The 12 carvers for the 11th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous wave their chainsaws Wednesday at Craig City Park. The carvers received tree stumps Wednesday and will have until Saturday afternoon to carve a statue and vie for cash prizes.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

The 12 carvers for the 11th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous wave their chainsaws Wednesday at Craig City Park. The carvers received tree stumps Wednesday and will have until Saturday afternoon to carve a statue and vie for cash prizes.

11th annual Whittle the Wood underway at Craig City Park

Carvers have until Saturday afternoon to finish creations

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Rick Burgess, of Lincoln, Neb., peels bark off the tree stump he drew during the 11th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous Wednesday at Craig City Park. The resulting statues will be judged Saturday and awards will be handed out at 5 p.m.

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Ken Braun, of Cortez, whittles away on the beginning stages of his sculpture in front of works previously completed and for sale Wednesday at Craig City Park. Live music, arts and crafts vendors and a silent auction will run all day Saturday at Craig City Park, and the rock band Blue Oyster Cult plays at 5:30 p.m.

Tina Berssette stared up at a large tree stump, squinting into the morning sun.

As one of the carvers in the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous in Craig City Park, Berssette chose her tree stump via lottery.

But, she thinks it was really the tree that chose her.

“I was looking around and this was the tree that spoke to me,” said Berssette, who has been carving wood designs with chainsaws for 14 years.

She said the parts of the tree could tell her what they were and what they could be.

“I really liked what this limb was saying,” she said, pointing to a small protrusion about halfway up the stump.

She plans to carve that part into the rear end of a bear cub, which will be hanging upside down on the stump.

But, she, like 11 other chainsaw artists, won’t back herself into any artistic corners.

Part of the artistry of chainsaw carving is working within the natural construction of the tree stump, she said, using its flaws, twists and turns alongside individual creativity to create a lasting work of art.

Around City Park on Wednesday morning, woodcarvers from around the region were about to embark on their individual creative path at the 11th annual wood carving festival.

By Saturday, 12 tree stumps will have transformed into 12 pieces of natural art, similar to the statues from previous years displayed around the park and the rest of the city.

This year’s carvings will be judged Saturday afternoon and awards will be at 5 p.m. First, second and third places will receive $1,000, $750 and $500, respectively.

Bragging rights are up for grabs in the Carver’s Choice and People’s Choice categories.

As the competition got underway Wednesday, some had designs in mind. Others will play it by ear.

When asked what his stump might evolve into by Saturday, Rick Burgess, a four-year Whittle veteran, simply shrugged.

“I never know until I start

cutting it open,” he said.

He began working on his stump Wednesday afternoon, peeling of layer after layer of rough bark, revealing a smooth, alabaster surface beneath.

As he worked, he mingled among the other carvers, watching them work, discussing everything from past competitions to the weather.

But for Faye Braaten, also known as the “Chainsaw Mama,” focus is the name of the game.

She is the only competitor to have carved in the festival for all 11 years.

Her first year as a competitor was also her first year carving.

Braaten and her husband ran a street ministry in Montana when she first saw a chainsaw-carving friend work magic on a tree stump.

“My mind was like, ‘Wow,’” she said.

Now, she’s got her own process down to a science. She draws her designs and saws away at limbs and knots with deliberation.

“I don’t get nervous anymore,” she said. “When I’m carving, I don’t see anyone else or hear anyone else. I’m just in my

own world.”

Meet the carvers in the 2010 Whittle the Wood Rendezvous

Name: Tina Bersette

Hometown: Canon City

Years carving: 14

Years at Whittle the Wood: 2

What do you enjoy most about the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous?

“There’s a lot of hospitality that goes on. It’s also neat that you’ve got input from others; people are not guarded about their techniques. It’s a learning experience.”

Name: Faye Braaten

Hometown: Loveland

Years carving: 11

Years at Whittle the Wood: 11

How has competing at Whittle the Wood helped you grow as a carver?

“Tremendously. It’s amazing, the difference. Seeing what other people do expands your experience. Plus, everyone treats you like a celebrity. It’s kind of cool.”

Name: Ken Braun

Hometown: Cortez

Years carving: 4

Years at Whittle the Wood: 2

What do you enjoy most about Whittle the Wood?

“It’s a lot of fun, you’ve got a lot of people around. You get to create something you’ve never created before and think outside the box.”

Name: Rick Burgess

Hometown: North Platte, Neb.

Years carving: 15

Years at Whittle the Wood: 4

What’s your approach to the competition aspect of Whittle the Wood?

“It’d be nice to win, but it’d be a real challenge with these people.”

Name: Ken Davis

Hometown: Montrose

Years carving: 21

Years at Whittle the Wood: 9

What prompted you to take up chainsaw carving?

“I was laid off from my job building log homes and I was just trying to kill time. My dad suggested I start up carving and it ended up turning into something really good.”

Name: Forrest Dorman

Hometown: Florence

Years carving: 12

Years at Whittle the Wood: 6

What got you interested in carving wood?

“I started helping my friend finish off some of his work and eventually he gave me a saw and showed me a few things. I worked with him for four years before I broke off and did my own thing.”

Name: Ron Eye

Age: 43

Hometown: Vernal, Utah

Years carving: 10

Years at Whittle the Wood: 3

How did you get started in chainsaw carving?

“A Native American man showed me that I could take my art and make money with it. He told me I needed to believe in myself and what I was doing.”

Name: Bongo Love

Age: 37

Hometown: Lafayette

Years carving: 4

Years at Whittle the Wood: 3

What first brought you to Whittle the Wood?

“I started carving stone with with my grandfather when I was younger. I was looking for designs on the Internet, and I came across Whittle the Wood and I called them up to see if I could be part of it.”

Name: Mark Mahorney

Hometown: Kremmling

Years carving: 3

Years at Whittle the Wood: First year

How did you get started in chainsaw carving?

“I was doing some beetle kill for people and cutting down their trees. A lot of them wanted to know if anyone could carve them instead of just throwing them away. I felt like I could and started doing it.”

Name: Mark Rexinger

Hometown: Lincoln, Neb.

Years carving: 8

Years at Whittle the Wood: 3

What do you plan to carve with your stump this year?

“Probably, I’ll do another eagle. I just like making them. To me, it means freedom.”

Name: Sheldon Roberts

Hometown: Canon City

Years carving: 12

Years at Whittle the Wood: On and off since 2001

How did you get your start in carving?

“There was some people carving in my neighborhood and I found it interesting, so I started doing it.”

Name: Chad Stratton

Hometown: South Jordon, Utah

Years carving: 11

Years at Whittle the Wood: 6

Where did your interest for carving start?

“I was in my garage just messing around with some carving. Back then, I was just using dremel.”

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