By Tom Vartabedian
DENNISPORT, Mass. — They call Tom Tomasian “the Birdman of Cape Cod” and rightfully so. It is not that he has a passion for feeding these flighty creatures; he brings them to life through an uncanny dexterity that runs in his family.
So good is Tomasian that he is known on the international scene for his remarkable realism that fools even the birds should they meet.
And much of it is crafted from the dentistry tools he left behind with retirement. Some of his more intricate work consists of the Bobwhite Family, joined by a full-sized red-tail hawk, quails, woodcocks and owls.
For the unknowing, the northern bobwhite, Virginia or bobwhite quail is a ground-dwelling bird native to the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.
He will take on smaller specimens like chickadees, goldfinches, kingfishers and sandpipers, adding nuthatches, plovers, swans, Baltimore orioles and partridges to his repertoire.
All have a place in his Audubon family, regardless of species. It’s not so much the woodworking that sets him apart from his peers as much as the artistic side.
“The most difficult part is the painting,” he admits. “Each bird is a separate challenge, along with the habitat.”
Tomasian will use brass, copper, plumber’s putty, acrylic and soldering to create leaves, branches, water and woodland floors. Some of the artwork is done with an airbrush.
The prizes he has won rank secondary to the gifts bestowed and the passion of a hobbyist who seeks out new challenges in the study of ornithology. Charities are also a beneficiary of his work.
“I start carving by doing a prototype of each bird,” said Tomasian. “I would research pictures, anatomy, habitats and feather layouts. I would make a pattern and sometimes a mock-up in clay to understand the bird three-dimensionally.”
Tomasian got started in the 1980s, thanks to his father who carved and his mom who painted them. They started at the Dennis Senior Center and continued from there, passing the craft to their curious son.
Tom Tomasian read and studied other master carvers, joining classes that came along. It took him eight years just to get the basics down. From there came the more intricate strokes.
Tomasian uses either tupelo or basswood for his carvings. He uses a knife and power carver to remove wood. The process can be dusty and he suctions to control the debris.
“My pieces are very special to me,” he said. “I try to create a museum piece with each subject. Only recently have I considered selling my work. Ninety pieces are on display in my home and I enjoy sharing them with my friends.”
Tomasian and his wife, Martha, are parents to three children, and have eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
After graduating from Tufts Dental School in 1965, he set up a practice on Cape Cod that extended 43 years in West Harwich. His brother, Ralph, joined him in 1969. They sold the practice a year ago.
Martha is also an artist and lends a hand when asked. Together, they will display their work in November at a 2-week show at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth. Tomasian also has another fall show planned at The Green Briar Nature Center in nearby Sandwich.
“Martha’s paintings are abstracts that represent a reflection of her soul,” Tomasian pointed out. “The colors are magnificent. Her artwork decorates our home and makes it an inspiring place to live.”
Apart from his carving, Tomasian is an avid golfer and deals with investments. As for the future, health and family remains top priority. What’s his next bird?
“I’m carving a snowy owl that has just finished eating a duck,” he reveals. “It’s in flight with wings extended and measures up to becoming a complex piece.”