From veteran carver to relative newbies, the Hackensack Chain Saw Invitational last weekend brought carvers with varying levels of experience to town.
Nyal Thomas represents a breadth of experience and was the most senior carver in the competition. He's competed in more than 50 competitions and won more than 60 awards.
"I like competing; I like the artwork," he said. Once he started carving, he felt that he was doing what he was meant to do, he added.
Nautical themes are a favorite of Thomas - including whales and dolphins. He also enjoys what he calls "character bears."
His most significant chain saw sculpture was a Sept. 11-themed sculpture of three firemen raising a flag. He donated the 10.5-foot tall, 3,000-pound sculpture to Brooklyn, N.Y. firefighters.
Thomas has 20 chain saws at home, but brought five for the Hackensack Invitational.
Mark Colp has been carving for 26 years. It's his full-time job and the only job he's ever had. His father is well known in carving circles: Don Colp has been carving since 1970. A Californian, Mark's sculptures have a clean style. Colp said his favorite sculpture depicts a boy fishing on a dock. For that sculpture he earned a first place win at an Oregon Invitational.
Colp brought 10 saws to the competition but has 30 at home. He has a good rapport with the other carvers. A group of them were in southern Indiana the prior week carving together.
"I can't draw worth beans," Colp said. A lot of his success in sculptures comes from experience.
Brad Sharp, also a Californian, has been carving 17 years and is a full-time carver. He's the only carver in this year's invitational making a third appearance. Sharp secured his spot as a second-time champion by earning the Golden Chain Saw award for first place. His carving was of a deer looking at leaves fallen on the surface of a lake; large mouth bass swam underneath. His piece also incorporated a pheasant taking flight and a butterfly. Sharp said that he enjoys putting on a show.
Jason Emmons of southern Indiana has come a long way since his first crack at chain saw sculpture five years ago. He comes from a logging/sawmill family so he'd already had plenty of experience with a chain saw prior to trying his hand at chain saw sculpture. His first attempt was of a bear, but it turned out like a raccoon, he recalls. With a wife, three kids and two businesses: a sawmill and a carving shop, Jason is a busy guy. He's a member of the Echo (chain saw) Carving Team and has been competing since 2002. With commission work, Emmons gets frequent requests to carve bears and eagles. He carved a German Sheperd-mix dog for a woman from New York whose pet had passed away. She was so thrilled with the turnout that she called him in tears. Those types of pieces are a favorite for Emmons: ones that mean the most to the people that they go to. Emmons brought 10 saws all gassed up and ready to go for the competition including large, medium and small detail saws.
Zo Boni of northwest Pennsylvania has carved on the west coast and England - but made her premiere visit to Hackensack for the invitational. "I couldn't be more honored to be here," she said. Boni initially went to school for public relations/communications, but gravitated towards chain saw sculpting about five years ago. For the last four years, she's steadily carved. "The first time someone bought (a sculpture) from me I thought: 'This is something I can do,'" she recalls. For her, every sculpture is an opportunity to learn something new. "It's the only thing that I haven't gotten bored with," she said. Her father, Randy, is a carver who competed at the Hackensack Chain saw Invitational in 2005, and her uncle is also a carver. Zo works with her father back in Pennsylvania. She was excited to participate in the competition and meet all the other carvers. "This is a great town; they've done a lot here. I'm thankful, it's great to be inspired by the people here," she said.
If you've been to The Crab Pot restaurants on the west coast, then you've probably seen Pat McVay's chain saw sculptures. McVay, of Washington, created a number of chain saw sculptures for the restaurateur/owner of The Crab Pot restaurants. McVay lives on an island in Clinton, Wash., and is inspired by nature and by people. "Art makes you more observant to things around you," he said. McVay is a full-time carver. The day before the Chain saw Invitational started was his first day off in two months. He's been carving for 30 years and has been interested in it since he was a little kid. His first carving was of a troll, which is a good subject matter because it doesn't matter if you screw up, they're supposed to be ugly, McVay recalls. Lately he's been working on a series on fish and the life cycle of salmon. His involvement in commercial work - and pleasing a customer - makes him do better artwork, he said.
Rob Wensozki has been carving for less than two years. In high school he did a lot of drawing. Eighteen years ago he built a cedar-strip canoe and a cedar-strip kayak. He began chain saw carving on a leap of faith. His emphasis in chain saw carving has been on creating fine sculpture. One of his pieces - depicting a conductor's hand, music notes and a piano - took 1,200 hours of work and 2.5 months worth of sanding to create. A Canadian, grizzly bears are common requests for commissioned pieces. Aside from commissioned work, he teaches privately. "My ultimate goal would be to have a school to teach chain saw carving and fine sculpture," he said. Wensozki says that he tries to stay away from "factory" quick, rough carves and rather focuses on fine sculpture with a finished look. "I love a challenge," he said. "With art there are no 'real' mistakes."
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