Handcarved Studio Art Furniture Chair: A Kansa Indian and Buffalo Art-Sculpture Piece

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 10-10-2006 04:10 PM 17367 views 3 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This one-of-a-kind Chair is available for purchase, and immediate shipment.

Email me for more information: [email protected]

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Project Story:
In my spare time this summer I read a fascinating book called “PrairyErth” by a man called “William Least-Heat Moon.” This book is a historical, socialogical, and philosophical book about the area in which I live and work, Chase County, Kansas USA in the Flinthills Prairie.

The book was written in the late 1980’s, so in many cases the things he foretold have come to pass, and yet other predictions have not, yet. There was a great chapter on the Osage Orange tree, laying out it’s history in this area. Another great chapter on the Cottonwood Tree and it’s importance to the area, and people, long before the White Faces took over.

But, the chapter that struck me in the heart was the history of the Kansa Indian in this area. I was so moved by their plight and forced encampment on a reservation not far from my house, and then their later removal to Oklahoma, that I felt like building a chair, and featuring a carving representing a Kansa Brave. His hair blowing in the wind, the pain evident in his face, having been forced to pack and walk in a line with his family toward a new reservation in Oklahoma. This Chase County grass land was deemed too valuable by cattle ranchers to let the tribe stay on it, and so the government moved them.

I chose the name “Against the Wind” as the trip south to Oklahoma is against the normal wind that blows from the south. The name of Kansas as a State comes from the original Indian name called Kansa, of which there are several dozen spellings, all equally correct. The term Kansa means “People of the South Wind.”

I don’t mean to get this story off on the relations between Native Americans and the White race, there are other places on the web for that, I’m just laying out a little of the motivation and heart that went into my planning and carving.

This chair is made from Kansas Burr Oak, has a sculpted surface over the entire chair, and sports a Buffalo Robe draping the leather upholstered seat. The leather seat was done by Allen’s Upholstery in Wichita, KS, a more skilled group you won’t find

The Buffalo robe for this chair came from an animal also raised in Chase County, KS. I was given four freshly skinned robes two winter’s ago, and I scraped them, salted them, and then had them tanned for me. I was pretty naive to the cost of tanning when I started this process, and so I quickly worked to sell two of the robes to other people. The remaining two robes, I had tanned for clothing or upholstery, so, I wanted to use some of it in a special way.

The remaining pieces of two robes are for sale, if someone wants some pieces email me at [email protected] and we can talk the pricing and what you need, and how to get it to you.

The wood for this chair came from a fully matured Kansas Burr Oak. I learned a lot taking a tree trunk and converting it into small dried boards suitable to build a chair with.

I have read that chair building is the most demanding woodworking project a person can take on, and it is indeed challenging. I never make anything easy, so I used a 4.5 degree spread of the front to back legs, and made each of the joints a real mortise and tenon. I had to learn how to mortise on an angle, and also how to cut angled tenons on a table saw. So, in the end, it was a very challenging project to learn on, and something I am glad to have completed. The tenons are held in place with walnut pegs.

The coloring of the carving and the “antiquing” of the finish for the whole chair has been done by tinting clear lacquer and air brushing the coloring. This is a technique that I have been having fun with, and using a more and more in my work this year.

If you want to see more information on this air brushing technique, I posted a blog outlining the steps, and also for the methodology I use in Carving An Art Panel:

Airbrushing a Carving:

Techniques for Carving Panels:

Thanks for looking,
Mark DeCou

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Want to See More of my Furniture Work?:
If you go to my Mark DeCou Website you will find that I have not updated my website in quite some time. I realize that I need to invest in improving my website, but until that is accomplished, here are some more Lumberjocks related lilnks with updated postings of my furniture work, sorted into categories. Thanks for your interest in my work, and your patience with my website.

Arts and Crafts, Mission Style Related Projects:
  1. Arts & Crafts Entry Table; with Carved Oak Leaves
  2. Arts & Crafts Orchid Stand w/ Wine Bottle Storage
  3. Arts & Crafts Style Morris Inspired Chairs
  4. Arts & Crafts Display Top Coffee Table
  5. Arts & Crafts Style Inspired End Table Set
  6. Arts & Crafts Style Inspired Prairie Couch
  7. Table Lamps
  8. Arts & Crafts Carved Entertainment Center
  9. Mission Entertainment Center
Church & Worship-Art Related Projects:
  1. Carved Communion Table
  2. Carved Roll Top Sound Equipment Cabinet
  3. Fancy Church Side Altars
  4. Processional Cross
  5. Fancy Speaker's Lectern
  6. Church Hymn Number Board
  7. Communion Chalice (Cup) and Paten
Art-Furniture Related Projects:
  1. Sam Maloof Inspired Walnut Rocker
  2. Original Art Carved Tilt Front Desk, inspired by Birger Sandzen
  3. Natural Edge; Nakashima Inspired Coffee Table
  4. Decoratively Painted Box End Tables
  5. Birch China Cabinet for Cut Glass Collection
Rustic, Western, Cedar Log, and Cowboy Related Projects:
  1. Naughty (Knotty) Refined Rustic White Oak & Black Walnut China Hutch
  2. A Kansa Indian and Buffalo Accent Art-Chair
  3. Refined Rustic Dining Chairs
  4. Refined Rustic Dining Table
  5. Cowboy-Western Style Suitcase/Luggage Support Racks
  6. Fun With Cedar Logs #1; Sitting Stool
  7. Fun With Cedar Logs #2; Coat/Hat/Spur Rack
  8. Fun With Cedar Logs #3; Western Style Hat/Coat Rack
  9. Fun With Cedar Logs #4; Entryway Stool
Outdoor Furniture Related:
  1. Kennebunkport Style Adirondack Chair
  2. Outdoor Garden Wedding Arbor
  3. Outdoor Project: Cedar Wood Double Settee

