Art is a pretty subjective topic. It’s incredibly difficult to define and even harder to produce at a substantial level. Art can be a painting, a drawing, a poem, a sculpture … the possibilities are really endless. Art can even be a large slab of wood. At least, it can be if you put it in the right hands.
Meet Sarah Walker, a young woman from Cattaraugus, NY, who after completing a major in art and a minor in sculpture at Daemen College, returned to her hometown knowing that she wanted to pursue her artistic endeavors, but wasn’t exactly sure what direction that path would lead her down.
Last April, Sarah decided to try her had at something completely new to her. Chainsaw carving. Her inspiration was a chainsaw artist whom she spoke with at a festival who encouraged her to give it a try.
“I have always been fascinated by chainsaw carvers and the talent they possess,” said Walker. “I used to only enjoy drawing and painting, so I wanted to challenge myself with something different.”
Some of the challenges went beyond what she ever anticipated. “Being left handed was a huge obstacle; they don't make them (chainsaws) left handed, so all of my carvings are done right handed. Holding a normal chainsaw "backwards" for a left-handed person is out of the question and dangerous.”
To put that in context, tonight when you go and brush your teeth, try doing it with the opposite hand and see how it feels. Then picture trying to make very precise cuts with a 13 lb. Echo CS-600p with 20" bar while controlling it with your weak hand. For the finer cuts, Sarah uses a Stihl MS 170 with a 10" specialty dime bar.
Ironically, the lack of being able to use her dominant hand isn’t even the biggest dilemma in Sarah’s mind. “The hardest part is finding the right log for each carving,” she said. “I always pick what carving I am going to do before I find the log. And I try to visualize the carving within the log while it's still in the woods. It makes actually carving it so much easier.”
Walker’s portfolio is growing quickly. Already, she has over a dozen pieces to her name. She has even been commissioned by HoliMont Ski Area (where she works part-time in the main office throughout the ski season) to do two pieces for HoliMont’s new Foxwood warming hut at the top of Cascade and Greer. One piece was a sign that says “Foxwood,” which has been completed and the other will be of a fox, which she is working on now. Walker says that her favorite piece that she has done so far was of a raccoon holding a welcome sign and that, thus far, the most difficult piece was her first piece - a bald eagle.
That said, the bald eagle must’ve intrigued her because she has another one in the works that she has scheduled for this coming spring. “I plan to do a large bald eagle landing to grab prey,” stated Walker. “The log is about 1,000 lbs. so it will be my biggest project yet.”
Walker has plans to eventually open a store in her new barn where people can come and see (and purchase) her works. If you are interested in contacting her about having a piece made, you can email Sarah directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.