News Column

Victors crowned at U.S. Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championships

August 11, 2014

By Joe Knight, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

Aug. 11--An aged male face with flowing hair on Steve Higgins' chain saw carved sculpture had a smile, while a younger woman's face among the complicated collage of animals had a look of concern.

The piece, which won the 2014 U.S. Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championship that concluded Sunday at Carson Park, is called "Time Flies as Nature Cries." The male face is Father Time, the female is Mother Nature and they share space on the complex sculpture with a host of critters that included a turtle, bear, howling wolf, fox, bugling elk, salmon, eagle and four owls.

The piece was auctioned for $3,100 following the contest -- the highest price for the auction, which included the sculptures from the 11 artists in the 3 1/2 day main competition, as well as small pieces made by visiting sculptors who also volunteered at the competition.

The competition, a fundraiser for the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, started Thursday morning. About 200 volunteers helped with the four-day event, said Larry Doyle, one of the organizers.

For the auction that followed the competition, the artists kept half of the bid for their sculptures while half went to support the museum.

Higgins and second place finisher Takao Hayashi, of Japan, are familiar names in the competition. Higgens won the inaugural chain saw sculpture competition in 2011, while Hayashi won in 2012 and 2013.

Hayashi's sculpture was more lighthearted than Higgens', featuring a smiling, reclining hippo, with two birds perched on top -- red-billed oxpeckers by the looks of their red bills. The paint used on the birds was the only paint Hayashi used in the piece besides white and black in the eyes of some of the animals. The sculpture included three smiling meerkats, perched on their hind legs, and a sloth riding a turtle.

The piece is called "Lazy Day," Hayashi explained. It was auctioned for $2,500, the second highest bid of the day.

"Wildlife" was the theme of the day, and bears and eagles were featured heavily both in the competition pieces and the "quick carve" pieces, but Oregon artist Chris Folz interpreted "wildlife" broadly with his third-place sculpture. He titled it "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" after the song from the Charlie Daniels Band involving a fiddling contest with the devil. Folz's "devil" looked quite a bit like the Greek god "Pan" a half man, half goat -- complete with horns, a tail and a man's torso blending into goat legs. But while Pan played the flute, Folz's character played a fiddle while standing on two flaming stumps.

The piece was auctioned for $1,100.

Fourth place was a tie between two sculptures with moving parts.

Jim Denkins of Michigan carved a mirror that had a lion climbing out. The mirror could be flipped open to show a lamb. It went for $1,150.

Simon O'Rourke of Wales had a man wearing a worn bear suit. The man is holding the bear head, but the bear head can be put on, covering the man's head, O'Rourke demonstrated. O'Rourke said the piece kept with the wildlife theme of the contest, but also allowed him to carve a human form. It went for $2,000.

Karen Schauer of Eau Claire, who bought the piece, said she came with the intention of buying a smaller piece, but was intrigued with the moveable bear head.

"When he took the head off, I thought, 'Oh my goodness, how neat,' " she said.

Schauer said she plans to give the bear as a Christmas present to a son in Minnesota.

"I can wrap the head up and give it to him for Christmas. The rest he'll have to come and get," she said.

Dave Meyers of Eau Claire, the only Wisconsin artist in the main competition, made a backpacking bear with an owl perched on the backpack. The bear was holding a cardinal. The piece was auctioned for $2,100.

Mark Mahorney of Colorado made a bar with a voyageur scene on the front. He scorched the wood, producing a black background, then used carving tools to create the scene.

"There's a shelf behind for your Leinies," said Mahorney, who knew his audience. The bar went for $1,850.

Doyle said the sculptures appeared to be going for less than last year at the auction, but said they were planning to hold the competition again next year. Several of the artists have said they would like to come back, he said.

"They all tell us they enjoy coming to Eau Claire," Doyle said.

Attendance was about 13,000 over four days, up from 10,000 last year, he said.

Knight can be reached at 715-830-5835 or


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Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)

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