After graduating from RISD with a degree in industrial design, David Bird spent his days at the LEGO headquarters in Denmark sifting through drawers of bricks to conceptualize intricate but reproducible mini universes and later worked at Hasbro, Inc. in Rhode Island on similar projects. He and his colleagues would test their creations on focus groups composed of children, nuancing their designs to cater to a variety of age groups. Today, Bird is still entrenched in the work of world-building, creating people and creatures situated in mini ecosystems. But now, he sources materials from the natural world, with sticks and acorns replacing LEGO bricks.
While sweeping his mother’s driveway at home in Pittsburgh years ago, Bird noticed “a stick that looked like a bug’s face,” he says, sparking immediate inspiration. Armed with creative and technical skills honed at LEGO and Hasbro and an endless supply of building blocks right from his backyard in South Kingstown, Bird set off on creating a new universe blending the natural and the manmade.
Bird’s small but expressive creations – which he coined “Becorns” – don acorn caps and carry miniscule bushels of birdseed to attract live companions, sometimes hoisting a sharp spear as a weapon. Bird selects his materials judiciously, only choosing those sticks that are textured – akin to legs with joints rather than unrealistically straight ones. Bird then sets a scene out in the wild with a figure and seed – birds and squirrels scurry over and nibble at the offerings while he waits patiently behind a camera a few stretches away ready to snap the perfect shot at a moment’s notice. His tactic for securing the animals’ elusive cooperation? “Patience and persistence,” he says – and a good attitude when things don’t go quite as planned (he recalls, with a laugh, a squirrel running away with one of his
Bird, too, leans into what he calls “happy accidents,” when animals interact in unexpected ways with his creatures. In one instance, he strategically released a mouse from its trap so that it would scurry across the frame next to one Becorn. Miraculously, the mouse ran between the figure’s stick legs, making for a picture-perfect still frame in which the Becorn momentarily appears to be riding on the furry creature’s back while carrying a spear, the mouse its trusty steed.
Looking to the future, Bird hopes to combine his love for creation with his penchant for storytelling by crafting narrative arcs around the Becorns. He’s started that storytelling on Instagram, where his captions are mini vignettes that deepen the worlds he builds around his characters.
For now, he’s inspired by South County wildlife, such as the occasional oriole that visits his backyard. He’s inspired, too, by the reception of his artwork now that he can finally show it in person, “actually seeing people smile” as they visit his work. Learn more at DavidMBird.com