The People:
Dexter and Hazel Dockery

Dexter and Hazel Dockery

Dexter Dockery, recently elected as lifetime member to the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, has been carving since he was 18 said, “I wasn’t expecting that [award].” Dexter’s first carving was a lamb carved in holly; his works are extremely diverse in subject matter from elephants, sheep, goats, raccoons, and life-sized crows to Noah's Ark and crèche figures, but his favorite and most difficult is St. Francis, and his largest, a four foot teak sperm whale carved for Clifton Precision.

Dexter learned to carve under Murray Martin with Jack Hall; “she had...all kinds of ideas to pass on to you...she would give you an idea for something you wanted to try.” Dexter and his wife, Hazel, known for their graceful and refined forms, make their own patterns and carve predominately in butternut; their most recent works are birds mounted on driftwood and rhododendron roots; some are collaborative pieces. Dexter especially enjoys carving quail, geese and bittern. “I’ve done special carvings out of most every kind of wood...even grapevine, hickory, ash, everything that grows around here...willow turns out a pretty carving,” he continues, “we used to do a lot of cherry, mulberry, and some sassafras.”

Hazel started carving ten years after Dexter, “I did a lot of sanding for him before that...I just kinda started doing it and the longer you do it you find that whatever you want to do, you know you takes patience.” Hazel has carved various domestic and wild animals from wild birds and geese to rabbits and turtles, “I used to carve lambs when Dexter was carving them...I didn’t go to the Folk School much for classes since most of my teaching was from Dexter.” She adds, “Dexter is my favorite carver.” Hazel does recall, “What impressed me most was Murray’s [Martin] ability to mark a block of wood...she was a real good teacher and what was hard for me to understand was that she could draw in the round, and she could put her idea right in your head.”

Both Dexter and Hazel have given demonstrations of their talents throughout the southeast and sold their work from Highlands, North Carolina, to Gatlinburg and Chattanooga. Dexter concludes that, “Ever since I’ve known about the Folk School, I’ve enjoyed it over the years...done a real job for the community, a lot of things all around here.” 

- Transcribed from John C. Campbell Folk School, The Brasstown Carvers (1990),
with text by Bill Biggers, photographs by Werner Kahn and Bill Biggers.
Used with permission of the John C. Campbell Folk School.