A moment to remember

by Jen Lee Reeves on November 4, 2011 · 8 comments

in 2011, Art, Disney, Disney World

For three days during our Disney trip, we went to bed late enjoying the late closing times at the Disney World parks and woke up early to snag the early opening hours. The extended morning and night hours are only for people who stay in Disney resorts. We love riding the rides with shorter lines and smaller crowds. It makes us happy.

One of those days started with us opening up Animal Kingdom. We love it best for the Expedition Everest ride and the animal safari. This year was the first time Jordan was tall enough to ride it. She was nervous before this ride… but was giggling and happy by the end of every time we rode it. All three times. (Yup. Getting to the park early makes it super easy to ride roller coasters a lot.) Jordan was so brave, we got her a stuffed Yeti. The safari in the morning is also always awesome. Add in the Lion King show and we were feeling like our Animal Kingdom experience was perfect.

But then it got even better.

On our way out of the park, I needed to grab a couple of things for a friend at one of the stores. I couldn’t find what I wanted to buy, so we kept looking. We ended up in a store where a resident artist was working on her woodwork. Judy Derench of The Global Gecko is an artist in residence at Disney eight months of the year. The rest of the year, she works out of Niantic, CT. The kids and I were admiring her work. She has all kinds of animal pieces of art that are all carved out of local wood.
As we looked through the work, the kids noticed small dolphins on a shelf. There were a few of them. Each cost $5 and I was totally willing to let the kids get one. Heck, we were days away from meeting Winter the Dolphin and her friends at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Cameron asked Derench if she had ever carved a dolphin without a tail. She told him that she had done it once and gave the artwork to the Clearwater aquarium. The kids thought that was really cool. I was in the process of buying the two dolphins when Cam asked Derench if she would consider taking the tail off of his $5 dolphin. I’m not exactly sure what he said, but she agreed. Each kid watched her work with care as she artfully removed the dolphin’s tail, smoothed it out and then lovingly packed each dolphin individually in wrap to keep them protected in its travels home. Jordan was so interested in watching Derench work.
I was honored to see her put this much care into a small $5 piece of wo0dwork. The kids have each of their dolphins displayed proudly in their bedrooms. Derench signed each piece of wood and wrote a bit about the wood she used for the art in a small pamphlet she included with each dolphin. The dolphins are made out of crocodile wood. She writes it’s a “naturally light colored wood. The bark of the tree looks just like crocodile scales.” Pretty cool and a moment worth remembering from our Disney trip.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy Derench January 31, 2012 at 10:52 am

Hi Jordan and Cameron:

I love your story about meeting me!! I thoroughly enjoyed talking with you and making that “special” dolphin for Cameron. I hope you had a great visit with Winter at the Clearwater Aquarium. Please stay in touch and maybe someday we will see each other again at Walt Disney World!! Judy Derench

Jen Lee Reeves February 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm

That would be wonderful! We plan to return in December. We’ll certainly send you an email to see when we might have a chance to see your latest work!

Nelda Emick October 11, 2012 at 11:50 am

We are planning on being in Disney World in December. Do you know what part of disney world you will be in. I have one of your carvings and would like to get another.

Jen Lee Reeves October 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

@Nelda – I only wrote about Judy Derench. She often works at Disney for months at a time but I don’t know her schedule.

Kena Hurt December 23, 2013 at 6:59 am

We just met Judy at Christmas town at Busch Gardens.
My daughter purchased an Owl. Judy took the time to
Speak to her and encourage her to follow her dreams as
An artist!!! Judy you are a great inspiration to kids. Thank
You for all you do. My daughter has her Owl on her shelf
In her room. She tells everyone the story about meeting you.
Thank you.

Jen Lee Reeves December 23, 2013 at 8:55 am

That’s so cool, Kena. Thank you!

Judy Derench March 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Hi Kena:
You are very welcome!! I enjoyed meeting you and your daughter at Christmas Town. My personal interactions with customers have continued to show me that my life’s path is not to sell my woodcarvings but to “touch” people’s lives. I’m so glad that I was able to do that for your daughter.

Stephanie November 1, 2016 at 3:11 pm

I was in a thrift store, purchasing props and costumes for a play that my husband and I were producing when I came across a small (2.5 inches?) wooden sculpture of 2 seated figures intertwined in an embrace. Its simple beauty resonated with me and I purchased the piece. It was signed 2009 Judy Derench. I knew nothing f the artist and went online to see what I could learn.
I am thrilled to hear that you are often in central Florida, and have enjoyed reading how you have touched others with your art.

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