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Wayne Ellis sculpts with his chain saw

Way Up West
by Jan Cox

Wayne Ellis (photo: Jan Cox)Set back from Water Street in Summerside, partially hidden from view, lies the magical world of the Wood Carvers Garden.

As wood carver Wayne Ellis says, “Once people walk through the gates, they become little kids again. So much fun stuff to see.” Yes, it is fun to meander through the garden grounds, but it doesn’t take long to realize you are in a very special place. Perhaps it is the fact that Wayne used to have sled dogs, and they are buried throughout the property, their spirits living on, or that the faces of the tree carvings watch over you as you discover this enchanting setting—but it feels like holy ground.

Working in the forestry industry for more than 30 years, using a chain saw was second nature to Wayne. Five years ago, his interest in chain saw sculpting peaked and he began to seek out photos on You Tube. His inspiration comes from a group of wood artists called “Sawdogs.” And so began his genius relationship with tree spirits. He wants to continually improve his craft and have his pieces as realistic as possible. Although it is a hobby and he wants to keep it fun, after meeting Wayne, you are quickly caught up in his love of wood, and the quiet yet moving spiritual side of folklore. The gardens and their tree people stand for peace.

Wayne, a musician as well and arborist at Slemon Park, confesses that maybe he has a disease, “compulsive chain saw sculpting” he jokes. He has over 60 pieces using all types of quality wood. “East coast carvers prefer white pine,” he said, but he also uses cedar and a personal favourite, Linden trees. He is currently working on a bear head made of ash. The tree people are coated in linseed oil then finished off with marine varnish. As the oils are lovingly applied, Wayne loves to watch as the grains of the natural wood come to life. It’s his favourite part of the whole process.

Other tools are used in the creation of the tree spirits. Once the piece is blocked out with the chain saw, he uses an angle grinder, sanding discs, various sanders and dremels for the finer work. He usually ends up with the chain saw again. Wayne humbly admits, “I have an idea, but once I get going, I never know what's coming out.”

I suspect the tree spirits take over this man’s gentle soul. For a look at the Wood Carvers Garden, visit garden.

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