For a West Seattle entrepreneur, everything’s just ducky

October 12, 2008 at 8:54 pm | In West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news, West Seattle people | 12 Comments

witchduck.jpg

If you’ve ever walked to or from Lincoln Park via the south end of Beach Drive, you’ve probably seen a festively decorated garden featuring rubber ducks. Its owner contacted WSB some time back to let us know his legendary decorations were taking wing into a business. Sounded like a fun story rather than just a business blurb – so we asked the University of Washington News Lab, which offers help to small news organizations such as ours, whether one of its student journalists might be interested. Read on to see the results – the story behind the ducks, plus a message you can probably appreciate in these nerve-jangling times:

By Brittni Reinertsen
UW News Lab

We have all heard the phrase “an apple a day,” but what about a duck a day?

That is what Ron Sterling, a West Seattle psychiatrist, prescribes with his elaborate “ducky” garden displays. Using rubber ducks purchased on eBay, Sterling “duckerates” his curbside garden near Lowman Beach with holiday scenes monthly – and now he’s turned this into a sideline.

This all started for Sterling when he moved back to West Seattle in 2004 after living in Ballard for a while. At first, his talent for unique holiday decorating went no further than his year-round Christmas tree. But soon, he began dabbling with ducks. His first duck was a lamp decorated in October 2004. Two months later, he discovered the allure of rubber duckies.

“Duckies came into my life when I had the chance to garden and do garden art,” Sterling says. “It’s kind of unique in that it’s right on the sidewalk.”

The garden itself is at the south end of Beach Drive and features a 30-foot-long cement planter box. Six arborvitaes create arches that serve as the stage for seven separate duck scenes. A new display is featured every month, usually for a specific holiday. Favorites include New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. Sterling also has summer-themed scenes for the holiday-less months of June and August. Right now, of course, you’ll find Halloween scenes like this:

duckoween.jpg

Each display is added to daily over the course of a week. Sterling says that it is definitely an ongoing process; it involves one piece at a time.

Sterling chose duckies as the main feature in his garden for several reasons: “On a conscious level, you can’t really look at rubber ducks without smiling. They have always been entertaining. They fit the whole Northwest world,” he said. Duckies can also withstand Seattle’s inclement weather.

Rubber ducks also appealed to Sterling with their creative potential. He described how each decked-out duck has its own unique personality: “I use pre-created duckies that have a theme to them as background characters, extras on a set so to speak.” There are also larger, 8-inch duckies dressed as specific characters including bat ducks for Halloween and a Santa “devil” duck for Christmas.

He estimates that his ducky kingdom, ruled loyally by King Lucky Ducky and Queen Lulu, is home to nearly 100 ducky subjects. However, Sterling emphasized that he is not a ducky collector: “I’m more of a ducky character creator than a collector. I’m creating these duckies all the time.”

Sterling refers to all his ducks as “lulu” duckies. His website, “A Ducky World,” at duckiesrule.com, describes the term “lulu” as meaning a remarkable person, object or idea. It is also a slang term used in Australia for “radical.”

Sterling also sells ducky-themed T-shirts, calendars, greeting cards and stamps at his Web site. The duckies are considered “lulu” because they are not manipulated or designed using graphic art tools such as PhotoShop. Rather, they are actual creations that exist in his garden for the sole purpose of entertaining kids of all ages.

In fact, one thing Sterling enjoys most about his duckies is the way they are enjoyed by both children and parents alike. Anyone taking a stroll along the street is welcome to view and play with his ducky creations: “I enjoy creating ducky scenes that are kind of complex and ironic. They (passers-by) haven’t seen these characters before. It’s a totally different image.”

A West Seattle resident lit up when reminded of Sterling’s home. She remarked that her 2-year old nephew enjoys playing with the ducks. So great was his admiration that he nearly committed a “ducknapping” once while passing by.

Others see local potential for the duckies’ popularity. “They would be a great mascot for West Seattle. I don’t think you could go to Burien and get the same response,” said Elhaum Vancil, another West Seattleite.

