Thursday, June 13, 2024

Local carver creates masterpiece in downtown Leavenworth

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LEAVENWORTH –  On the corner of 10th and Commercial, a chainsaw buzzes while sawdust flies, as a dead, hazardous tree fated to be cut down by order of the city gets transformed into a work of art.

Hayden Wright, a local wood carver, was commissioned anonymously to sculpt the tree into a stack of local wildlife. Wright started on Apr. 30 and took about two weeks to complete the project. The project design fits an osprey, squirrel, bobcat, beaver, marmot, two bear cubs, an owl, two river otters, and salmon all onto the tree trunk, with a bench underneath. 

“The whole spread, from sky to river, and everything in between,” said Wright.

Growing up in a town of craft and tradesmen in Maine, Wright always knew he’d find a career working with his hands, but he never expected it would be to create artwork. Wright started carving for fun in 2020 after watching a YouTube video of someone using a chainsaw to create a piece of art in under 20 minutes.

“With chainsaw sculpting, it's such a fast way to create on such a large scale. I mean you can do it at a small scale, but being able to sculpt something at this rate, that's this permanent, there's not really any other medium that kind of comes close to those characteristics,” said Wright.

However, as his passion for the art grew, so did the list of tools that he wanted. Wright started selling his pieces by Lake Wenatchee as a means to support his hobby, unaware that it would launch a career that would take him across the globe. 

By chance, a professional carver stopped by, and impressed by his work, offered to get him into the Oregon Divisional Chainsaw Carving Championship.

“One thing leads to another and I'm down there a couple weeks later carving with 40 other chainsaw carvers. That's when I fully realized that man, there's a way to make a living doing this,” said Wright.

Wright now supports himself through commissions and participating in shows. He attends about six to seven shows around the U.S. and one in Lithuania. During the shows, carvers are tasked with completing a main piece throughout the weekend, in addition to a “quick carve” piece that is completed in an hour and a half. The pieces are judged, then auctioned off. 

Last year, Wright took home the judges’ choice award, people’s choice award, and the show’s highest bid for his main piece at the Sam's Blackfoot Valley Chainsaw Competition in Montana. The piece, called “Montana Montage,” was an intricate stack of detailed wildlife, connected by thin pieces of wood.

“Montana Montage,” as well as the downtown Leavenworth installation, are both indicative of Wright’s realism carving style, in which he often creates snapshots of wildlife with realistic movement and great detail. 

However, Wright also enjoys incorporating humor into his work. For his show in Lithuania, Wright carved a couple of drunken bears, which received audible laughter from viewers. For him, it was special to transcend the language barrier, sharing the same humor with Lithuanians.

“That's what art is really about, is trying to evoke emotion out of somebody and make them ponder, make them feel a certain way. To be able to shoot for making people happy and laugh and then succeeding in that in those terms, and making them truly laugh out loud, that's my favorite thing,” said Wright.

Wright’s work can be found on Facebook and Instagram: @thewrightcarver. Questions about his work, or prospective commissions can be directed to hayden.wright14@gmail.com, or 207-350-0215.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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