Wood sculptor found art later in life

Wood sculptor found art later in life

Greensburg Daily News

DECATUR COUNTY, Ind. — Woodsmith and carpenter John Derheimer is one of the few artists who work for commission in the Decatur County area, and when you walk into the home he shares with his wife in the south-central part of the county you know instantly that someone in the house creates.

The Derheimers, John and Nancy, are quite a creative pair. Nancy quilts, sews, dyes fabrics and cooks while John spends his time carving and building, though he hasn’t always sculpted.

“I needed something to do in Nancy’s direction, because she is always creating. And she helps me so much,” he said.

So he spends his free time carving with a chainsaw. Working with hunks of logs predominately, he chooses his wood “by what falls down!”

His most recent carving, a Goldendoodle, (a mix of Golden Retriever and Poodle) sets out in front of his house “for inspection” as he talks about it.

“This is made from hickory, and that’s a hardwood,” he explains.

Except for when he’s carving an item like a nose, he uses a chainsaw.

The Derheimers’ home sits overlooking the small but scenic Cottonwood Lake, just past a sign bearing just that inscription. The eagles and terns on either side of the sign are Derheimers’ creations. His work shed is in back, toward the road that surrounds the lake.

When he started carving “things were not pretty,” he said, laughing. “It’s all about wood and removal. I would try to take off too much and then try to salvage that, and so it’s been a learning process.”

A piece like the recent Goldendoodle usually take him a few weeks.

“I can only work on it for an hour or two at a time, and it helps me if I take a break and leave it. Then when I come back and look at it I can see, ‘Well, I need to do this, or that’” he said.

He hasn’t lived a life surrounded by artists, nor has Nancy, but they are at the time in their lives when they visit their kids (and their kids) and spend a lot of time traveling between Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

“It seems like all we ever do is drive,” he laughs.

Before he retired, John spent 30 years as a District Team Lead for Target Corporation. He claims that his woodworking talent came from his father, a contractor who built homes for a living.

“I got the ability from him, but the art side I picked up from Nancy,” he said.

The Derheimers met through Match.com.

They met, with the help from Nancy’s daughter, through Match.com.

“And it’s the best thing that every happened to me,” John said.

Derheimer has found a special talent for designing and building sets. His first attempt was for the TCP production of “Steel Magnolias” in 2017. After that, he designed and built the set for TCP’s triumphant 2018 production of “West Side Story.”

“I enjoy working with theater folks. They’re all so much fun and such good people,” he said.

When he talks about his set designing/building process, he pauses for a moment, choosing the right words.

“For me, it’s like a house plan of sorts,” he said. “If I can see what they’re intending, where they’re going with it, well I guess if I can imagine it, I can build it!”


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