Combining two of his great loves: scotland and engineering
By Gill Sherry
When George Duff retired from his sales career in 2014 the last thing he expected to do was set
up a business selling stag heads. Eight years later, Hummingbird Sculptures is thriving and George
couldn’t be happier.
Originally from Stewarton, George studied at Kilmarnock College before working as an apprentice toolmaker.
“Latterly, I worked for a multi-national Austrian company called Fronius International… I was headhunted. I travelled the world for 35 years designing and selling automation. When I came to retire at 65, I felt that I wanted to make something for Fronius as a gift for being so good to me.”
George set about designing a stag head that would mount onto a wall, combining the iconic Scottish animal with the red colouring of his employer’s equipment.
“It was 2ft by 3ft. It still hangs in the Fronius reception in Milton Keynes eight years on.”
Friends and family were so impressed by the stag they asked George if he could make a smaller version.
“I scaled it down to 12 inches by 15 and looked at how I could enhance the product. I decided to clad the plates with Harris Tweed and also offer clan tartans.”
And so Hummingbird Sculptures was born. The name derives from the colourful little bird known for its ability to fly backwards. As George was returning to his engineering background, it seemed the perfect company name.
Ever the salesman, George began visiting shops and was soon receiving orders. He also received requests to make an even smaller model – small enough for tourists to carry – and came up with a 6 by 7.5inch model which he put in a red box.
“Then I took a stand at the Spring Trade Fare. It was in January on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. By the close of play on Sunday we had orders for 400 stags – and they wanted them for the beginning of April!”
Realising he would need help, he requested reinforcements and manged to find some willing helpers who were able to assist with cutting. Aside from this and the machine cut plates, every stag is handmade by George. The medium and large stags, he informs me, have over 200 parts in them.
“It got to the stage where it was getting a bit much,” he admits. “This went on and on… so I cut the shops down and started just selling through Facebook and my web page.”
And, despite the financial crisis, the orders keep on coming.
“At the beginning of January I had orders for 35 small stags for weddings in April and May. They give them as favours… it’s a lovely gift.”
Obviously, people all over the world agree with him. George tells me he has just shipped an order to South Porcupine in Ontario. His stags can also be found in New Zealand, Australia, the Middle East, America and the whole of Europe. Not bad for someone who retired eight years ago!
“This was the big thing,” he says. “Up to 65 you’ve been going at 100mph, you’re away all the time travelling – I went to over 50 countries – and then suddenly it stops dead and you’re at home seven days a week. It’s a big, big thing when you’ve always been busy. The stags have been my lifesaver.”
In addition to stag heads, George also makes a Highland coo and a Highland bull, complete with nose ring! The stags, however, remain his most popular design with people coming from all over the country to choose the cloth for their bespoke piece of art.
Before we part, George informs me he is also the creator of ‘Duncan’ the full-sized black-faced ram who lives in a pen at the Rural Centre at Dean Castle Country Park. Another of his sculptures can be found in the churchyard at New Laigh Kirk in Kilmarnock.
“It’s my interpretation of ‘Homeless Jesus’. There are 100 of them in major cities around the world. It’s a homeless person under a blanket lying on a bench. His feet are sticking out and on the feet are the marks of the wounds from being put on the cross. It moves a lot of people.”
He tells me he’s now working on a giraffe and I can’t help but wonder how George ever found the time to go to work!
For more information visit www.hummingbirdsculptures.com or find them on Facebook.