Chainsaw Sculpture

On October 7th, I happened to be traveling along Druck Valley Road in York, PA.  I spotted a man on scaffolding, chainsawing a tree.  I slowed down and noted the advertising on his truck.  I didn’t have a “set” schedule for the day, so I turned around and went back.  When I climbed out of my car, he stopped sawing and took off his earphones.

I told him my name and why I was interrupting his carving and he was happy to take a break.

“Here’s my card”, he said.  “If you have any questions, ask me while my ears are free.”

Funny guy, Brad D. Heilman was, and quite chatty.  At that moment, Heilman had just finished the Eagle and had started on a new, much larger sculpture.  The Mount Wolf native has 22 years experience tree climbing and 11 years in “free standing, sculpture stump carving” with his title as “Carver”.  He is a busy “one-man operation” who finds out what the customer wants discussing the options for about an hour, “then they let me go with it.”

“Really, they give you an idea and you just run with it?  Do you sketch it out with the client?”  I asked.

“No” he answered, shaking his head.  “I don’t sketch anything.”  Then he pointed to his head with his finger. “It’s all up here.” he grinned.

I was very surprised and impressed.  I needed my camera and lucky me had it.

Back to work

The eagle was across the yard, was watching Heilman as he carved out the bears.

Watchful eyes

The Eagle was a separate piece, attached to match with the stump.   The Eagle was created at Heilman’s house.  He has statues in front of his home for sale and as attachments for use on job sites.

“The bear is to be returning the eagle’s eyes.”  Heilman said, “The eagle took about 45 minutes at the shop.”

Back at the bears, I saw the beehive develop from very raw to a more finished edge.  I found it amazing  he could create these sculptures with no sketches and just taking a break after 45 minute to step back and see where he’s at with the stump.  Once he gets an idea in his head he just dives in.  With 10 to 11 Stihl chainsaws on hand, he has no shortage of cutting edges.  He carved the large chunks out, then broke out the smaller saw to create texture and accurate depth.

I see a bear head popping out

Heilman had a rhythm going, holding the chainsaw with either hand.  Flipping it upside down and pulling up through the wood.  Digging in with gusto as he wedged out bear’s body.

Imagine what he could do with a laser.

Heilman had been at it for about 30 minutes and he suddenly stopped.  After taking his earphones off I asked, “Do you ever have boo-boos?  Where you cut off something you hadn’t meant to?”

He held up his arm and said, “yes, just now when I nicked myself with the tooth of the saw.”

That wasn’t the type of boo-boo I meant.  I went over to the emerging bear and saw that blood was dipped down the front of him.  “Damn!  You bleed for your art!”  Heilman liked that thought.  Just as it’s only a little blood, I suppose.

The bear draws blood

Heilman gave me permission to climb on the scaffolding so I could get better shots.

“I’ll cut that blood off in a bit” ~Heilman

While Heilman had been busy creating, I placed a gift for him in the back of his truck.

Notice “The Spartan” tucked into the milk crate?

Attending to his cut, Heilman mentioned he would love to carve a Spartan for York College of PA.  I wonder if there are any trees on campus that need a facelift?

Heilman called it a day and I said goodbye.  I promised to come back for pictures when he finished.  He suggested talking to the owners of the property.  He said, “They’re really nice people.”  I thanked him again and was back on the road.

I returned to the Rosengrant property eager to see the finished sculptures.  The transformation of tree trunk into art is stunning.  Just driving by doesn’t do the carving justice.  David Rosengrant was home and happy to talk about his statues.

Mark of the master~Carver R.D. Heilman

I introduced myself while thinking Rosengrant looked familiar to me.

“What made you decide to have tree sculptures in your yard?” I asked.

Rosengrant replied, “Well, the electric company came through and fucked up the trees.  When I found out the cost of the sculptures I decided to have them done.  I didn’t think it would be that cheap or would look that nice.”

I asked how he decided what the sculptures would be and he answered, “I wanted an eagle, my wife wanted bears and my daughter Nicole, wanted a face.  We only had one tree to work with and Brad said it was too big to use for an eagle.  My wife won out and that became the bear tree.  The eagle on the corner stump was a suggestion by Brad and I liked it.  Everyone was happy.”

“Will you be using this as a mailbox?” I asked.

Rosengrant replied, “Not yet.  It cost more to have that little area black-topped then the two sculptures cost.  I wasn’t paying that so the bear sculpture isn’t complete.  We are going to add-on to it so it extends out to the road.  The township was making a big deal over black-topping that little area anyway.”

Any final comments I asked and he crossed his arms, smiling “I didn’t expect all the attention they are getting.  People see them as art and Brad is an amazing guy.  I don’t mind people looking at the sculptures.  I love them.”

What’s not to love?  Beautiful art to share with anyone driving by on Druck Valley Road.

 

Friendly Chap Massive paws

The Eagle stands alone, watching over the bears.  One bear returns the eagles gaze.  Where is the face daughter Nicole wanted?  Brad added “The Man of the Woods” last, making everyone happy.

“Man of the Woods”

  Interested in wood sculptures in your yard?  Contact Brad Heilman at 717-266-5780.  Expert Chainsaw Carver at your service.

Thanks all for viewing my blog on this fascinating art form.

Art is everywhere,

~P.

Comments

  1. That’s so interesting! Was he excited when you told him you’d blog about his art?

    • Yes, both the artist Brad Heilman and the ownr David Rosengrant were happy to hear I would be writing about the carvings. I figured why Rosengrant looked familiar. He is John’s first wife’s brother. Small world! ~P.

  2. Would u mind sharing Brad’s info. I would love to have a carving done!!!

Go ahead...take a swing. I'll duck and listen.

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