I met a woman at a show last year, and who was born in North Germany. She remembers fan birds from her childhood. I received this email from her the other day explaining the fan bird customs in Germany.
Fan bird customs from Germany
Hi Sean, we’ve met at the crux fair, where I got exited about the fan birds, if you remember, as I knew them from where I originate (very north of Germany). I told you then I’ll find out about the tradition as I’d forgotten parts of it, you said you’d be interested to know. I finally managed to catch up with my father about it, it differs a little from what you’ve said: Fan birds were common all along the coast of the Baltic Sea, from the border to Denmark in Germany down to the coast of Russia. People used to make them themselves whenever a baby was due in the family. They hung them over the cradle, not only in the house, but also outside, when the cradle stood under a tree. The bird usually moved gently in the wind, however if a person came near and it stopped moving, suddenly stood still, it meant the approaching person had the evil eye and people would take care not to let this person come close to the baby. This is how we know it, hope it’s interesting for you. Best wishes Christine.
I love hearing this first-hand tradition and would like to hear more from anyone around the world with their tradition or custom relating to these beautiful wooden birds. As with all traditions and customs they vary so much.
I love making these birds, and I am now selling them wholesale, as I now mastered the crafting of them. This is not to say I have learnt everything there is to know about making them, and I am still developing new styles and designs. As far as I am concerned we do not stop learning until we stop breathing. The first shop to sell them is a National Trust property a few miles away from me in Widecombe on Dartmoor, and hopefully I will get other NT shops interested in Devon as now I am now on their suppliers list.
Above; coloured fan birds
I have saved my first birds I made and will post pictures of these crude attempts in the near future.This I hope will inspire you to have a go, and after all it is just practice and a enquiring mind; that, and persistence that makes you good at something.