Crafters consider Old Court Days
the kick off to summer

Woodcrafting runs in the Keller family

By Deb Napper
Contributing Writer

MADISON, Ind. – Chances are, if you live in the Madison, Ind., area, you know at least one member of the Keller family.

The Kellers have lived in this community all their lives. In 1998, Jennie and Billy Keller opened Country Sawdust Woodworking & Crafts on East Main Street. Billy inherited the family business from his parents, Bill and Gwen Keller. He had to give up his fishing pole for a power saw when he discovered his natural talent for this business.
The more Billy learned, the less he fished. And he loved fishing! The Kellers will display their handcrafted wares this month during the Old Court Days, a twice-a-year arts and crafts festival sponsored by the not-for-profit Pilot Club of Madison. The festival runs Friday through Sunday, May 26-28 and again Sept. 22-24 in downtown Madison.
The club funds its other activities from Old Court Days. The club helps youth and the community through its involvements in the Canaan Fall Festival, Vernon Christmas, Bittersweet in Vernon, Jac-Cen-Del Christmas Show and Hanover College.
Bill Keller taught his son woodworking from age 11, making time in his own busy schedule for that opportunity.
Bill fondly recalls his own father, Harry Keller, using no power tools in the beginning days of the woodworking business. His crafting was done with the handsaw. Gwen and Bill purchased the first scroll saw for the business.
Each family member has a special individual “choice piece of the pie,” creating the desired result. Bill’s specialty is woodworking of benches, backboards and breadboxes. Billy’s preference would be cedar chests. Gwen and Jennie both do finishing, but Jennie specializes in painting.
Gwen tells of her daughter-in-law’s lack of confidence in the beginning as the two sat on the tailgate of a truck during ballgames. She taught Jennie the simple basic strokes on the back of that truck, practicing on a sunflower.
There is no lack of confidence on Jennie’s part today. She smiled with pride as her mother-in-law complimented her accomplishments derived from creative and decorative talent. Not only did Gwen teach Jennie the art of painting, it is interesting that this grandmother loves to paint faces!
Any kid would love to have her for a grandma! Billy and Jennie have three children with whom Grandma Gwen works in the business.
Josh, 15, attends Madison Consolidated High School. He is becoming an expert on small cut-outs. Sarah, 14, attends Madison Junior High. She enjoys painting (like Mom) and staining wood. Melissa was helping until she joined the U.S. Navy. She now resides in Norfolk, Va.
All three have received awards for their crafting efforts. The girls attained Re-serve Grand Champion and Josh accomplished the Grand Cham-pion award at the county fair.
Bill was an integral leader of the Jefferson County Fair Board for 19 years. Gwen helps with the Pilot Club of Madison’s events.
Three of the Kellers work at the Madison State Hospital. Bill has been an employee there for 10 years doing carpentry. Gwen has worked with adolescents for five years. Billy’s 13 years have been in geriatrics.
The Kellers say the difficult aspects of owning a business are time and financial concerns. The Kellers have kept busy making their wood items in a shop at home and participating in craft festivals.
Commercial landlords Jeff and Mary Burleson helped the Kellers by establishing a healthy business relationship in a good downtown location.
Their customers include locals, tourists and many repeat tourists. All ages take an interest in the Kellers’ merchandise. Other shop owners have helped, and trade shows prove beneficial and enjoyable.  

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