From trivets to linen to Steuben glass, the duck motif is a winner

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

On many counts, 1983 would have to be considered the year of the duck. And 1984 promises to keep the trend waddling along smartly. The home-accessory scene has gone about as duck-happy as it can get. You can currently purchase crystal ducks; brass, gilt, and pewter ducks; ceramic ducks; porcelain ducks; carved wooden ducks; and cement ducks for the garden.

Duck-painted rural mailboxes are big business this year, as are duck-shaped lamps, decorative boxes, and duck-decorated platters, glasses, trays, and ice buckets. You can purchase coat racks, casseroles, trivets, bookends, and cutting boards shaped like ducks, as well as children's pull toys that waddle.

If you check out the Neiman-Marcus catalog, you will find a porcelain duck hand-painted in Hungary's famous Herend factory. And Steuben's crystal duck is a see-through charmer.

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The duck motif is an out-and-out winner, and no one quite knows why except that, as one manufacturer points out, ''Ducks are cute, waddle funny, make comical noises, and are harmless and whimsical.''

Peking duck, over the past 10 years, has become a Chinese gourmet delight known the world over. Visitors to the Nile return home with strips of papyrus decorated with beguiling ducks, ancient and Egyptian and all in a row.

The down business is up, too, and those puffy feathers are this winter making more and more people look fashionably overstuffed and billowy.

An acquaintance opens a nursery school and calls it the Duck Pond. A carver of decoy ducks lives in a house he calls the Ducks Nest. And in Pasadena, Calif. , Sandy Mack runs an accessory and linen shop called the Linen Duck, where her bleached duck decoys have a California look. Her big-duck imported boxes from Thailand and the Philippines and her crystal ducks from Sweden are always in demand, she says.

Sharon Owen, a North Carolina craftswoman, comments: ''For the past two years I've been seeing this big trend in the crafts to mallard ducks - stitched ducks, stuffed ducks, pottery ducks, ducks woven into tapestries or hangings, ducks cut out of wood, carved ducks, and tole-painted ducks.''

As for antique duck decoys, 1983 was a banner year. One auction sale alone, at Richard A. Bourne Company in Hyannis, Mass., realized over half a million dollars, with the decoys bringing prices ranging from $3,300 to $19,500. A Cobb Brant brought $28,000 at the same gallery last spring.

Meanwhile, decoymaking by contemporary carvers is being increasingly recognized as a uniquely American folk art. Fred Muhs, a master craftsman in Westhampton Beach, Long Island, N.Y., gets as much as $9,000 for the duck decoys he carves by hand. Certainly, the handsome duck decoy is an important element of the popular ''country'' look in decorating today, and interior designers are finding that ducks seem to have a universal appeal everywhere in the world.

There is no telling where the buck, or rather the duck, will stop. People are even reviving Joe Penner jokes. He was that erstwhile comedian of several decades ago who was always suggesting: ''Let's have a duck dinner. You bring the duck.''

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