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Spaniard’s Bay artist turns to his chainsaw

Shawn Rowe, surrounded by some of the carvings he’s completed.
Shawn Rowe, surrounded by some of the carvings he’s completed. - Chris Lewis

Shawn Rowe uses carving as a form of self-healing

SPANIARD’S BAY, N.L.

After seeking out his own method of self-healing, Shawn Rowe turned to his chainsaw.

Shawn Rowe is a resident of Spaniard’s Bay with a hobby some may consider dangerous, but one that he holds dear to his heart.

Rowe spent a number of years working as a supervisor offshore, which he says brought him to some rather violent corners of the world such as Venezuela and West Africa.

An accident at the workplace in 2013 led him to taking an early retirement, and the stresses of his job left him with some mental health issues to top it off.

Rowe admits he is not the type of person to rely on medication to deal with his problems. Instead he preferred to seek out his own means of therapy and healing. This drive brought him to art – a talent that he feels was always a part of him, and something he likely inherited from his grandfather, who also had a knack for the arts.

At first, this journey to self-healing saw him create art from sea glass, adding the stones to paintings he would make. Later, Rowe found himself creating carvings from wood, which would often become signs and wall hangings. However, these endeavours did not provide him with the kind of satisfaction he was hoping for. What did, however, was when he learned to create intricate carvings out of large pieces of logs using his chainsaw.

“For a long time, I was actually kind of afraid of chainsaws. When I was a kid, I cut myself on the knee with one when I was in the woods, and so I had never really touched a chainsaw after that,” said Rowe. “I always liked carving. It was something that always intrigued me, especially as a child.

“After my accident at work in 2013, I came home and was in a rut. I didn’t know what to do with myself, but I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t let myself start beating myself up. I knew my grandfather was an artist, and in my head, I felt like art was something I could do. Now, it’s like my own therapy. This is how I cope, and it works wonders for me.”

With approximately a year under his belt as a chainsaw carver, Rowe has created sculptures of owls, eagles, turtles, and most recently, a drunken gnome. Although he did not originally plan on creating a business out of his art, he says it’s begun to catch people’s eyes. He’s since sold a number of his creations to those looking for unique garden decorations.

Creative process

The process behind the sculptures varies with each individual project. Rowe explained to The Compass, surrounded by his wooden creations, that he does not necessarily go into a project with a specific idea in mind. Instead, he gets a feel for what the log could be, and takes it from there.

“It’s no good for me to say I’ll make one specific thing, because by the time I’m done with it, it could be something completely different,” he said. “It’s all in the log itself – there’s already a piece of art in these logs. I’m just using my chainsaw to bring that log to its full potential.

The carving process can sometimes take him no less than a day.

“Right now, I’m working on one that was going to be a little fairy house at first, but once I had the roof of the house carved out, it started to look a lot more like a soldier’s helmet, so that’s where I’m going with that one now,” he noted. “But, like I said, that’s liable to change at some point too. You never really know until the work is done.”

Rowe has had people reach out to him requesting certain animals or objects to be carved with his chainsaw, but he’s still unsure if that’s the direction he wants to take this artistic endeavour.

“I’ve had people come to me and ask for one thing or another, but when I’m told what to do or what to create, it takes the magic out of it in a way,” he said. “It’s not about the money for me, it’s a lot more than that.

“I’ve been through a lot – my family has been through a lot – and this is something I use to keep my mind where it needs to be. I love it, and I think eventually I’d like to turn it into something more of a business, but right now I’m just creating art.”

chris.lewis@cbncompass.ca

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