Yoneguma and Kiyoka Takahashi were among many Japanese-Americans confined in Poston Camp, AZ after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
While in the camp, they participated in a craft class where they learned to carve and paint small birds.
After their release from the camp, the Takahashis turned their craft into a family business that continued for 40 years.
Yoneguma carved the birds out of white holly wood, starting with a jig saw, then smoothing and sanding the bird. When done, Kiyoka painted the birds (using an Audubon bird book for reference) with watercolors using fine camel hair brushes. 10 coats of lacquer were then applied.
A good day's production was 10 birds. The birds were mostly sold via word of mouth, though a couple of department stores (such as Gump's) carried them. Production was mostly lapel pins, but earrings were also made. Price on the birds in the early days was $2, but in the 1980s, the birds sold for $40.
Initially more than 100 species were made, both male and female, but eventually about 25 different birds were offered regularly for sale.
The grand-daughter of Yoneguma and Kiyoka, Carol Takahashi, has created a website, Takahashi Birds, to honor her grandparents, tell their history, and to give us a glimpse of a time in history that affected many American lives.
(via Hanuman, also Image Event)