ALL THE BUZZ | Southern Illinois Chainsaw Artists Carve Out | Life & Style magazine


Tina Bollman approaches her craft like any other artist. She looks at her medium and imagines what it could be, and at her disposal a wide variety of tools, each with a specific purpose.

However, unlike many of his colleagues in the art world, Bollman’s attire is specialized: safety glasses, hearing protection and protective leggings. His tools are also different: gasoline-powered chainsaws of different sizes and powers.

Bollman, a second-generation chainsaw artist, is nonetheless an artist and her work can be seen in businesses, homes and special events throughout the region, much like the work of her father, famed artist Art Boatright, died earlier this year.

Bollman says that about 20 years ago she wanted him to make a sculpture for her.

“I asked him, ‘Can you do this to me? He bought me a small chainsaw and we started doing it together.

Today, chainsaw carving is Bollman’s full-time job, carving everything from hummingbirds and eagles to bears and historical figures. They range in size from a table to towering two-tiered sculptures.

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Many are carved in her “workshop” outside Marion from logs left over from the work of her husband, Scott Bollman, owner of Scotty’s Tree Service; others are carved on site from the remains of a tree.

A complete sculpture can take anywhere from a few hours to a week or more, depending on size and complexity, Bollman said. For her, carving is a way to connect with her father – as well as her son, Joey Phillips, who is learning the craft from her.

The duo have ten saws at their disposal, all of varying lengths and with specially designed chain bars for carving. She said her preference was for carving cedar and pine, but “on site, you get what you get.”

Bollman’s work is impressive — so much so that she’s often called upon to demonstrate at lumberjack shoes and other events, but she says she’s still learning.

“Compared to many sculptors, we are novices; very novice,” she said.

‘I thought I’d give it a shot’

Carterville chainsaw artist Evan Kern calls himself an amateur. He said he started carving with a chainsaw about five years ago when his uncle bought a cabin that needed decorating.

“I’m cheap and I had a chainsaw, so I thought I’d give it a try,” Kern said.

The grandson of craftsmen and the son of someone “who dabbled in the art of the chainsaw”, Kern said he had used a chainsaw for years but had never tried to sculpt with. Thanks to a few books from her dad and plenty of time watching YouTube videos, Kern gave it a try.

The end product of his uncle’s cabin resembled a bear, so much so that Kern still uses it as an example of his work.

“I love doing cartoon bears,” he said. “I’m not good enough at making realistic bears. I made an owl for a woman, but I mostly stick to bears and pumpkins.

Kern pumpkins range from small fall decorations to ones so large they require a forklift to move. It can carve small pumpkins in minutes. His bears, take much longer.

“I never do a bear in one sitting,” he said, adding that he preferred to take his time, making sure everything was fine. “There are a few times where I don’t like the way the nose or mouth looks. I’ll cut it off and it will end up with a bit smaller head because I want the nose to look different. The problem , is that it’s really easy to accidentally make a bear look like a pig.

Bollman and Kern approach their art with safety in mind first.

“The hardest part was probably learning how to use the saw without hurting myself,” Bollman said. “My dad helped me with that, but basically once you get the technique on how to hold the saw and what you’re not supposed to do, the rest is practice like anything. else. The more you do it, the better you get.”

Kern said there was a passion for chainsaw carving among artists.

“Like any artist, it’s not something we do for the money. I do it because I love seeing the bear come out of something someone else would throw in their fireplace and burn. It’s nice to create something out of practically nothing and it’s extremely satisfying,” he said.

About Marion Alexander

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