Seymour man continues his wood carving hobby

Mary and Vern Kemp have found many hobbies to keep them busy during their retirement. In addition to Vern’s wood carving, the couple also enjoys gardening and wine making. – Photos by Sara Tischauser
One of the first carving projects Vern did was carving this wooden chain which he started while he was camping in 1971.
This is one of the Molly Brown tables that Vern Kemp made. The table comes apart to make it easier to move.

By Sara Tischauser

Seymour man has continued his hobby of wood carving that began on a camping trip in 1971.
Vern and Mary Kemp have lived in Seymour their whole lives and have found many hobbies to keep them busy.
Vern began wood carving when he was on a family camping trip in 1971. He said he was bored at that time and carved a chain out of a piece of wood with a jackknife.
Mary said he also carved some mushrooms out of wood. She said Vern started with some simpler things and moved up to more complicated pieces.
Mary said her husband’s wood carving interest partly came from his job.
“He was a tree trimmer and worked in woods his whole life,” Mary said.
Vern said being a tree trimmer for 34 years gave him a lot of knowledge.
“I think that [being a tree trimmer] is how he got to know the different woods,” Mary said.
Also, Mary said their friend Marvin Dalke did wood carving and helped show Vern some of the trade.
Once Vern retired he started working more on his hobby.
“When he retired in 2000 he was bored and I was still working,” Mary said. “So he started working on bigger projects.”
Vern said he has had cuts and scrapes while he was carving but there is one memorable one that he laughed about.
“I was carving a duck and I went into garage and took a hatchet,” Vern said. “I was getting it [duck] into shape and almost cut off my finger.
“I told doctor I was carving a duck and doctor said you must have been using one sharp knife. I told him, ‘No, I was carving a wooden duck.”
Mary joked that the doctor said it must have been one tough duck.
Mary said Vern can see the potential in a piece of wood that she just can’t see. She said he can be walking in the woods and see a dead piece of wood and know instantly what he can design that piece of wood into.
Vern said he started off with smaller projects like wall hangings. He also made a wooden train for kids to play with. Now he said he makes a lot of tables and canes.
One of the tables Vern made was a Molly Brown table that can be folded up to make moving it easy. Mary said they gave the first Molly Brown table to their granddaughter who took it to college. Mary said this granddaughter said she loves the table because it is so easy to move.
Many of the tables Vern creates are of his own design. Vern said he sometimes will sketch what his next table is going to be and then goes in the shop and starts working on it.
If he doesn’t like the way a project is going he might redo the project.
“Sometimes he tears apart a project if he doesn’t like it,” Mary said. “Sands it off and starts over.”
In addition to making new furniture, Vern said he also likes to refurbish old furniture.
“I picked up furniture out of garbage and redid it,” Vern said. “I brought it back to life.”
In addition to wood carving, Vern has other hobbies to keep busy including hunting and fishing. Mary said they both also enjoy gardening and wine making.
Mary said they have even found a fun way to determine who does some of the daily chores.
“We play three games of cards (Kings Corners) every morning,” Mary said. “The winner is the boss for the day and the loser has to make the bed.”
Vern’s wood carving projects will be on display at the Seymour Museum Sept. 7-29. There will be a “Meet the Artist Night” hosted by the Seymour Community Historical Museum from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 7 that is open to the public.