It’s official, the Kootenai Country Montana Chainsaw Carving Championship selection committee has extended official invitations to the 20 carvers selected to compete in this year’s championship. The event will be held in Libby, Montana, from Sept. 21 until Sept. 23, 2018.
This year’s slate of artists is truly international, with competitors coming from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The 2018 competitors are:
– Steven Higgins – Mark Colp – Josh Blewett
– Jacob Lucas – Hikaru Kodama – Todd Coats
– Les Smith – Susan Miller – Joe Dussia
– Dawna Ceriani – Dennis Beach – Tomas Vrba
– Alex Pricob – John Hayes – Abby Peterson
– Adrian “Bois” Cabrera – Raimondas Uzdravis – Bongo Love
– John Schulz – Garry Shand
Abby Peterson is a 37-year-old chainsaw artist from Webster, Kentucky. He’s been carving professionally and competitively for about three years. Peterson said he carves because he loves turning wood into living art. “I’ve loved working with wood my whole life, I love the challenge of making that next masterpiece, the smell, look, and grain of the wood,” he said. “I love hanging out with like-minded people. Even if I didn’t get paid for it I’d still carve. It has been one of the great loves of my life! Taking an almost worthless piece of wood and turning it into something that has life. That is why I carve.” Peterson’s favorite sculpture so far is called the Addison Eagle, which is pictured to the right. It’s his favorite, he said, because of its unique design and the fact that it was carved while he was hanging out with his friends. “The highlight of my carving career cannot be pinned to any one thing,” he said. “I believe the entire journey has been a highlight. I’ve enjoyed traveling with my partner in crime and love Kayce Ann Ford. After I grow old and look back upon my life, I think the friendships I’ve made along the way will be considered the highlight of my carving career.”
Mark Colp was born in Alberta, Canada, and has made Lakeport, California, his home. Mark is proud to make chainsaw Wood sculpting his life. Having started right out of hight school and has been carving for 36 years. During that time, he has become an award-winning woodcarver. His favorite sculptures to carve include animal wildlife, marine life, nautical theme, totems, and southwest-themed pieces. Mark has a long list of accomplishments, including First place at Reedsport, Oregon in 2002 and 2015; Albuquerque Fiesta Cup Chainsaw Carving Invitational Grand Championship in New Mexico 2013. He also won the Ministers Award in Chetwynd BC, in 2015, and was top carver at Ocean Shores, WA, in 2015 as well as first place at Sedro-Woolley, WA, in the same year, along with many more wins at competitions on the west coast. Mark was on the reality show Carver Kings, which aired in Canada in 2015 and has come to the USA in 2018 on Netflix USA. He was also on 7 out of 10 episodes of the reality show Saw Dogs that aired in Canada, the USA, Latin America, and Mexico 2013. Mark’s latest accomplishment was winning the quick-carve championship two years in a row (2016, 2017) at Reedsport, OR, & Sedro-Woolley, WA. Mark travels throughout the country creating beautiful sculptures. His satisfaction in carving comes from seeing people take home his art, happy with the finished piece.
Adrian Bois is a 42-year-old chainsaw artist from Villa Elisa in the Entre Rios province of Argentina. He has been carving competitively for about five years. In 2016 he won the Argentinian Stihl Chainsaw Carving Championship. Adrian began his career as a craftsman, building wooden toys for children. His inspiration comes from the wood itself, as he puts it, “I really love the smell of wood in the morning.” Adrian said his favorite piece so far was an armchair he made in Costa Rica. The piece, pictured right, was installed in a kindergarten for children to gather around while the teacher read stories. “It is amazing to see the first face of WOW when the children see it,” he said.
Hikaru Kodama is a 47-year-old artist from Hokkaido, Japan, who has been carving professionally for 16 years. He has won numerous carving competitions in several countries around the world, and is looking forward to returning to Libby for his second appearance in the Kootenai Country Montana Chainsaw Carving Championship. “I am proud to be able to carve in your town again this year,” he said. Hikaru is a forester by trade, and takes his inspiration from the forest. “I live in a rich natural land,” he said. “My job is forestry. I enter the forest every day. Inspiration is given by touching flora and fauna.” Hikaru enjoys the challenge of carving figures. “I like to carve figures,” he said. “Among them I like the angel I made in the Russian competition last year. The figure of a person is very difficult. I like to take on the challenge of difficult things.”
