Volume 11, Issue 2 - March/April 2009

life beyond the auto glass business

Portrait of an Artist

Nathan Hemperly’s first woodworking project was a table he made in high school. Since then, though, he’s taken his talents much further than he probably ever could have imagined. Today, the 59-year-old owner of Windshield Doctor Inc. in Pocatello carves wooden vases that sell for $200 to $3,000 a piece, and exhibits at art galleries throughout the country.

At first, it was just a hobby; today, he looks to soon retire from the auto glass shop he owns and focus on his wood-working skills full-time.

“It started as a hobby, just fun stuff,” Hemperly says. A few years later, Hemperly and a few friends started a wood-carving club.

“Then I just got more into making custom wooden vases with exotic hardwoods from all over the world,” he says.

Soon, he realized that others valued his hobby as well.

“I liked the feel of wood and the smell of it, and I made some custom wooden vases and they sold like crazy,” Hemperly recalls.

He continues, “I’ve sold the vases all over the world. When the glass business got going so hot and heavy, I let that business slide.” Hemperly’s love of wood has led him to an additional hobby: looking for exotic trees from which to carve.

His preferred types of wood are black walnut, wild black cherry and osage orange, which he says is found mostly in Kansas.

“I know people all over the place and they might have 400 acres of land covered with trees and they’ll say, ‘man, can you come out and cut these black walnuts down?’” Hemperly says.

And his customers certainly appreciate his efforts.

“I’ve had people request [vases] from all over the world,” he says.

Mainly, people hear about Hemperly’s work by word of mouth, he says, but he started out selling his work in art galleries.

Though Hemperly engages in several other art forms, including creating portraits via pointillism and building hotrods, woodworking is his first love.

“I prefer the woodworking—the vases are probably my favorite,” he says. “I [also] make rocking horses. For people around here with big cabins I’ll make wild coffee tables for them.”

The vases take up to two days to make, depending on if the wood is cured when Hemperley begins.

“If it’s wet, I go through a curing process that I’ve developed that displaces the liquid with preservatives,” he says.

As for the auto glass business, Hemperly hopes to soon retire and take on woodworking full-time. His son, Corey, likely will take over the business at that time. “I was going to retire last year, but we decided to do a few more things with the company, so I’m going to stick around another year,” he says.

© Copyright 2009 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.