There was an interesting article on Boston.com on Sunday about a fibre optics technician who went from working for a telecomm to supporting himself as a chainsaw sculptor.
Now art-wise, wood sculpting is not precisely my cup of tea – too “nature’s grandeur”, too hippy-ish, too Deerslayer. Along with Joyce Kilmer, I’d much rather look at a beautiful tree than look at something carved out of one. (Maybe it would be fun to have a cigar-store Indian from the way back, but mostly this is not my aesthetic.) But if you’re thinking that chainsaw carving is just those crudely hacked out statues of bears you see once in a while, think again.
Ken Packie is a bona fide artist. If you’re into wildlife carvings, I’d say that Ken’s your man. Hard to believe that this gets done with a chainsaw, but there you have it. (Okay, he uses a chisel and other sculpting tools to finish things off. Still…)
What’s really great about this story is the career transition that it represents.
From switch on the modem to rev up the chainsaw.
Packie had no training as an artist when,
At a log home show in 2005 he came across a man demonstrating chainsaw-sculpting techniques. Packie said something just clicked in his head and when he got home he immediately sought out a sculptor who taught classes.
A few years later, he decided that he was ready to take a stab at making a living as a professional chain saw sculptor.
And darned if he isn’t succeeding.
It helped to have an understanding wife, and I can’t help but thinking that, in homes across America, wood-be chainsaw artists are wishing that they had Ken Packie’s wife, rather than the one that’s asking them ‘are you out of your mind?’
"My wife said, `If you don't try, you never know.' So I dropped the day job," he said.
And about those bears that you see everywhere:
When Packie started, he said he point-blank refused to carve bears -- boxy, rough-hewn creations that proliferate at second-rate craft shows and serve as most people's introduction to the world of chainsaw sculpting.
"I said, `Really? Does the world need anymore of those?' " he said, describing a conversation with Jeff Samudosky, who served as his mentor.
Which Packie does.
Only his actually look like bears.
Since quitting his day job, Packie has entered (and won or finished high up there) in international chainsaw carving competitions. And he’s now got an exhibition at an art gallery out in Otis, Massachusetts, out there in the Berkshires, which is where Packie lives. If you’re out that way, Packie’s at the Stanmeyer Gallery for the summer.
Packie is proud of how far he's come, but he said his first year carving full time was stressful. He worked more hours than he ever had before and his income was unpredictable. At the same time, he said he was happier than ever and can't imagine falling back into his old day job.
Happier than ever. Sigh….
He credits his family and the town of Otis as a whole for making his success a reality. From his wife and kids willingness to cut back during those tough first years to the town's highway department, which drops off brush and logs they clear from roadsides. [Packie only works with downed trees.]
"I always say it takes a village to raise a carver," Packie said.
But if there’s no one in your particular village who’s going to help raise you as a carver, you can join one of two guilds dedicated to the art of chainsaw: the United Chainsaw Carvers Guild or the Cascade Chainsaw Sculptors Guild.
I’m such a city girl: when I went to type in chainsaw just now, the back of my brain took command and I wrote “chain store.”
Anyway, this is just such a feel-good story, I couldn’t help but respond to it.
Plus, I would like to thank Ken Packie for this:
From now on, when I hear the word “chainsaw”, I will not automatically think Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Or, for that matter, chain store.
Thanks, Ken, an best of luck.
Pictures are taken from Ken Packie’s web site.