Once again, the Manitou Beach Chainsaw Carving Festival did not fail to impress with a host of talented woodworkers rough hewing logs and refining them into remarkable works of art. As well as large trunk-sized sculptures, the artists were again tasked with producing smaller “quick round” pieces that were no less impressive in their detail. 

As has been the case for the previous event, the air vibrated with the sound of gas chainsaws and electrical power tools, and it hung with the fragrance of two-stroke engine exhaust and wood. The event drew spectators from across the province and a range of veteran carvers and first-time participants.  

“I’ve been carving for just over two years,” said newcomer Tyler Welfing of Carve Well Creations in Vernon, BC. “I got started carving ice two winters ago, and I thought if I can do this with ice, why not try wood. I bought a couple of chain saws and took off.” 

In contrast, De-Ann Holms, a Métis carver from the eastern Manitoba community Seddons Corner, is a seasoned veteran with over 20 years in the craft. Holms started out as a hand carver of smaller pieces. About ten years ago, she was enticed by the scope and scale that chainsaw carving allowed and took up the power tools.  

“I haven’t done a lot of hand carving since,” she admits. “I still dabble a little bit, but I really like the chain saws. In my area, I seem to be the only woman chainsaw carver. I think I’m the only Métis woman carver in Manitoba.” 

It’s been four years since her last appearance at the Festival. A bout with cancer, and a subsequent victory over the disease, kept her away from the last one, but she’s delighted to be back in the fold.  

“When you get together with other carvers, everybody’s willing to share,” Holms said. “They have great ideas, they have fabulous stories, and we love to get together. Manitoba has a lot of carvers in the area, and we all help each other. Out here it’s the same thing – it seems to be a family of people that are willing to share information, share techniques, and they just want everybody to do that little bit better.” 

Another BC carver, Kevin Bendig of Nelson, BC has made the trip to Manitou Beach on four different occasions. At this session, Bendig worked on a carving of a butterfly emerging into a new state, a visual theme that comes from a deeply philosophical approach. 

“In these days, I think the butterfly kind of symbolizes this metamorphosis that’s going on around us,” he explains. “Everyone can feel that there’s something changing. So we can stick with being a caterpillar, we can stick in the cocoon, but it’s better to break free and ‘let your funk fly.’” 

The flip side of the carving reveals a shaman, brimming with life and exuberance, creating a palpable energy on both faces of the piece. 

Throughout the weekend, the carvers toiled away while audiences marveled at the technique and the progression of the pieces from simple logs to intricate and deeply explorative works. 

We caught up with Festival chair Lori Gill midway through the event. 

“The response has been awesome, and our attendance is on par with two years ago when it was plus 30 and sweltering. Even with a bit of rain, we are still at the same numbers.” 

Enjoy a gallery of the work in progress and the celebration of the winners from this year’s Manitou Beach Chainsaw Carving Festival.  

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