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VIDEO: 91-year-old West Kelowna man creates his version of a hobbit house

Herb Kettner wanted to do something creative besides painting

He had always been creative, but a West Kelowna resident wanted to push his creativity further.

After decades of painting, 91-year-old Herb Kettner decided to turn his attention to making dioramas instead.

“About a year and a half ago, I’d been doing so much wall painting and I wasn’t getting anywhere. I’d had enough of that,” he said.

“So I thought, ‘What else can I try?’ As a teenager, I used to be a model maker, so I made some model houses and things. From there, all of a sudden, I got the idea of a diorama.”

Kettner said he started making little models of houses and barns for practice. But he wanted to create something challenging. One of his grandchildren suggested making a hobbit house, so Herb went to work and built his own version of the famous site from wood, bark, cardboard, and terracotta moulding.

In all, it took Kettner six months to make the detailed diorama, which has been meticulously painted and includes little furniture inside the house, as well as doors that open and close, and little latches that lock. He even made his own version of hobbits who own the house, creating clothing out of felt.

Kettner said it took a while as there were some things he had to do twice due to mistakes or the delicate pieces break, but he’s learned a few shortcuts to compensate, so he’s hopeful that he can make other models and dioramas quicker.

The hobbit house has received praise from his family and now, his great-grandchildren are asking him to make them a castle. He’s currently taking a break from diorama-making, but he said he has started collecting ideas for what he wants the castle to look like, which could take him another few months to make.

“My hands and fingers aren’t as nimble as they used to be,” he said.

“My fingertips don’t feel things the way they used to. One moment I think I’m holding a piece of wood and the next, I see it on the ground but I don’t realize it’s fallen.”

That doesn’t stop Kettner from his creative pursuits, however.

“You have to have a goal, something you want to create.”

Kettner said he hopes his art inspires others to do what they love and create things that give them joy, especially during these difficult times.

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Twila Amato

About the Author: Twila Amato

Twila was a radio reporter based in northern Vancouver Island. She won the Jack Webster Student Journalism Award while at BCIT and received a degree in ancient and modern Greek history from McGill University.
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