of mockingbirds, cardinals, eagles, ducks, geese, wrens, finches, goldfinches, bluebirds, robins, indigo buntings, pheasants, quails, wring neck doves and “just about every kind of lark you can imagine,” he says.
Each piece of animal art is crafted with strict attention to anatomical detail. Sometimes Moss will even study a feather of the type of bird he is carving, so he can more closely duplicate its barbs and other intricacies.
“I try to make them look lifelike,” he says. “I like for them to look like you just plucked a little space of nature and just set it on the table.”
Even when Moss carves miniature versions of animals, he makes sure they are large enough to retain lifelike details. But creating such detailed sculptures is a time-consuming process. Moss says a smaller sculpture can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to complete, while larger sculptures can take even longer. The centerpiece of Moss’ collection is a life-size sculpture of an eagle, appraised at more than $250,000, which took six years to complete.
Awards and recognition
Fortunately, his hard work and attention to detail have paid off, as he regularly receives awards at art competitions. “I’ve got a suitcase full of blue ribbons,” Moss says.
Rather than being recognized himself, he hopes those who see his art walk away with appreciation for the animals’ magnificence.
“I want them to see the beauty of nature that even man with his greatest abilities can’t really duplicate,” Moss says. “God has done an unbelievable job of making the smallest little things very beautiful.”
And no matter who walks into the studio, Moss can guarantee he will do all he can to ensure they leave happy.
“When I finish a piece, I want the people to be more than happy with the carvings I do,” he says. “I always go out of my way to make sure they have more than their money’s worth.”
Where To Buy
Moss’ wildlife art, wood sculptures and decoys are available exclusively at his Wildlife in Wood studio, housed in a gazebo on the Village Green at Casey Jones Village in Jackson. For more information, call 731-668-2782 or visit www.caseyjonesvillage.com.