We had a dilemma. For 20 years we had watched a rather lovely Lebanese Cedar in our garden grow from big to absolutely enormous. It began to lift the pavement, undermine the footings of the house and drop the occasional branch onto the road. What should we do with it? Sadly the only answer was to cut it down. It was a parkland tree in completely the wrong setting. But the pain of watching such a beautiful specimen be decimated and dismantled was huge, it was quite a feature of the area, and everything looked bare without it.
And then my clever husband came up with the idea of leaving the tall trunk and getting it carved into something that everyone could enjoy. Between us we came up with the idea of a Family Tree which represents our parents, ourselves and our children and some of the things that have been important to us throughout our lives.
It was left to me to find a good chainsaw artist who was willing to scale the heights of our tree stump and carve it for us. Chainsaw Mick, aka Mick Burns was the man I settled on. His website, his artistry and his open and honest explanations of things really appealed, and after meeting him, I knew he was the man for us. One year on from taking down the tree we began erecting scaffolding to enable Mick to do his work. It had to be really stable and safe for him to work on as he was wielding big tools and dropping large chunks of tree as he began sculpting.
Mick asked me to make a quick maquette of a face just so he had an idea of the depth of carving we wanted, so I dug out my scrap polymer clay and made this gruesome little figure. The effort of rolling the clay and conditioning it was huge for me in my current state of health, so he had to be fairly small, palm sized. Not beautiful I know, but once baked, he did the job for Mick.
It is amazing to think that he did all the carvings with mostly chainsaws of different sizes. You can see him carving out the head of our cocker spaniel at the base of the tree.
The pile of sawdust and wood chunks would have been twice this size if my husband had not cleared half of it away as Mick carved. It is going to make a good mulch for the garden.
Once all the carving and sanding was done, which took 4 days of very hard work by Mick, he scorched all around the motifs to help them stand out. Right now the tree is very bright and fresh and the wood is in its green state, but as it ages it will mellow and soften in colour, and then the scorching will really help to keep the motifs visible.
I drew the stylised faces on A2 paper from photos of the family, which made it easier for Mick to translate them into carvings. He is a wizard at taking 2D drawings and turning them into 3D carvings – check out his website and see what he can do. The picture above is of the carving of my husband. His hair is blowing up in the wind and his sunglasses are protecting him from the glare of the Australian sun. It is a favourite photo of mine from one of our favourite holidays.
You can glimpse the edge of a spanner in the picture above, and some leaves and the Danish flag. All these things have relevance to our family, along with hockey sticks, sailing boats, fruits, computers, fish, medical paraphernalia, and of course the hummingbird that adorns the top of the tree. This has been the symbol of my business Rare Bird for more than 25 years, and it makes a magnificent feature perched on the top of our very personal Family Tree. It is amazing to think that it has all been carved from the one tree stump, nothing added on, only chunks of wood carved away with tools that we associate with destruction – chainsaws.
Below is the view from the road that all our neighbours and any passers by can see. Our Family Tree is not just for us, but for everyone in the village, a legacy to brighten the lives of us all. We took down a glorious landmark tree but have created a unique piece of art in its place which we hope will endure for many years to come.
Thank you Mick.