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Still Want to See more of my work?

Start with each of these links, and they will take you to other organized lists of my other niche products:

  1. Custom Knives
  1. Custom Walking Canes and Walking Sticks
  1. Artisan Hat Making Tools

(Note: this project design, original carved artwork, the photos, and text, are protected by copyright 2006, by the author, M.A. DeCou. No unauthorized use is permitted in whole, or part, without the expressed written consent by the Author.)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

15 comments so far

View Joe Cumbo's profile

Joe Cumbo

26 posts in 5371 days

#1 posted 10-16-2006 12:53 AM


Very nice work and a very interesting story. It must take a lot of patience and skill (that unfortunately I don’t possess) to be able to do the carving. I enjoy looking at your work.


View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5530 days

#2 posted 10-16-2006 06:06 AM

Joe: You are sure kind to me. I first decided I wanted to carve when I was 10 years old watching a man sit under a tree carving a little “boot” out of a piece of wood. I was mesmerized by what he could do, and decided then to try and learn to carve.

Some things I have tried to “do” have come easy, others things “do not.” Carving is one of the “do-not’s” in my life.

I struggle with it, but still press on, reading books, practicing, and asking questions whenever I can find someone to help me a little here and there.

When I look at Dick Cain’s carvings, or Tony Ward’s Koala Bear, or Donna Menke’s Chipmunk, or Ellen’s boxes, or Ospreybait’s Bluebird, or Pat Sherman’s horse, or Roger’s canes, of Bob Morris’ horses, just to name a few people, I am truly humbled and impressed.

I also grew up watching my dad carve a lot, decorating his furniture, or carving figures. I work at carving hard when I do it, and get better with each project, but I have a long way to go.

I have the “want to” attitude about learning to carve, so I appreciate your encouragement and kind words as I continue working on the skills.


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5371 days

#3 posted 10-16-2006 07:54 PM

Its cool the way you put a story with your work. I hope to do that someday. Believe it or not I used to help a custom butcher and had to help him butcher out a cow buffalo that died giving birth back in the 70’s. If you wrangled and salted the hides of those critters by yourself you have my blessing. I remember I could’nt lift one of those hides on my own and I was in good shape back then. I’m not saying you did’nt, these were’nt free ranging bufs they were penned up so they had about 3 inches of fat we left on the hide plus the hump. It was quite an experience. The chair is beautiful, I love the texture you gave it, that had to take some time. I really enjoy doing mortise and tenon joints, dont you? It makes you feel like a carpenter….mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5530 days

#4 posted 10-17-2006 01:40 AM

Jockmike2: you are right, green buffalo hides are very heavy. The guy that butchered the four animals called me and asked if I wanted them the morning after the butchering, and I said “yes.” Then he said that I needed to hurry as they were still laying on the ground, and would deteriate quickly in that state. So, I buckled the little ones in their car seats, jumped in the pickup and headed to his ranch. My wife opted not to join us on the trip. The ranch owner helped me drag the green hides into the back of my truck, and that was when I first learned how naive I was about working with hides.

When I got there, since it had been raining and snowing several days before, everything was so muddy, that the hides were covered in mud and all the rest that comes with butchering 4 large animals, something I had never seen before.

I would guess that one green hide weighs at least 250 lbs, but I am just guessing. I know they were too heavy for me to carry them by myself, but I could drag them on the ground one at a time. When I got them home I pulled them out of the truck onto the grass by myself, as my wife took one look at them, the back of my truck, and the huge mess, and quickly ran the kids back into the house with her, muttering something about my low level of sanity. I mentioned somewhere else in my lumberjocks writings that I am stubborn, so this “motivation” just made the job more important to get done.

