February 20, 2002 - Willow Chairs

He comes from a time when kids had to make their own toys and use their imaginations instead of the living room TV. But the hard times created a gifted artisan.

Huey Dupont pauses in the midst of nailing together one of his handcrafted willow chairs. He removes a nail from his mouth and says, "At the Jazz Festival this man says, 'Who built that furniture?' I said I did, and he said I didn't look like somebody who could build furniture like that. What am I supposed to look like?"

Then Huey recalls the lady in New Orleans who said she wanted to tour his studio and shop. "I said I didn't want to disappoint her, but the studio is an old shed I built to put the furniture in, and the shop is under a big oak tree. She never came."

Huey has been making and selling willow furniture close onto 20 years now, but before the willow came the wisdom -- a lifetime lived on the edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp, Cajun culture handed down from the generations gone before. "A kid these days comes to where the old folks are sitting, and they say to go play outside," says Huey.

He recalls that the adults would tell the kids, "Go make you a little wagon. The kid says he doesn't know how to do that! Look, go take two pieces of wood, but some wheels on each end, put a handle on it, and push it around the house! And that was it. You would use your mind. You've got to use your mind to have a mind, I'll put it to you like that."

Your kids are never going to hear better advice than that -- wisdom from the willow man. Huey's furniture is a popular attraction at the New Orleans Jazz Festival or the Festival Acadienne in Lafayette. If you can't wait for either of those events, you can call Huey at (225) 627-6180.