“I feel I’m a spokesman for the trees,” says the city wood carver Lucas David Skinner.
Indeed, as one chat with Skinner it quickly becomes obvious that lie really does regard trees as sentient beings, not mute but, as many other inhabitants of the earth do, needing someone to interpret for them.
“The wood is really speaking,” he says, pulling a photo out of his file showing a relief carving of a monkey. He remembers that someone was about to toss the small log onto a fire and he called out
“Hold it -there’s something in there.” And with his chisels, he found the monkey.
If anyone can be said to have been predestined for his calling it would be Shane Skinner. Born in New Zealand in 1964 to a Polynesian mother and English father, he grew up in a family of budding artists and began whittling at an early age. One grandfather was a canoe carver and as a youngster, Skinner learned not only the use of woodcarving tools but a reverence for all living things -the flora as well as the fauna. Later he combined modern technology with traditional techniques and mastered the chainsaw, earning the nicknames “Shane Saw” or just “Chain.”
At age 18 Skinner found himself on an odyssey that took him to Europe. Asia and, finally, the U.S. Along the way he continued creating and now has completed some 300 commissioned pieces around the world. Some of his pieces are as small as earrings, or as utilitarian as furniture, but most of his artistic output consists of monumental wood carvings of endangered animals and themes from nature that evoke spiritual qualities.
“The energy is in there (the wood),” he says. And the energy dictates what emerges when his chainsaw and chisels bite into the wood.
Skinner maintains a studio near the Greyhound bus yards at the foot of the city where the roar of his saws can disturb no neighbors. But he has stocks of wood stashed in various locations around the local Area — tree limbs, trunks, stumps, wood in which he sees the spirit of a creature waiting to be released.
He makes a point of never sacrificing living trees to create his pieces, however, using only naturally fallen limber or recycled wood.
As a matter of fact, his recognized concern for the ecology and recycling will keep Skinner away from his studio the first three weeks of the next month.