Sculp­tor in tarn

Living France - - LIFESTYLE -

been ly­ing around for the best part of a cen­tury,” he felt happy with the prop­erty. “It felt like a new start,” he says. “It was a beau­ti­ful place at the end of a lane with beau­ti­ful views. It was tran­quil with a cap­i­tal T.”

How­ever, the real world soon crashed in, and with fi­nances dwin­dling, David re­alised he would have to sell up. That’s when he met Myr­iam, a friend of a neigh­bour, who spoke some English. “I was lost in France with a mas­sive house and a mort­gage I couldn’t pay. She saw that I was just tear­ing my hair out, los­ing the plot and ended up help­ing me with an aw­ful lot of things,” says David. “One thing turned into an­other and we be­came ro­man­ti­cally in­volved.” The pair mar­ried in 2008.


After sell­ing up and mov­ing in with Myr­iam, David fo­cused on mak­ing his sculpt­ing and jew­ellery busi­ness work in France, cre­at­ing his first busi­ness in 2004 and then launch­ing DKemp-Art in 2011.

“Ini­tially, it was ex­tremely dif­fi­cult be­cause I didn’t speak French well enough at all,” he ad­mits. “But there were some lovely French peo­ple who were quite will­ing and happy to cor­rect me and ex­plain things. I’d ex­cuse my­self and some­times write things down and lit­tle by lit­tle it grad­u­ally seeped in. I still wouldn’t say I’m per­fect but I’m eas­ily un­der­stand­able now. Work­ing and liv­ing in France has en­riched me tremen­dously.”

As well as learn­ing a new lan­guage, liv­ing in Tarn meant he could get his hands on the sig­na­ture black-and-white gran­ite from the nearby Si­do­bre area, while his en­coun­ters with French clients were equally ful­fill­ing, es­pe­cially the ones who came to him with tough, emo­tional sto­ries.

“One day at a mar­ket, some ex­hibitors op­po­site me heard me talk­ing about stone carv­ing, and after talk­ing to them I learned that their cousin, a young man who was a marine, had re­cently died in a car ac­ci­dent. They asked if I could make a head­stone, a huge three-di­men­sional an­chor, out of Puy­la­garde lime­stone. It was very, very hard work but re­ally re­ward­ing, be­cause it en­abled me to help th­ese peo­ple deal in a way with their grief. They were very in­volved with it, as all my cus­tomers are.”

David ad­mits he is a bit of a recluse; he prefers be­ing in his work­shop or at the quarry, and is wary of arty cir­cles. But as a sculp­tor, he is proud to be cham­pi­oning an art that, de­spite his healthy or­der books, seems to be dis­ap­pear­ing. “I was talk­ing to one of the guys at the quarry the other day,” David re­calls, “and he said there are hardly any stone carvers left. The gar­goyle that fell off the cathe­dral in Albi was re-carved by a com­puter. I find that sad.”

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