Bongo Love began carving stone and wood in Zimbabwe, Africa, when he was very young, under the influence of his grandfather. In Zimbabwe, it is common for families to pass the trade of sculpting down among the generations and Bongo’s family often created effigies of animals. The animals are symbolic of their tribal cultural traditions and are often inspired by dreams. He also focuses on mother-and-child and family abstract pieces. Bongo learned to carve with a homemade adze and he began mastering his sculptures in order to exhibit in galleries, both in Europe and the USA. He uses the natural beauty of wood and does not use paint or stains – only polish or outdoor protector to finish his marvelous work. His latest work was exhibited in Craig, Colorado, at the Whittler’s of the Wood Show. Bongo has been invited to events all across the USA, Europe and Japan. Bongo has shared his wealth of talent and his performances with children. He’s won multiple awards at chainsaw carving competitions — including third place in Vancouver and fourth place at the World Cup in Germany. Bongo Love has come a long way, from carving animal sculptures for tourists in Zimbabwe to chainsaw carving around the world.
Les Smith is a chainsaw sculptor from Cut Bank, Montana. He has been carving professionally for 18 years and he is looking forward to competing in Libby again this year with a new game plan. Smith has carved several prominent pieces, including a 10 ft. tall lumberjack for a high school in Washington State and a 10 ft. tall bear that resides on Main Street in East Glacier, Montana. He is also known for his naked fisherman sculpture covering himself up with only a rainbow trout, located along the Missouri River in Craig, Montana. His favorite carving is the naked fisherman. When fisherman float the Missouri and see the sculpture it brings a smile to their faces. In addition to last year’s Kootenai Country Montana Chainsaw Carving Championship, Smith has placed in competitions in Reedsport, Oregon, and Eureka, Montana, and has competed at Westport, Washington.
Raimondas Uzdravis, or Raimis Logger, as his friends call him, is a 50-year-old professional chainsaw artist from Kaunus, Lithuania. He has been carving professionally since 2016, but has worked in forestry and carpentry since 1993. Raimis takes his inspiration from God, nature, and people, and loves to carve figures from mythology and animals. His favorite sculpture is of the Lion King and Christ under an apple tree, because he looks very magnificent.
Steven Higgins is the returning champion from 2017. The word is out as to
the quality of this event and many carvers are in preparation to challenge the total sweep of First Place – Judges’ Choice, First Place – People’s Choice and First Place in total overall quick carves that Higgins was able to pull off in last year’s event. A total sweep is often referred to in the carving community as a Golden Broom award. While this is not the first event Higgins has claimed to have a Midas touch at, Steven is certainly hopeful that it won’t be his last. His advice to other competitors: “Bring your A game.”
John Hayes is from Waterford in the south of Ireland. He comes from a joinery background and took up carving during an economic downturn about four years ago. His first carving was the Tree of Hope in Fenor, this got national media attention and that started the ball rolling. Since then, he’s taken part in numerous shows and competitions all around Ireland and across Europe. In 2018, he completed the world’s largest Viking sword, which is now sitting in the center of the oldest city in Ireland, Waterford. “I am so looking forward to taking part in this wonderful competition in Libby,” Hayes said.
A resident of Bonney Lake, Washington, Jacob Lucas has been carving since 2004. Throughout the years he has worked in many mediums, including drawing, clay sculpture, digital design, glass blowing, and chainsaw art. Carving became a dream of Jacob’s when his grandmother bought some cute carved bears at a local fair. “At age 13 I thought it was something I could do,” he said. “So I saved my money from working in a lawnmower repair shop and purchased a small saw.” His dreams were cut short just two weeks later when the saw was stolen from his garage. But his grandmother restored his dream 11 years later, after reading a story in a local newspaper about a chainsaw carver. She reminded him of the dream and offered to buy him a new saw. The rest is history. Lucas has competed in a number of national and international chainsaw events. He has placed at the Reedsport, Oregon, show as well as the McKenzie River event. He teamed up with Bob King to represent the United States at the 2015 Huskycup Worldcup Champtionship in Germany, where they placed second against teams from five other countries. He has produced a number of custom pieces, including a 10-feet tall nutcracker figure for the city of Leavenworth’s Nutcracker Museum, a couple of pieces for the city of Chelan, and some 30 pieces in the city of Bridgeport, Washington. “I love to make people smile with my art,” he said.
Todd Coats was born in Wyoming and has lived in the northwest most of his life. He has been a chainsaw artist for 25 years in northwest Montana, where he lives and raises his two daughters. Todd does many types of art, including bronze sculpture, pencil portraits, painting, and pen and ink drawing. He has sold his chainsaw art to people from all over the world. Todd prefers chainsaw work because he enjoys working with wood and being outdoors. He does chainsaw carvings from one foot tall to his largest piece that is 43 feet tall. He has carved thousands of pieces of most every type of wildlife. Todd is relatively new to the competition carving world, but he enjoys the challenge of competing against some of the best carvers in the world.
