Homeowners looking for something unique to place in their yards have someone to turn to in Mike Thomas, a chainsaw artist operating as Wicked NH Carvings in Bristol.
If you can show me an idea, I can carve it, says Mike, suggesting that potential customers check out his work on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/carverit), then Google images of what theyre looking for. Send the one you like the best, he says. Customers can ask for anything.
Also a freehand artist, Mike says, If they can make me understand what theyre looking for, I can sketch it for them. Give me a broad idea and Ill show 20-30 examples.
While he has operated Wicked NH Carvings for just three years, Mike says he has been carving most of his life ever since his uncle bought him a Dremel, a handheld rotary tool with a variety of attachments and accessories.
I come from a family of gypsies, he says. I was born in 1972 in Lincoln, Maine, but my family traveled everywhere. I grew up in Laconia, but we traveled all over the place, to every state except Hawaii and Alaska.
He picked up and improved upon his carving skills from the people he met on his travels, as well as seeking out videos on YouTube. Among those who provided inspiration was Peter Toth, a Hungarian-born artist who created wooden sculptures to honor Native Americans in every state, including the 35-foot Keewakwa Abenaki Keenabeh or "The Defiant One in Laconias Opechee Park. (That 12-ton red oak sculpture was removed in 2019 after rot made it a hazard.)
I love doing anything Indian-related, and do a lot of reading on Abenaki tribes, Mike says. He also does motorcycle carvings, including custom Harley bars for houses. His own mailbox is in the form of a motorcycle.
Most of the work is done with a chainsaw, but he uses a die grinder with special bits to do the more intricate parts of the sculpture.
Before establishing Wicked NH Carvings in 2018, he had worked at a variety of jobs, including as a tattoo artist. (He also has operated a detail shop and a skateboard shop.) Then, eight years ago, he broke his spine.
Once I broke my back, I couldnt do anything, he says. To this day, I cant do tattoos because youre leaning over a chair.
It took five years after the accident for him to carve again, but he found it was a great way to become active once more.
Woodcarving is a form of art dating back centuries, to soon after early man started shaping wood to make primitive tools by using sharp rocks and bones. It didnt take long to combine art with function, with the earliest examples often used for religious purposes.
Knives and chisels would provide the most common means of shaping wood, but, according to lore, a logger named Joseph Buford Cox noticed a timber beetle larva chomping through a log in 1946, and noted that the creature cut both across and with the grain of the wood. He decided to duplicate that motion in a steel chain, and the modern chainsaw was born in 1947.
Just six years later, Wild Mountain Man Ray Murphy used a chainsaw to carve his brothers name in wood for what is perhaps the earliest example of chainsaw art. Then, in 1961, Ken Kaiser created the Trail of Tall Tales in Northern California, carving large redwood logs in shapes on a Paul Bunyan theme.
By the 1980s, there were traveling chainsaw carvers who used their trucks as galleries, and chainsaw carving shops started appearing along the roadsides. Chainsaw artists appeared at country fairs and carving contests began to appear.
In the 1990s, chainsaw carving gained popularity as an art form.
For Mike Thomas, that carnival gypsy blood in his family made the house on Route 3-A South in Bristol the perfect spot for a business. I love that the house is right on the road, he says. I have 978 feet of road frontage and that makes my business that much more successful.
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