Meet Kevin an octogenarian whose passion for whip making, vitality and zest for life is poured into each and every one of his handcrafted bullock hide whips.
Kevin learnt to plait when he was shearing out west in the Warren district in 1948 from ”Jack the Plaiter” and later Arthur Howard taught him how to make a whip. To him the old bush craft of whip making is akin to religion and he constantly strives to make the perfect whip. He feels strongly that everyone should have an interest or hobby for when they retire and he spends many hours happily cutting and plaiting leather and turning whip handles in his shed in the company of his best mate, James the 2 year old Fox Terrier.
Work in the shed is punctuated with field trips out to Wanaaring and Bourke in search of the Gidgee, Yarren, Mulga , Beefwood, Box and Ironbark timbers for use in the whip handles. Kevin spends time seasoning and tending the timbers to create a unique handle for each whip. He is skilled at weighting the plaited fall so the whip is well balanced and delivers that special sharp “bang” when cracked.
Anyone who meets Kevin is drawn into his enthusiasm for his craft and for life, which is even more poignant given his concerns that whip making is a dying art. The old saying “never make a film with children or animals” certainly applied during the shooting of this film, as the “foxie” James successfully thwarted several takes, determined to be the star of the show. In the end we gave up and James co-starred alongside Kevin’s as his side kick – what a natural performer!
My first venture into film making was a truly invigorating experience, and I have a new respect for the masters of this art. The final cut owes much to the patient instruction and editing talents of Ana our fantastic ABC Open Western Plains Producer. It was a great pleasure to spend time with Kevin and James during the shooting of the film and experience firsthand Kevin’s lifelong passion for the bush craft of whip making.
ABC Open Contributor: Kylie Sutherland
ABC Open Producer: Ana Tovey
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