The community of Hope has a population of 8000 and is nestled at the base of the Cascade Mountains with the mighty Fraser River running along side of it. Hope is located just 2 hours east of Vancouver and is known as the chainsaw carving capital of the world.
As I drove through the quaint community of Hope, I noticed beautiful woodcarvings displayed throughout the town. I went behind the scenes to talk with renowned artists Pete Ryan who created many of these intricate carvings.
When I pulled up to his woodcarving store, Pete warmly greeted me and showed me his carvings in and around the gallery. He had both life size and smaller carvings of animals, people and landscapes. I was impressed with how detailed his carvings were, since he used a big chainsaw to create his masterpieces. I was curious to learn about his carving process so he took me out back to his workshop to give me a demonstration.
Pete picked up a piece of log on the way to his workshop and decided he was going to carve an eagle’s head after looking at the shape of the log. He roughly sketched the eyes, beak and the baldhead on the side of the log. He was ready to carve. We put our safety glasses and ear protectors on and walked outside. He told me to stand back as he turned on the chainsaw. It was so loud and wood chips were flying everywhere. Pete used the chainsaw to sculpt the log but after he was done, he used modern carving tools and hand held tools to carve the more detailed parts of the eagle.
According to Pete, he is constantly tweaking his techniques and inventing new ways of designing and carving. I was so impressed that he was able to carve a figure out of a log in such a short amount of time. I could tell he had years of experience as he was precise and quick with his equipment. Despite over 30 years of being a well known chainsaw carver, Pete still remains a humble artist and is always most willing to talk and share about his craft.
Pete got interested in chainsaw carving when he first saw Don Colp carving a big horn sheep at a mall event. Pete found the carving to be one of the coolest things he’s ever seen and wanted to give it a shot because it looked like a lot of fun. Shortly after that encounter, he went out and bought himself the same chainsaw Don used. Pete started chipping away at logs and was surprised that people were interested in buying his artwork. He continued to develop his craft by reading and taking a four-year course. His love for carving quickly led him to become a well-known artist as he is frequently featured in magazines and TV shows, while attracting people from all over the world to his studio.
And how did the community of Hope become the chainsaw capital of the world? When Pete moved into the sleepy town of Hope, he noticed there was a dead tree in a park downtown. He offered to carve the dead tree into an eagle to make an eye soar into something more interesting to look at. This quickly became a popular attraction for both locals and visitors alike. The city knew they were on to something special when tourists would come out of their way to Hope and take pictures of Pete’s carving. Soon after, the city displayed 27 more pieces of his carvings throughout the town and next thing you know it, Hope became the chainsaw carving capital of the world.
Pete’s carving shed reminded me of Santa’s workshop, filled with tools on the workbench, wood chips blanketing the ground and sketches laid out on tables. I had a wonderful time learning and spending time with Pete. He is a gentle, humble and authentic person who inspired me to be creative in my own way.