In an earlier post I recall our meeting Felicien Levesque in the early nineties while touring the Bas -St. -Laurent region of Quebec. Well, the very next day we rose early and made the half hour drive From Cacouna to St Paul de-la-Croix, knowing it was the hometown of the well-know carver Aime Desmeules. We had been buying his animals for years from Victoriaville picker Marcel Gosselin, and we had always wanted to meet him. It was not hard to get directions to his house in this small town of 367 people, and we were soon pulling in to the driveway of a neatly kept, small ranch style home.
Jeanine and I rang the bell, and were soon greeted by a puzzled looking older lady we took to be his wife. We explained that we had come from Ontario and being big fans of Mr Desmeule’s work, we had made the trek to their home with the hopes of meeting him. “Oh no, that will not be possible. He doesn’t like to meet new people, and he has no work for sale in any case. No, I’m afraid you’ve wasted your time.”Just as she was about to slam the door in our faces, Jeanine added sweetly, “Well we don’t mind if there is no work for sale, but please we have come a long way and we would be very grateful just to have the opportunity to make his acquaintance.” She looked us up and down. Long pause. “Very well, he’s not here right now as he is fetching wood, but I suppose if you come back in an hour he may be willing to talk to you.” Whew, nice work Jeanine. “Great, thanks, we’ll be back.” So we went into town and had a delicious big breakfast, and lingered over our coffee to fill in the time.
One hour later we were greeted at the door by Aime. Surprisingly, he was as friendly as can be, and invited us in to his work shop which was fairly full of finished carvings. “Pardon us for saying, but your wife gave us the impression that you had no work for sale, so I suppose these pieces are commissioned.” He Laughed. “No these pieces are for sale, it’s just that when you arrived unexpectedly with your accents, she was worried that you may be from the tax department.” I was starting to think that this would be the standard greeting we could expect arriving unannounced at Quebec carver’s homes, and upon reflection, I understand where they are coming from.
The next hour was pleasantly filled by Aime telling us the story of how he was 64 years old before he took up carving and at that time he was taught by his father to create the various animals in his father’s repertoire to be precisely like his father’s work. It was only after his father’s death in 1986 at 95 years of age that Aime developed a few new animals of his own, along with some pieces depicting people such as the blacksmith shown here.
Mrs. Demeules joined us after awhile and expressed that she was sorry for the rude greeting, but that she could see now that we were truly fans and not inspectors, and she was happy that we came. We bought a lot of his work, about twenty pieces or so, and we spent a pleasant morning getting to know each other, before loading up and heading out of town.
What I find interesting about Aime, is how he was content, to the point of taking pride in creating exact copies of his father’s work. He even signed the pieces with a stylized “A” “D” with the “A” looking very much like a “G” as his father had signed. It is quite difficult to distinguish the father’s work from the son’s, and you are pretty much dependent on patina and provenance. My understanding is that George quit working in the early 70’s, but then Aime only lived on until 1997.
f you consider other carving families, such as Damase Richard and his son Wilfred; although there is a similarity to their work, when you study them closely you can see quite a few differences which make them easy to distinguish. When considering father and son carvers, Aime and George’s bond seems unique.