Vernon DePauw, Wood Carver
From mercantile signs to scenic art, Vernon DePauw creates unique carvings in the folk-art tradition. His carved eagles are coveted collectibles.
Vernon DePauw developed an interest in wood carving in a school shop class, partly because he was so shy he’d gotten the “leftover” project: carving a pattern of a swan. In the 40 years since, he’s developed his own artistic point of view, carving and crafting a line of Americana signs, plaques, and carvings with moving parts (like whirligigs).
While neither of his parents were artists, Vernon’s Belgian grandfather made a living carving wooden shoes. (The job saved him from being conscripted into the German army during World War II.)
Vernon especially enjoys carving relief scenes, things like a barn with a tractor in the foreground. Usually the scene is a composite: he may have taken a snapshot of the barn and a different one of the tractor, or simply created one of the elements out of his head. One recent project is a female version of the cigar-store Indian. “I just finished carving her,” he says. “She’ll be on display at the Philadelphia show.”
But DePauw is probably best known for his carvings of eagles, which appeal to his patriotic sense and his love of folk art. The eagles are much more labor intensive than items like whirligigs, which he makes from scrap pieces of wood, often while he is on the show circuit.
Vernon DePauw accepts commissions, but he prefers to do work of his own choosing: “I enjoy being inspired by something I see.” Vernon also occasionally demonstrates the craft of cooperage at Lincoln’s New Salem State Park, not far from his home in Illinois. Cooperage—the art of making barrels, buckets, butter churns, and the like—was a common skill 200 years ago, but is now almost a lost art. “It’s the precision of the fit that makes things watertight.”
Meet Vernon and see examples of his eagles, plaques, and signs at the Designer Craftsmen Show at the Valley Forge Casino Resort, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Feb. 6–8, 2015.
Eagles of the 1800s