Luck of the stump

Whittle the Wood participants choose timber for carving competition


John Clay drove from Beulah to Craig for this week's Whittle the Wood Rendezvous competition.

On Wednesday, he drew the sixth pick of trees in Craig City Park for the woodcarvers to turn into works of art. That might be tough with his tree.

"When I first saw it, I didn't really want it," Clay said. "We'll see what I can do with it in 40 hours."

Clay has been carving sculptures out of wood for six years. This is his third trip to Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.

His plan his chosen stump is to create a tribute to Daphne, the mortal woman who turned herself into a tree to avoid the advances of the Greek god, Zeus.

Although that's Clay's plan, he said the wood really decides what the sculpture will be.

"I hope to start with vines and leaves at the bottom," Clay said. "The figure at the top will be wings of angels."

Wood willing, he said the title of the work will be "Innocence."

Bongo Love, another of this weekend's wood sculptors, wanted the tree he selected.

Last year, was the first time Love, a native of Zimbabwe used a chain saw. He said he's prepared for this year's contest.

"Now I have the chaps," Love said. "I'm ready to rock and roll."

He envisions his knotty tree as a sculpture of a mother and child.

"It's all about love," he said. "The communion of things and the integration."

Love said the tree will play a vital role in determining how his sculpture turns out.

"The beauty part of the tree carving is identified by the tree itself," Love said.

The woman to pick first in the selection of trees is familiar with Whittle the Wood.

Faye Braaten has been coming to Craig for Whittle the Wood since its inception seven years ago.

"I picked this with the first choice, but now I'm wondering." Braaten said. "At least it's in the shade."

Her stump contains dozens of knots from branches. She said the knots are hard on the chain saw.

Braaten is from Loveland and goes by the nickname "chain saw mama."

Her past works, which include eagles flying wingtip-to-wingtip and penguins, can be seen throughout town.

"The first year I was here, I told Dave (Pike) that I didn't need four days to carve," Braaten said. "With the competition now, you need to be carving up to the last minute."

She pictures intertwining horse heads for her sculpture this year, but she is worried about her tree.

There is a weathered side on the back of the stump. She thinks it may be trouble, but enjoys the challenge. Like all other sculptors, she'll adapt to her tree.

"I've learned so much each time I've come here," Braaten said. "It's like going to school."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or

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