iThe Cutting Edge of Arti

The Cutting Edge of Art

Back in the 1950s, artists Ray Murphy and Ken Kaiser would, without them realising it at the time, turn out to be the first ever recorded chainsaw artists. Not that they necessarily saw it as art back then - in fact it was in 1952 that Ray Murphy used a chainsaw owned by his father to carve his name into a piece of wood. Ten years after, Ken Kaiser would go on to create fifty wood carvings for the Trees of Mystery; a park and tourist attraction along Route 101 in California.

Alasdair Craig - at work in local park

And so, the art of wood carving with a chainsaw was born and since that time, its popularity has hugely increased. The first chainsaw carving World Championships was held in 1987 and this would start a chain of exposure given to chainsaw artists as the art form continued to grow. Today in the UK, the English Open Chainsaw Competition brings thousands of people together every year to witness the extraordinary skill of chainsaw carving.

From there, the advancement and growth of the internet has opened new doors for these fascinating artists and now there are chainsaw wood carvers across the globe, including one right here in Brighton, Ali Craig, owner of Sussex Chainsaw.

Here piggy, piggy, piggy!

Alasdair, commonly known as Ali, started chainsaw carving back in 2011 after originally training as a stone setter and goldsmith. During that time, he won Edge Young Practical Learner of the year award in 2006 at 'Cellini Pearls', a jeweller in Cambridge, after completing a five-year apprenticeship at the elegant jewellery shop.

Since opening his site in 2012, Ali has produced wood carvings that can be seen in public parks and schools across Sussex, as well as even designing a garden piece for Rag’n’Bone Man, the accomplished English singer/songwriter. Ali also carved an African Grey Parrot Piece for the family of Kevin Barnett, a US comedian and sitcom writer who worked on comedies like Broad City, but who tragically died at the age of 32 in January of last year.

That way there be dragons!

I went to spend an afternoon with Ali at his workshop in Hayward's Heath and it certainly did not disappoint. Never having heard of chainsaw art before, it was interesting to speculate about how such details I saw in his work could be carved with such an aggressive and imprecise instrument. So, I was both fascinated and fortunate to be able to watch Ali at work. And the overwhelming impression I felt once he started was that the art was just as much a performance than just the end result of a piece of work - the noise, saw-dust and speed-carving results was a stunning show in itself, let alone admiring the beauty that emerged from the flurry of careful chaos.

And from that perfect chaos came an assortment of dragons, owls, birds and mysterious creatures and animals which surrounded the quaint workshop, peacefully tucked away in the Sussex country side. His intricate and bespoke pieces amplified the elegance of what a chainsaw can really do - which is a whole lot more than just cutting down trees.

Want to find out more about Alasdair Craig and Sussex Chainsaw? click here

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