Dennis Beach resides in the wooded hills of Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania, where he masters the fine art of chainsaw carving. The world champion carver cut into his first log in the early 1980s and has been sculpting some of today’s greatest woodcarvings. “The first year I started carving, I went to a fair,” says Dennis. “And I have been carving at fairs ever since. I started out making really simple carvings and just got more complicated, nicer, fancier pieces, and that led me right up to the world championship in Germany.” Dennis specializes in speed carving, where he spends 30 minutes on stage with one log and quickly transforms a piece of nature into a piece of art. During this show, he loves interacting with his fans, providing them with the most enjoyable entertainment possible. “I like to show off and give people a good show. I love flipping the saw around, and shooting sawdust out at people,” he says. “I have a heavy netting so I’ll flip the chunks of wood right out at the people and make them jump.” Dennis often leaves the Keystone State and travels all over the world to attend carving festivals and competitions. He’s carved wood in New York, Kentucky, Georgia, California, Washington, England, Germany, Australia and Japan. Additionally, Dennis carved ice in Alaska and Austria and even went to the Caribbean islands to carve coral. “I won the Tupper Lake competitions, called the Northeast Regionals, and then won the biggest one in the United States which was in Ocean Shores. After that I went to Germany to compete in the world championship and took first place there.” Dennis ‘s latest accomplishment is winning the world championship competition again in June of 2017. At this competition, Dennis was awarded a place on the “Walk of Fame.” Dennis is always looking to carve in front of a new audience and bring the enjoyment of chainsaw carving to others.
John Schulz is a 49-year-old chainsaw artist from McCall, Idaho. He’s been carving professionally for nearly 30 years. Schulz takes his inspiration from the place he lives in the central mountains of Idaho and the wildlife that live there. He has competed in more than 25 chainsaw carving competitions and shows. His favorite work was a sculpture of his daughter fishing with her dogs, which he carved in a competition. He gifted the sculpture to his wife.
Josh Blewett began carving in 1994 and has been a full-time wood caver for over 20 years. His work can be found on public and private display across the U.S. with a high concentration in the Pacific N.W. where he resides. He is a highly sought after commission artist and has completed major projects for businesses, communities, and individual collectors alike.
Susan Miller is a product of the Pacific Northwest and has lived in Washington, Alaska, and mostly Oregon. Her current home is up a small coastal river, inland from Coos Bay, Oregon, surrounded by forests and nature. She started carving in 1965 after meeting Mike McVay, who was one of the earliest of chainsaw carvers and was living in Salem, Oregon. For the next several years her life was divided between carving and teaching school. In 1989, she decided to quit teaching and carve full time. Her approach to life is broad, inspired by whatever is interesting at the moment: dreams, bits of news, lines from poetry, animals and pets, nature, the feeling of a tool, or the properties of wood. Now, at the age of 74, she can look back to when she started carving. Since the earlier times, tools have evolved to become smaller and more precise (and much more fun to use!) Competitions have brought carvers together and have inspired the development of skills that earlier carvers only dreamed of, and have made the public so much more aware of chainsaw carving as a true and exciting art form.
Tomas Vrba was born in Slovakia and now lives and works in the United States. Vrba earned a Master’s in Sculpture Restoration from VSVU Bratislava, one of Europe’s premier fine arts institutions before moving to the U.S. to open his studio with his wife, Allison, whom he met while they were both vacationing in Berlin. The couple operates the Tomas Vrba studio in Bellingham.
Garry Shand, from Drummuir, Scotland, will also be making his debut appearance in Libby this year. Shand is a 38-year-old artist who’s been carving competively for about 10 years now. Shand says he’s inspired by the variety of opportunities provided by wood sculpting. “I’m inspired by the endless possibilities of what can be carved. Carving something new for the first time is like discovering and learning the art all over again.”
Alex Pricob is a 35-year-old artist from Moldova, who currently resides in Renton, Washington, who specializes in flat carving and relief carving in wood. He’s been carving since 2012 and turned pro in 2014.
Dawna Ceriani is an accomplished artist, business women, dedicated wife and mother. She was raised in a small, Pennsylvania town called Brockway. She and her husband of 20 years, Thomas Ceriani, are currently raising their three children and operating multiple businesses in this location. Dawna and Thomas opened up a small chainsaw art gallery in 2000.
Joe Dussia is a body work artist who takes his passion and creative abilities from painting and airbrush work to chainsaw artist. Born and raised in the Allegheny Mountains pf Pennsylvania, Joe’s love for the outdoors and nature lends credibility and authenticity to his artwork. He has performed at fairs and festivals across the USA and Europe. He is always looking for new inspirations. He has a flair for creating movement in a log and his finishing techniques will inspire growth for the artform. He placed 3rd in the competition here in Libby last year. His unique interpretation and bold rugged style will certainly please the public.