Carving masterpieces: 'Cajun carver' makes an impression in Alpena

Thursday, November 28, 2013
Photos by David Bell / Carroll County News

Kay 'The Cajun Carver' Jackson works on a new sculpture last week at her store, Alpena Chainsaw Art. She and her husband have had the business for five years; previously she had a shop in Branson for 12 years.

ALPENA -- Why not buy someone a 7-foot-tall carved red cedar Sasquatch for Christmas? Or why not a set of giant varnished morel mushrooms sculpted by chainsaw? Or maybe you are a throne of owls type?

These are the kinds of questions the Jacksons like.

"Carving really isn't a hobby as much as it is a way of life," said Roy Jackson, of Alpena Chainsaw Art. "I was carving one day, and my wife came out to correct me and show me how to do it -- and that is what started it all."

Kay "the Cajun carver" Jackson, Roy's wife, has been carving works of art with her chainsaws for more than 21 years. She has had shops in Washington state and West Yellowstone, Mont. For 12 years she had a shop in Branson, and she has been in Alpena for last five years with her husband.

"And had I have known about it the whole time, I would have started it all here," she said. "I love it here, I come out and I do what I want to do, and I have lots of great customers and repeat customers ... I do my art from home and I am happy here."

On display in the front are the aforementioned Sasquatch, mushrooms and owls, while her shop is littered with bears cubs playing, tiki gods, raccoons, razorbacks and a three-eyed alien. The prices for all her carvings varies, but the range is $95 and up.

She draws inspiration from nature and really likes to carve bears, she said.

"I do all kinds of different bears," she said. "I like them because it is just fun. You can make them do different things one might be fishing or one might be holding a lantern, they are just playful to me."

Shortly before the interview she had finished carving a raccoon that was roughly three and a half to four feet tall. She had spent four hours "blocking it out" to get it how she wanted it and still needed to drill the eyes, sand, torch then varnish before putting a $200 price tag on it. This work would have taken an additional two to three hours, she estimated.

Sasquatch was a three-week job and is priced at $3,500.

"Every now and then I love big projects," Jackson said. "It takes a lot of thinking and it is more of a challenge to do some of the big things. Of course, any little thing is going to move faster out of the shop than the big things, but you have to have the big things on display to show people what you can do."

Some projects called "stump jobs" require Kay to travel to customer's houses to make things out of giant stumps, such as the owl throne that was a base which three trees shared. She uses scaffolding and usually about 10 different-sized saws to make the various cuts.

She occasionally competes in fairs and competitions, the most recent of which was two weeks ago, where she was placed third out of 14 other carvers.

Her future plans for larger projects include carving a Sponge Bob and Patrick Star as well as a Santa or two, she said. But mostly she will be catching up on her Christmas list.

"I have a lot of Christmas orders coming in right now," Jackson explained. "And it is a lot of different things, like this lady that came in this morning who wanted me to make her husband a turkey. And I know one lady who wanted a monkey. People just come and order whatever it is they like."

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  • Beautiful work! You are an asset to this small community.

    -- Posted by rockpilefarmer on Sat, Nov 30, 2013, at 10:26 AM
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