Chainsaw therapy brings art to Weymouth

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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Published on June 21, 2014

Tracie Dugas has created 15 brand new pieces for her upcoming exhibit at Sissiboo Landing.

Published on June 21, 2014

Although Tracie Dugas cuts out the shape of her sculptures with a chainsaw, the biggest time is in the fine carving and burning to finish the pieces.

Published on June 21, 2014

Tracie Dugas carves outdoors using a wide variety of power tools.

Published on June 21, 2014

Tracie Dugas sees every carving as a challenge as she figures out how to achieve the desired effect.

Published on June 21, 2014

Tracie Dugas’ likes to carve wildlife and animals.

Published on June 21, 2014

Tracie Dugas has secured a supply of bigger wood that will allow her to carve longer wings on her next owl, more proportionate to the owl’s body, she says.

Published on June 21, 2014

A fox carving by Tracie Dugas.

Published on June 21, 2014

Tracie Dugas’s first chainsaw carving was this gargoyle.

Published on June 21, 2014

A German shepherd by chainsaw artist Tracie Dugas.

Published on June 21, 2014

The beginnings of a moose. Tracie Dugas is waiting for some bigger wood to make a set of antlers.

Published on June 21, 2014

An early lion carving by Tracie Dugas.

Published on June 21, 2014

An eagle by Tracie Dugas.

Published on June 21, 2014

Tracie Dugas saw the shape of this dragonfly as soon as she saw the original piece of wood.

‘This is how I relax’ artist says of her woodwork

Chisels just don’t cut it for Tracie Dugas.

The yard of the artist’s Weymouth home is dotted with sculptures of eagles, a lion, a five-foot long dragonfly. She likes to carve large figures and for that she needs a chainsaw or two. In fact, Dugas has five chainsaws under the bench in her workshop, along with various disc sanders and belt sanders, drills, a set of pneumatic Dremel tools—a workshop full of loud, powerful, sharp machinery.

“This sander has a chainsaw chain on it,” she said, holding up an innocent looking little device. “Every time I turn it on, I’m aware it can cut my fingers off—it’s dangerous.”

For her main power saw, she bought a special carving bar, narrower at the tip, and a special chain, which doesn’t kick back like the usual machine.

Dugas uses the power tools to carve life-size animals - wildlife and pets - out of wood. In her workshop the heads of more eagles peek out of half-cut pieces of wood as do the heads of owls, minks, a German shepherd and even a moose.

In her garage are 15 finished pieces, some of them so realistic you have to look twice—did that fox just move? The pieces - including three eagles (one with a fish in its talons), two owls, four house cats, a rooster, two mink, a fox, a beaver and a Bugs Bunny -  are all for an exhibit opening June 30 at Sissiboo Landing in Weymouth.

“I’m honoured to do it,” says Dugas of the exhibit. “I’m thankful that they thought to ask me.

“I love seeing people’s reactions. It’s neat to get out there.”

Dugas said she’s a terrible salesperson and hasn’t shown her work very much, but pretty much everything she makes ends up being bought.

“For me it’s a hobby, but people always tell me I could sell this work but I don’t do it for money,” she said. “This is my therapy.”

“This is how I relax,” she said, her hand resting on a chainsaw.

Dugas started sculpting about 20 years ago. She bought an Old World Santa Christmas ornament one day at a store and thought, “I can make this.”

Soon, she had chisels and knives and figured out herself just how to cut the wood and get the shapes right.

About twelve years ago, she got it in her head to make a large gargoyle.

“It was just something freaky and ugly and different,” Dugas said.

After the gargoyle, she was asked to make a life-sized bear for someone.

“I figured out I could do it,” she said. “The hardest part is the 3-D and getting everything in the right proportion, the arms to match the body, the legs. I cut a bit and I step back and look.”

For the first bear, she watched a YouTube video “50 times” or so to learn where to make the cuts and the angles of each cut.

“After that I just went ahead and did it,” she said.

Dugas assembles photographs of the animals she’s carving and of other sculptures, but she doesn’t make any drawings or any marks on the wood.

“For me it’s about the challenge, it’s about seeing if I can do it,” she said.

Jeanne Nesbit, manager at Sissiboo Landing, first saw Dugas’ works when she brought a few pieces down to July 1 celebrations in Weymouth one year.

“It blew me away what this young woman had created,” said Nesbit. “I love the nature in them, the wildlife and how realistic they are.”

Nesbitt said the art exhibits, which run in two-week stints all summer, are intended to showcase local talent.

“Tracie is unique,” said Nesbit. “I don’t know of any other woman who carves with a power saw. She’s so talented and I think people should see her work. I don’t think people know how much talent we have in the area.”

Dugas’ exhibit will be followed by one from Hika Wagner of Weymouth North, starting July 14. Wagner paints folk art themes on driftwood and boards.

Mona McDonald, also of Weymouth North will exhibit a series of her coloured pencil drawings starting July 27, and Michel Doucet will end the summer with a series of oil paintings from Aug. 10 to 23.

Geographic location: Weymouth, Weymouth North

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