February 07, 2011

Sculpting with chainsaws

Sculpting with ChainsawsEerkes, who is of Choctaw-Chickasaw descent, comes close to being a one-of-a-kind in the world of wood carving. After retiring from three decades of coaching and teaching at the high school level (physical education, dance, adventure sports), she and husband Dave took up hand-whittling smaller works, the desk-top and mantle piece items.

Splitting time between their Tucson homestead and 10 acres in the mountains above Alamagordo, they had plenty of wood to practice on. “We had to do a lot of thinning of ponderosa pine, oak, and juniper and we realized we couldn’t burn it all in our fireplace. Then one day I spotted a guy doing chainsaw carvings at a roadside stand. I was fascinated by the artistry involved and wondered how I might get started. We traded in our whittling knife for a chainsaw, a little 12” blade saw, and started practicing on the wood we had already cut.”
And:The length of time needed to finish one of these pieces of art depends on the piece of art itself. “One reason I love chainsaw carving is that I can get more done quickly because you’re moving a lot of wood really fast. I tend to be anal with details which slows things down a bit, but depending on what you’re carving—from start to finish—if I worked on one piece only, it would be a full week of full work days before I’d turn the saw off for good and consider it a finished piece.”

Eerkes does some projects for her own satisfaction, like the traditional cigar store Indian. “I don’t know why really, just because I’ve always wanted to do one I guess,” she says. Bears, like the one on her front porch that holds a ‘Welcome’ sign, seem to be the most-requested subject. “I’ve done all kinds, dancing bears, waving bears, growling bears, sitting bears, but my signature bear is a happy one with a smile on its face.”
Comment:  For more on unusual Native sculptures, see Sculptures Made of Scrap Metal.

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