Chainsaw Carver Extraordinaire

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Chainsaw Carver

Chainsaws are incredibly powerful and versatile and really fast. Something is going to go wrong. However, when you get rid of the things that you don’t need, you kind of find the things that are important to you. To be able to take this raw log and within a day or two days, however long it takes, have a piece of art or whatever’s in my head, that is really amazing. It’s an amazing amount of power to, like, have immediate expression in a solid form. , little skinny thing, a little twig of a girl covered in tattoos wielding that great big tool like that. I was trying to find people that were doing large scale pieces of art so I approached her about making a piece for the Legation. I had a little apprehension. I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of an image we would get.

I was just so impressed that she’s given me weather and she’s given me wind. It was a very personal piece. It didn’t seem to be coming from some other source. It was something coming out of her. It can be really difficult to imbue a sense of dynamism and movement into something as rigid as wood. She’s started to incorporate fine art techniques; she’s burning and she’s Dremeling and she’s processing and she’s painting. I think that really brings a whole new level of craftsmanship to the carvings that she makes. As a kid I used to climb, like, super tall fir trees, up to where the branches were breaking under my hands. I was a kid. I didn’t realize I could easily die probably. My grandfather was a whittler. He would give me little projects because I was always fascinated by it, but I inevitably would, like, cut myself one time and give up or it would take too long. Maybe if he would’ve just given me a chainsaw.

My family on both sides was really creative people and I was always told by all of them growing up, “You cannot be an artist for a living.” I was leaving my old job and I wanted to start my own projects. I didn’t know what I was going to do yet. When I first met my husband, he gave me a chainsaw. It’s kind of a weird thing to end up doing. It’s not everyday that a tall, beautiful woman asks you for a chainsaw, but when they do, you kind of have to accommodate. I like being active and I like using my body, but it took me a while before I could carve for more than a few hours at a time just because of the stamina. It is incredibly physical. If I can’t move it, that’s a struggle. I don’t think she could physically allow herself to fail. I knew from the second she cranked it and made her first cut that she was a chainsaw carver from then on. Like, I could see it in her face. There are no classes. You can’t go to college and learn how to be a chainsaw carver. R.L. Blair and Doug Moreland are the ones to give me my first introduction.

Doug Moreland and his family own Cattlelacs Chainsaw Carving Gallery down in Manchaca, Texas. Doug told me, “, come on down and embarrass yourself.” Get after it, embarrass yourself. It doesn’t matter. Everybody’s going to support for putting’ forth the effort and she did. It was kind of eye opening how different this was from traditional woodworking. It has it’s own set of tools, different lifestyle. They were really the beginning of this carving journey. Griffon was…, she’s natural. She can take a 2-D cartoon and turn it into a 3-D object. There’s not very many people that are able to do that. People kind of find chainsaws frightening or at least I did. Too many scary movies. She can take something so sort of utilitarian and create something really beautiful with it. I watched her go from in the span of five years having never started a chainsaw in her life to winning awards in Australia in the Australian National Championship. It’s really fun to be able to have a front row seat to her career. It’s like getting to watch a cool new movie everyday. I think of chainsaw artists as kind of the rock stars of the art world.

There’s this energy that you’re putting out there in front of the crowd. They really feed off that energy too. Friends, family, people that I haven’t seen in years, they’ll come up to me and talk to me about carving. I wouldn’t even call it like a calling, but I think it’s just this shared enthusiasm. For this piece I’m kind of going little bit more freestyle, trying to find where everything is. Once you get in tune with it and you move with it, it is almost like a dance. I think it is really tied up with how you’re feeling in the moment. I like how immediate this is and to be doing something so scary and, like, handling it is really kind of, exciting and it does make me feel really powerful. GEOFF: I think until the day that she can no longer lift the chainsaw physically she will be a chainsaw carver. There’s something about this that’s special. I really just like when you put a lot of work in something, having something to show for at the end of it. It’s the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done.

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