Carving Out A New Place In The World
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I think most would agree that art is a form of expression. Some artists use paint and a canvas. Others use words and paper, while still others use clay and a potter’s wheel. And then there are those who wield chainsaws. Yes, it’s true! I saw it unfold before me; a lump of wood became a mushroom under the gnawing bite of a chainsaw. It is a tad unconventional, I will grant you. But nonetheless, it is it definitely an art form.
Lumberjack or firewood probably comes to mind when one hears the word chainsaw. Or maybe even the thought of Halloween and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre when we hear one fire up at a racing tempo. But in the hands of Chuck Williams, unique art will come to mind with the wielding of a chainsaw and a 3-D vision of what a chunk of wood can become.
Photograph by CL Harmon
While watching Chuck whittle away at that lump of dead wood, I saw something come to life. Not only the piece of art he was creating but a passion inside of him that began to breathe and function as one. Imagine if you will, the wild, long-haired rock guitarist ripping it up on stage wielding his musical ax in a frenzy of energy and creative flow with his long hair vibrating with static in the sound waves. Now imagine the same image only with a chainsaw instead of a guitar and you will see Chuck in his creative state. Woodchips are flying through the air like sparks from a rock concert’s pyrotechnics. The noise is loud yet with a flowing rhythm and the art of it all unfolds before anyone watching the show.
“It just hit me one day. I want to carve a turkey and so I thought I would give it a shot. After the class, I took to it like a fish to water. I can see 3-D but for some reason, I can’t draw”
This wood carving gig started over three years ago for Chuck when he got a notion to carve a turkey. He had a problem though; he didn’t know how to do it. So, he did what most of do these days and Googled it. The results led him to a man in Washington who taught a class on chainsaw carvings. After an agreement on price, the family headed up there for a vacation and a three-day class for Chuck.
“It just hit me one day. I want to carve a turkey and so I thought I would give it a shot. After the class, I took to it like a fish to water. I can see 3-D but for some reason, I can’t draw,” Chuck said. Being a tile layer for over 30 years, this carving and chainsaw sculpting idea was not some childhood dream that had whittled away at him for years, he explained. He enjoyed his profession and had not given any thought to a career change. However, after returning from Washington, carving a bear and a few eagles and then tackling the turkey, his business Beyond The Bark Carvings was born.
“While I was taking that class, I saw all these mammoth, beautiful pieces and I was inspired. This year I went full time and quit doing tile,” Chuck said.
I have used the word whittle in this article because it describes his methodology for creating a piece. In fact, many of his carving friends call him “The Whittler” because of his cautious nature of trimming. He quipped that many of his carving friends just go in there and start knocking chunks of wood off…and are very good at.
“It’s a process of elimination and once you cut it off, you can’t get it back,” Chuck said. He quipped that he is getting quicker at it though.
He does a variety of pieces, but his favorites are Native American pieces such as busts and feathers. He plans to begin a project in the near future where he will carve busts of what he calls the four great chiefs. These comprise of Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Quanah Parker and Geronimo. Each one will be 18–20 inches tall when completed.
He recently gained a great deal of recognition for his work due to his giving nature and generosity to those families who recently suffered a devastating loss in the gas explosion near Quinton, Oklahoma in January of this year. Channel 6 News spotlighted him for his kindness in donating the “oil field cross” to the families who lost their loved ones in the explosion. The news segment had over 18,000 shares and went worldwide, Chuck said. He has been getting orders ever since.
As for the crosses, the idea came to him after seeing a message on Facebook that asked for people to pray for the families of those men taken so tragically. The message had the picture of a hardhat, pipe wrench and pair of boots on the ground as a memorial. He thought what a great carving that would make. He decided to make the carving and then donate it to the well site or the town. He used Facebook to help locate the right people but instead received a simple request for even a better idea.
“Someone reached out to me and asked if I would do one for one of the families. I thought to myself, I can’t do just one for only one family. So I decided to make one for each of the families and donate all of them.” After the news story, his gesture of goodwill went viral and the orders began coming in left and right, he said.
One of the most intriguing parts of Chuck’s work is not the actual artwork that he creates, but the attitude in which he employs for his enterprise. He believes in the best outcome as opposed to the best income. By this I mean, he cares about other aspects besides just the dollar amount bottom line. For instance, he doesn’t believe in chopping down a beautiful healthy tree because he can use it as a means to make money. Instead, he only works with trees that have been damaged and uprooted by high winds or have fallen by other means which occur naturally. The oil field crosses, for example, are all being carved from the downed sycamore trees that fell as a result of the tornado that blew through mid-town this past August.
An interesting note about Chuck is that he is not one of those artists who see the art in the raw material that needs to be set free by chipping or chiseling away at it. Instead, he sees the art inside himself and the raw material as the canvas in which to create it. He is by far a talented artist with the ability to carve out a unique place in the world of art…and of course in any tree that might fall when he is in a-rockin’ creative frenzy.
To inquire about Beyond The Bark Carving art pieces or to get more information about live demos, call Chuck at 918–261-8453.