When it comes down to it, the purpose of Ron Sterling’s ducky world is to make people happy: “It really is talking about optimism. I think that’s really what duckies stand for. Duckitude, duckie therapy, ‘a ducky a day …’ If there’s any message, it’s about being optimistic, looking on the upside.”

To browse through his ducky offerings online, start here.
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BRITTNI REINERTSEN is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

12 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness!

    Comment by Sandra — 9:34 pm October 12, 2008 #

  2. Of course he would be ‘quack’ Dr wouldn’t he???
    heeheehee
    :)

    Comment by SpeakLoud — 9:49 pm October 12, 2008 #

  3. How cool! I think they are great!

    Comment by P — 9:57 pm October 12, 2008 #

  4. Daffy. Very daffy… ;-)

    Comment by JumboJim — 11:55 pm October 12, 2008 #

  5. This quacks me up!

    Comment by GB — 8:09 am October 13, 2008 #

  6. Hi All: Ron Sterling here. Just want to say a huge thank you to the West Seattle Blog for this very nice article on the semi-official duckies of West Seattle.

    It really is a very nicely done article. Thank you, Brittni! By the way, Brittni (the author) invented the word “duckerate,” or should I say, I heard her say that word… she might deny it.

    Just one correction. My local creds… I have been living in Seattle since 1991, first near Fairmont Park Elementary School where my daughter attended. She graduated from Madison and then graduated from Ballard High School. I moved to Ballard for a few years… but my heart has always been in West Seattle. So, I am back since 2004…

    Oh, and about the “quack doctor thing” — pretty funny. Actually, my other major project for the last several years has been http://www.DearShrink.com

    So, yah, I have a sense of humor and the ironic and the quirks of life. Take care, and, have a ducky day!

    Comment by The Ducky Dude — 9:11 am October 13, 2008 #

  7. Thanks, Ron, will tweak the copy ASAP. My son and I have been walking down to Lincoln Park at least weekly for years and had always wondered “what’s the deal with the ducks” … I’d seen them featured in Beach Drive Blog so I had started to get an inkling (duckling?) but still not the full picture till now. — TR

    Comment by WSB — 9:21 am October 13, 2008 #

  8. What a great article on Ron’s Lulu Duckies! Thanks
    Brittni for such a good read!

    I too live with the Duckies and they bring a smile
    to my face every day:)

    The garden is always changing so keep walking by.

    The “Ducky Dudes” Wife

    Comment by Sarah — 10:01 am October 13, 2008 #

  9. My husband and I often take walks at Lincoln Park. We try to keep tabs on the art displays at Lowman Beach’s ‘ducky’ house! The art seems to change in conjunction with the seasons. Love it..

    Comment by Sandra M — 5:40 pm October 13, 2008 #

  10. Hello Ron,
    You make me smile! Ducks are magical, beautiful, and they have a wonderful way of communicating with each other. We love observing the real”duck world” at our special place on Lake Bosworth. I love your creativity and artistic ability. Thank you for sharing and bringing laughter to many! Everything is “ducky!” See you soon when we come to visit your “duck” world.
    Dode & Rod Hutchison

    Comment by Dode Hutchison — 8:52 pm October 13, 2008 #

  11. Well that gives new meaning to “that’s just ducky” Love it!

    Comment by Heinz57Mom — 9:05 pm October 13, 2008 #

  12. Oh, but we are the original “Duck Family.” We bacame this years ago when we noticed any time we were out in public, Dad led, then Mom followed, herding the young ones lagging behind, first the older, the the youngest. We became known as the Duck Family. As a result, we have gathered hundreds of “duck things,” mirrors, pj’s, soap, wash cloths, numerous shaped ducks, dressed ducks, duck stapler, duck eyeglass holder & on & on & on. Coincidentally, our oldest “duck” now lives in West Seattle! I can’t believe we’ve never seen your displays…are they up just for special holidays or year round? Next summer when we’re there, we’ll be by if they’re out. What fun!

    Comment by Mama Duck — 8:50 am December 25, 2008 #

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