Carving out a new lifestyle

CHAINSAW ARTIST TRANSFORMS LOGS INTO ART

Preparing for competition: Randy Gauthier caught the eye of drivers heading to Sun Peaks as he fine-tuned his carving skills ahead of his first international competition. - Photo by Jamie Shinkewski
Preparing for competition: Randy Gauthier caught the eye of drivers heading to Sun Peaks as he fine-tuned his carving skills ahead of his first international competition. – Photo by Jamie Shinkewski

Sawdust covered the ground and the roar of a chainsaw filled the air while drivers slowed to admire the wooden carvings created by a man working along the Heffley Louis Creek Road this March.

Chainsaw carver Randy Gauthier set up shop along the rural road in preparation for two competitions in Ontario in April, including “Carvapalooza”, which attracts some of the best carvers from around the world.

“I’m very excited,” said Gauthier, ahead of entering his first international competition. “The biggest things with competitions, especially an international competition, the best thing is you push yourself, you challenge and you go out of your comfort zone.”

Gauthier lives in Moberly Lake, near Chetwynd, and after delivering a decorative bench to a client in Kamloops, he decided to stay in the area to avoid distractions ahead of the competitions.

Photo by Jamie Shinkewski
Photo by Jamie Shinkewski

“I needed a break from home,” Gauthier said. “Right now it’s snowing at home so the conditions aren’t adequate to carve. This is a much better environment for carving. There are no distractions here.”

He decided to start carving full time nearly two years ago after spending 25 years as a dangerous tree feller.

“I love running chainsaw, but I got sick and tired of being in camp for up to 70 days at a time and I’m a single parent so I had to do something that I wanted to do,” he explained.

“Life is about living. If you’re not living life it’s going to pass you right on by.”

The lifestyle change has brought new challenges for Gauthier. The winters are slow for business. The equipment is expensive and it can be difficult to sell carvings in the beginning, but he said those factors won’t stop him from pursuing a life as a chainsaw carver.

“Persistence will prevail. You’ve just got to believe in yourself and go for it,” Gauthier said. “Sometimes you’re eating chicken and sometimes you’re eating feathers the next day.”

Photo by Jamie Shinkewski
Photo by Jamie Shinkewski

The size and familiarity of the carvings determine how long it takes him to finish. For example, the bear he was working on along the side of the road to Sun Peaks, a relatively new challenge, took him three days to complete.

“Carving isn’t just carving, it’s studying the anatomy, studying the eyes and doing your research at night. Sometimes you’re up until midnight just studying the muscle system or the skeletal system,” he said.

“As I get better and start knowing my cuts it’ll get faster.”

His work certainly caught the attention of many drivers. Cars constantly slowed down to admire his work as they passed by, and Gauthier estimated 40 people stopped to take pictures and strike up a conversation. He had a truck and hauling trailer full of carvings, but nearly all of them were sold or traded.

“The Sun Peaks road it’s nice, (there are) good people here, very nice people. Lots of people travelling and that’s fine, that’s even better,” Gauthier said. “If you’re not prepared to be a people person, don’t be a chainsaw carver because you’re going to get a lot of it.”

Photo by Jamie Shinkewski
Photo by Jamie Shinkewski

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