I spread them out on the grass and starting the washing process with a garden hose to remove all of the mud and other stuff. I had already acquired several books with information about tanning from my mountainman rendezvous hobby days, so I cleaned up and went into to read the books. It was during this cleaning process that I realized how much I enjoyed the freedom of living in the country, with no neighbors to complain about the mess. I only had to worry about the wildlife at night, but as it turned out, the wildlife only messed with the fat material that I scraped off of the hides, and they left the hides themselves alone at night.

I scraped one hide at a time with a hunting knife. If I were to do it again, I would take a few minutes and make a scraper out of an old lawn mower blade and tree limb. But, like I said, I was pretty naive when I started this process. I was able to heft one end of a hide at a time up on top of a set of saw horses with boards running across them to make sort of a table. With some heavy lifting, I was able to put each up on the table and scrape them with the knife.

If I remember right, it took me more than 4 days of work to scrap out the four hides, and cover them each with their own 50 pound bag of salt I bought at the local livestock supply store. The salt turned out to be the cheap part of the experience, only about $3 per bag.

I called around to see what it would cost to tan a full hide with the hair on, and soon found out that I didn’t have the money to do that. So, I started calling around to see if anyone I knew would want a green hide that they could have tanned on their own. I did sell two that way, and then I had the other two tanned.

About 16 months later the hides came back, and were just beautiful, long soft hair, and they have that freshly tanned leather smell, and then all of the hard work seemed to be worth it. I have a Morris Chair started in my shop that I have planned to sort of match the styling of this dining chair, and then I will use more of the hide on it, draping it over the leather cushions. Someday, I hope to get the Morris Chair done.

Thanks for your comments,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5530 days

#5 posted 04-15-2007 06:42 AM

I took this chair to a small local art show today in Cottonwood Falls, KS. It is so fun to share the inspiration behind this project with people, and see them connect with the plight of the Kansa Nation.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5285 days

#6 posted 04-15-2007 12:50 PM

A very historic piece you have created Mark. Have you printed this information out and put it some place so that it can “stay with the chair”?
I’ve tanned rabbit hides (a lot of work) and a deer hide.. and that was enough for me. We now take our deer hides to a tannery to get done. Much easier hahaa.

The chair is magnificent and definitely depicts the history. Thank you for sharing, for creating, and for the information.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5530 days

#7 posted 04-23-2007 05:37 PM

I dusted off this Chair this past weekend to show it at the Great Plains Woodcarving & Fine Arts Show and Sale in Wichita, KS. The Great Plains Woodcarver’s guild has started hosting the Wichita Sculptor’s Guild in this show, and since I’m a member of the Sculptor’s Guild, I decided to throw my “hat” into the ring this year. I’m glad I did. A great group of folks, some great work to look at, and many appreciative people looking at what I do with my time. What could be better? Well, I could think of a couple of things, but you get the point.

I entered this Chair in the only category it would fit, “Low Relief Carving.” I looked at the other entries, all expertly done 3-D pictures of scenes, animals, and people, and walked back to my booth pretty dejected. But, then they later announced over the PA system that I had won 1st place in this category. What a thrill, that could have only been topped by selling it. But, now buyer yet.


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Karson's profile


35276 posts in 5525 days

#8 posted 04-23-2007 06:18 PM

Congratulations Mark on the win.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5285 days

#9 posted 04-23-2007 06:50 PM

congrats!!! What an honour.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5530 days

#10 posted 07-31-2007 09:30 PM

I entered this chair in the Chase County Kansas Fair last week. It took 1st in “woodworking” beating out my other project, the “Rustic Hallway Stool”. To be honest, I think my two projects were the only two entered in this category, but I don’t know that for sure.

Next judging stop for the chair is the Kansas State Fair. I’m hoping to entice someone to buy this chair, or commission a set of things in this style, so I have been showing it more lately.

thanks for looking,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5285 days

#11 posted 07-31-2007 09:52 PM

I love this chair . it has so much meaning. Good luck with the commission. I’ll be sending good thoughts.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View mot's profile


4928 posts in 5161 days

#12 posted 08-01-2007 06:15 AM

Mark, I’ve run out of things to say about your work. I’m just in awe of your skills in design and execution. Bravo, brother…Bravo!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 5212 days

#13 posted 08-01-2007 02:03 PM

Another great example of adapting for the business.

The Indians big mistake was not requiring a background check, $5000 and a 2 year temporary visa before they let us in.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5530 days

#14 posted 09-17-2007 02:15 PM

I took this chair to the Kansas State Fair, and entered it in the “Low Relief Carving” category. It took a Blue 1st Place in that category, which was quite an honor, as there were some other very nicely done low-relief projects that it competed against.

Here is a Photo from the Fair. The walking cane that is leaning up against the chair is another entry of mine which is shown and written about at:

Here is the Blog Summary of this year’s Fair Results:

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Obi's profile


2214 posts in 5362 days

#15 posted 04-30-2010 09:25 PM

Boy, that seat looks familiar…

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