THE LEGEND OF JOHN & VALARIE BUNDY
History of Bundy & Company
The tradition of the self taught carver is one of the longest lived in American folk art and began in this country long before the Revolution and continues to this day.
For over a quarter century my wife Valarie, our son Jason, and I have been carving the most beautiful and unique decoy carvings in the world.
My Background: First a little genealogy: The Bundy’s have been in America for 350 years and John is the 10th Generation Grandson of one of the early Colonists, William and Elizabeth Bundy, who settled in North Carolina in 1663.
Many early American Patriots are back in John’s family tree, from serving with Washington crossing the Delaware in 1776, to the War of 1812, and the Civil War.
The Bundy’s have always been craftsman and created things with their hands.
Three successive generations of blacksmiths, a great grandfather that was the maker of fine furniture, a father that loved and worked with wood and refinished fine antique furniture, and an artist and art teacher for a mother have given me a love of wood and finishes, as well as a perception of design and the ability to create art work with my hands. My folks and my grandfather were avid birders so I was exposed to lots of outdoor birding adventures. Our daughter seems to have picked up where they left off.
Valarie’s Background: A bit of genealogy: Valarie can track her ancestors back to the early American Colonists and has some of the Patriots of the American Revolution in her family tree. A distant uncle was Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox”, of South Carolina. Her own personal favorite is her grandfather Hugh Rodman-Frontier Ranger in the Revolutionary War.
Valarie’s parents were great on picnics and day trips, which helped satisfy Valarie’s yearning for the out of doors. She grew up rambling her grandparent’s farm in Southern Indiana, collecting fossils along the way. Scouting was great fun for her and she claims, “I’m still a Girl Scout”, the values scouting taught her are precious to her. She learned gardening from her dad and would rather be gardening most of the time. She is a student of both history and nature with a passion for flowers. Her knowledge of nature’s designs and color combinations have given her a unique ability to create the Bundy duck colors as well as the patterns of the carvings. Over the years Valarie has devoted a majority of her time at the wood shop creating new patterns for decoys and new color patterns to enhance the wood grain, always keeping the true image of the waterfowl in mind.
Both of our children have been tramping woods and fields since they were just toddlers. Our daughter is a great team member and has always filled in at the decoy shop when we need her. Her own interests took her to college and now she is a practicing veterinary doctor. She also has an avid interest in bird watching like her grandfather and great-grandfather before her.
Our son, Jason, began working around the shop in his pre-teen years, cleaning up the wood shop of an evening or going up north with me on wood hauling trips. We can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t working with us on decoys. He has a good eye for form and executes detail with care. Jason works the front-end of production and has developed lots of jigs that aid in a more efficient method of trimming the blocks of wood. He also pursues other avenues of creativity with knife making and bead work. He has a special fascination with the wood, and makes one of a kind knick-knacks with these oddities of nature.
Not a day passes without each of us being in tune to nature, it’s part of our family conservations. Decoy carving affords us the opportunity to make our love of nature into
a tangible thing to share with others. It has always been our philosophy to keep our ducks in basic decoy shapes, the simple silhouette. We enjoy letting the beauty of the real wood shine through. It gives the piece character. Early on we noticed how each decoy displayed a personality of it own, owing to the combination of grain pattern, wood density, color and size. This unique character in each piece is something that we Bundy’s can’t resist and is reflected in the number of pieces we’ve kept for our own collection. After 30 years you can imagine the size of it.
To say working for ourselves is demanding, is really an understatement. To exist as a business for so long takes constant learning and a positive outlook. That’s always the hardest part – to look forward, to be optimistic in the face of difficulties. We’ve had a lot of employees over the years. They come and go, due mostly to the production numbers that had to be turned out, (we were required to work on production schedules when we worked with different wildlife organizations). We still have one employee who’s been with us since 1980. Lori came to us just out of high school. A better worker you cannot find. Her steadfastness and willingness to try is encouraging. She’s one in a million.
Thousands of our decoys have been sold at fundraising auctions, mostly for wildlife conservation. Each one brings hundreds of dollars to this cause. Wildlife organizations we have carved decoys for include: Ducks Unlimited, Quails Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Pheasants Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Turkey Federation, to name just a few. We are always pleased to work with conservation minded people. We are proud of the millions of dollars Bundy Decoys have raised for all wildlife. In this way we feel we are doing active, positive work for our natural environment. We even carved a decoy to help buy a million fish and restock The White River of Indiana.
As the years passed many things changed: our kids grew up, family members died, machinery wore out and had to be replaced, river disasters occurred and we helped restore it, life happened. But one thing hasn’t changed about us: our love of nature, which is evident in our handcrafted decoys. There are so many stories that have developed from our “decoy experiences”, we hope to share some of these with you in our upcoming newsletter.
John E. Bundy