Sculptor in tarn
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.
BUSINESS AND PLEASURE
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.”