Archive for Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Chainsaw sculptor lends talent to benefit

McLouth artist competes in Carving for a Miracle event near St. Louis

May 2, 2007

— When McLouth artist Russell Ehart looks at a tree stump, he doesn't see firewood. He sees a bird, a bear -- or even Elvis Presley.

Ehart and about 25 of his fellow chainsaw carvers descended this past weekend on Pacific, Mo., for the firstever Carving for a Miracle chainsaw carving competition and benefit auction.

The event was a way for carvers from across the country to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network of Greater St. Louis.

"I think it's important that we are doing something for somebody other than ourselves," Ehart said.

Each carver spent the weekend on one main piece depicting a Missouri outdoors scene, plus they did one 90-minute quick carve each day.

Laura Reichert, a Pacific, Mo., founded the event. She and Ehart have been using chainsaws to cut out masterpieces for years.

Ehart said he got his start carving figures by hand after he hurt his back during a construction accident.

"One thing led to another, and I started doing chainsaw carving," he said. "The chainsaw carving gets a lot more hoopla, I guess. Everybody is impressed with something that's being done with the saw."

His first statue -- a representation of Chief Tonganoxie -- currently is on display at Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse in downtown Tonganoxie.

Since her first public carving, Reichert and her husband have traveled the country, participating in carving competitions. It was on the road that she got the idea to bring a competition to her home state. Pacific is on the west edge of St. Louis, Mo.

"I thought it would be really neat to bring this to the Midwest," Reichert said. "They are a lot of fun for the carvers and they are a lot of fun for the spectators."

By the end of the weekend, Ehart had sold about $2,200 of works at auction. His biggest winner was his main piece, a bench with a male and female cardinal on the arms and the Gateway Arch on the back. It sold for $450.

He also carved a rooster, a fish and a statue with three cardinal heads on it.

Ehart said all of his pieces sold well.

"It was a good weekend for sales," Ehart said. "I've never seen a better one. You've got so much competition, but almost everybody sold out."

The total auction take for the weekend was $56,000. Fifty percent of the money raised from the auction will go to the Children's Miracle Network of Greater St. Louis and the other half will go to the individual artists.

Ehart said people were talking about having another competition next year and he would definitely be interested in going. But for now, he is just trying to recover from the weekend and start working on more projects.

"I'm sore as I can be right now. My back is killing me, but I'm getting ready to start the chainsaw up," he said.

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