Chisels just don’t cut it for Tracie Dugas.
The Weymouth woman likes to carve large figures and for that she needs a chainsaw, or two.
In fact, she has five under the bench in her workshop, various disc sanders and belt sanders, drills, a set of pneumatic Dremel tools—in short a workshop full of loud, powerful, sharp machinery.
“This sander has a chainsaw chain on it,” she says 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 normal chains.
Dugas uses the power tools to carve life-size animals, wildlife and pets, out of wood.
The yard of her Weymouth home is dotted with sculptures of eagles, a lion, a five-foot long dragonfly.
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, 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 15 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 at Sissiboo Landing in Weymouth on June 30.
“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 says she’s a terrible salesperson and hasn’t shown her work very much.
Still, 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 says. “This is my therapy.”
“This is how I relax,” she says, her hand resting on a chainsaw.
She would like to do more with her art when she retires from her day job.
She started sculpting about 20 years ago.
She had 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.
Then, about twelve years ago, she got it in her head to make a large gargoyle.
“It was just something freaky and ugly and different,” she 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” 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 says.
Jeanne Nesbit, manager at Sissiboo Landing, first saw Dugas’ works when she brought a few pieces down to July 1st celebrations in Weymouth one year.
“It blew me away what this young woman had created,” says Nesbit. “I love the nature in them, the wildlife and how realistic they are.”
Nesbitt says the art exhibits, which run in two-week stints all summer, are intended to showcase local talent.
“Tracie is unique,” says 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.
For more information on Sissiboo Landing.