For the husband and wife carving team known as J&K Kingdom Carvers, their work is more than a job. It is a calling from God. Recently, they successfully completed a portrait carving, which many carvers consider to be a pinnacle achievement. The achievement was reached just five years after the duo picked up the chainsaw for the first time.
Kim and Jerry Eaton were inspired by a dream to start carving for the glory of God.
“He [Jerry] had a dream, and the dream was we were selling chainsaw carvings. We were under a blue awning. He had carved these three crosses and this gentleman was walking by and we started telling him about Jesus and he fell down at the crosses and gets saved,” said Kim Eaton.
It was that dream that served as the catalyst for the carving duo. What Kim Eaton hadn’t told her husband, prior to his revelation, was that she had had a similar dream.
Since then, the husband and wife team have followed what they believe to be the Lord’s calling on their life.
The duo started out carving bears.
The first bear Jerry Eaton ever carved took two days. Kim Eaton said that it looked like a mine craft bear because it was so square.
“I looked at him and asked, ‘Are you sure God called us to do this?’,” said Kim Eaton. “It would be like Noah building a canoe to save the world.”
Jerry Eaton said that now he can have a bear blocked out in about 30 minutes.
“It is natural. It is just like breathing to us,” said Kim Eaton.
The testimony the two share does not end when they started carving, but is actually intertwined throughout their carving ministry.
Kim Eaton recalled that the day before Maggy Kriebel, the director of Corbin Tourism, called to commission the couple to carve a statue of Colonel Harland Sanders, they received an unexpected gift from a fellow church member.
“A man [who is a tree trimmer] that we go to church with came to us on a Sunday and asked my husband, ‘I have just cut this tree down and he said would you be interested in it?’,” said Kim Eaton.
Jerry Eaton readily accepted the wood because as Kim Eaton put it, “you don’t turn down free wood.”
“He brought the tree to our house, and when it came, it was 10 foot long. It was massive,” said Kim Eaton. “He left, and I looked at my husband and said, ‘What are we going to do with this thing?’”
As the couple was discussing what to do with the log, Jerry Eaton said, “God’s got a plan,” recalled Kim Eaton.
“That was on Sunday, and on Monday, Maggy called and said she wanted us to do a life-size statue of the Colonel,” said Kim Eaton.
“I told her, ‘God has a plan. He knows what you need before you even ask him,” said Jerry Eaton.
Once they accepted the project, it was time to begin carving, but Kim Eaton was hesitant.
Kim Eaton said that from the beginning, her husband was on board with the project, but she was hesitant because she feared that, “it would look more like Chewbacca.”
Her fear was that because Colonel Sanders is such a recognizable icon, the statue would not live up to the expectation.
As the couple prepared to begin carving, Kim Eaton disappeared inside their home. Unbeknownst to Jerry Eaton, she was inside praying about the project.
“She prayed,” said Jerry Eaton. “When she finally came out, she said, ‘I have been in there praying. I am ready,’ and I said, ‘Okay.’”
Jerry Eaton started the chainsaw, because Kim Eaton cannot, and she started carving.
Within two hours, you could tell that it was Colonel Sanders, said Jerry Eaton. “The face was the easiest part to me,” said Kim Eaton. “The body was hard.”
While the face would have appeared to have been the most difficult part, Kim Eaton credits her prayers and God’s guidance for the smooth progress.
As they began carving the body, Kim Eaton said that she used her husband’s hands and ears as a template for the Sanders statue.
The couple said that when Kim Eaton prayed, she told God, “These are your hands and you use them however you want to use them.”
As she prayed, Kim Eaton said that she told God that any time someone asked about the Colonel she wanted to be able to give God the credit rather than take it for herself.
After the statue was unveiled, Kriebel described the couple saying, “They are humble. They are kind. They are God-fearing. God has laid chainsaw carving on their heart. They are excited. They are just great people.”
“To work with them has been really exciting. From them calling me and telling me about the process to shooting me pictures, it has been fun.”
Kriebel said when she first connected with the couple, it was an emotional experience.
“It is actually kind of emotional. When I met Kim and Jerry, there was an instant connection at Octoberfest,” said Kriebel. “I saw their work, and it blew me away. I realized they were artists that had intense potential that needed to be exposed.”
“I saw that potential,” said Kriebel. “That’s where I thought about the Christmas Village.”
The couple crafted the winter village that was used by the town around the ice-skating rink in December of 2020.
“They did the Christmas Village and it was awesome,” said Kriebel.
Kriebel said that when she was working on Colonel Fest, she invited them to set up and provide exhibitions, but then the more she thought about the festival she realized it would be awesome to have a chainsaw carved Colonel Sanders.
“We talked about doing it at Colonel Fest, but then I was like, ‘no, no, this is way bigger,’” said Kriebel.
It was decided that the statue would be unveiled at a special ceremony at the Corbin Tourism office, which is now the statue’s permanent home.
“Outstanding, just outstanding,” that is how Kriebel described the unveiling of the Sanders statue.
“It is a moment of being proud of my friends. It is a moment of being honored.”
Kriebel said that before she called to ask if they would consider the project, she called a carver in Pennsylvania who has 20 years of experience. When she explained the project to the carver, his response to her, Kriebel said, was “You are brave. You are very brave to ask them to do that, and they are very brave to do it.”
At the unveiling, Kriebel said, “Chainsaw carving is an art that few can master, and to get to the point to actually complete a portrait carving can be the achievement of a lifetime.”
After just five years, Kim and Jerry Eaton were able to carve the achievement of a lifetime, but their work is not done.
The couple has already been commissioned by several businesses to complete other unique carvings around Whitley and Laurel counties.
After the Sanders statue was revealed, Jerry Eaton said, “We are honored, and we feel blessed.”