When I first sat down to write this biography for my father it didn’t take me long to realize that I really didn’t know the true story of how he ended up becoming one of the top wood carvers in the country. Of course I knew the story of a young teenager who loved to hunt, trap, and spend time outdoors but couldn’t afford a hunting rig, so he started to make his own and discovered a hidden talent. But I didn’t know how that teenager turned into the father I know. So I read the articles people wrote and thought through the things I’d learned about him over the years.
Mr. Johnny Wells, a lifelong friend to our family once wrote that my father’s love of carving “is born from the love of the outdoors, from respect and affection for game, and from recognition that nature's beauty is something worthy of preservation.” This statement captures his true essence because it is a respect that he lives each day, and one he has handed down to each of us in our family. But of all of us he is the only one who has set aside the demands of modern life and given over his heart to the things he loves: the whispering of the wind amongst the marsh reeds, the call of the lone loon or the swirling white of snow geese, the salt stains on his sneak box, the spray of bay water across its bow, the quiet beauty that comes when you leave behind the things that we have made and join with what we have not.
Few people are blessed with the ability to create art from
any medium, and fewer are able to rise to a level of prominence that he
has. This allows him to create and share his art each day.
But each day he still does it because he loves it, and I have
developed a great deal of respect for him because he does what he loves.
And fewer people even still have accomplished that.
Born and raised in southern New Jersey, Vince still lives in the same home he, his parents, and his brother built from the ground up. Our home is not far from the banks of the Delaware River he hunted so often in his youth. Those who know this river know the history of other carvers and duck hunters along its shores who developed traditions which he has become today’s leading carver of – the Delaware River style gunning decoy.
He attended his first decoy show in Babylon, Long Island in 1967 at the invitation of a local hunter and came away convinced that he could compete or at least try. The following year he entered a drake green wing teal and hen bufflehead in the show took blue and red ribbons respectively. In 1969 he took 10 ribbons in shows from Maine to Mississippi, and Michigan to Long Island. As he increasingly found his way into the winner’s circle, and his work became increasingly known and respected, Giannetto decoys came to be sought by collectors and hunters alike.
To date he has won over 16 Best-in-Show ribbons including the Best Geese and Confidence Decoy in the Open Class at the World Championship in Ocean City Maryland. The Virginia Beach Show, Ohio Show, Collectors Show Westlake Ohio, Old Time Barnegat Bay Show, Toms River Show, Manasquan Show, Chincoteague Virginia Show, and Havre’ d’ Grace Show have all also added to his Best-in-Show honors. As the years have gone by he has entered less shows as a competitive carver, but instead has accepted invitations to judge. His work has traveled a long way from the shores of the Delaware and been sought out by the Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited, collectors, painters, and authors alike. He and his artwork have been featured in Country Living magazine, Country Business, New Jersey Outdoors, numerous newspapers articles and news interviews. His work has also been displayed in numerous business, galleries, museams and even the Christmas windows of Rockefeller Center in New York City. During the Christmas season of 2002 he was invited to carve an ornament for the White House Christmas tree, and attended the dedication ceremony at our nation's capitol.
As his notoriety started to grow Vince began thinking about taking up carving as a full time career. But it wasn’t until about 18 years ago that he was able to put away his mason’s trowel and dedicate his time solely to carving. He often jokes that he never did sell that trowel in case things go bad and he has to go back to laying bricks. Since diversification is a necessity in the art world the country collectable line was born. The first Santas were made as gifts for Vince's family. But it soon came to light that so many people enjoyed them that a new parallel business was hatched.
He calls his catalog of country type collectables “tomorrow’s heirlooms today”, and applies the same level of detail and handcrafted carving and painting to each of them as he does each blue ribbon decoy. They come in all shapes and sizes and each one was born entirely from his imagination. “As you become increasingly well known as a carver your decoys become more expensive. And if you’re a decorative carver the price has to be too high on each piece to get your money back for all the time you put into them. So the answer I found was to create things that were more widely accepted. There is huge demand these days for folk art that isn’t mass produced.”
For Vince it doesn’t matter what he is carving, he’s still able to spend time doing what he loves. Of course there are times when he misses the thrill of competing, but for the most part he overcomes this by accepting invitations to judge the decoys at shows he attends.
And every once in awhile, just so everyone doesn’t forget, he heads outback and carves a rig of decoys to hunt over. And you’ll find, if you look closely at the rig he sets out in his 60 acres of protected wetlands along the Delaware Bay, the next Best-of-Show decoy.