Clayton man creates art from nature

Wood-carved owl permanently perched on Barber Mill Road

ajames@newsobserver.comOctober 27, 2012 

— Chiseled by a chainsaw, an owl carved into the top of a tree stump is permanently perched in front of a home on Barber Mill Road.

Driving past the shiny, stained tree sculpture, it’s hard not to be distracted from watching the road. The three-foot tall owl carving sits atop a four-foot tall stump and, from the roadway, it appears to be as tall as the house at 3431 Barber Mill Road.

“I’m crazy about owls,” said Naomi Johnson, who paid to have the owl carved into her tree. Paintings of owls also decorate her front porch. She said two years ago the tree was struck by lightning. It didn’t appear to have survived, so there was really no purpose for it in her front yard. That is, until she called up family friend Brent Biggs.

Biggs, 22, is known among his circle of family friends as being a creator. Last year, he carved a smaller wooden owl for Johnson that she was really impressed with and she now wanted something bigger.

The wood carving hobby started for Biggs two years ago and it has become something of a business. This year, his art work was featured in the local Harvest Festival.

“One day my dad handed me a chainsaw and he wanted me to attempt to make art in a tree stump because he thought I could,” said Biggs. He said he has always enjoyed drawing, and paints on canvasses, but realized his art didn’t have to be confined to the two-dimensional.

The owl carving took him about eight hours to complete over a period of four days in September. “Never did I see anything on a piece of paper,” said Johnson, who was amazed at how organically the piece was created.

The height of the stump, which makes it appear similar to a totem pole, posed the greatest challenge. Biggs had to stand on top of a table at one point to be able to maneuver the chainsaw precisely.

“I’m happy to pretty much make anything,” Biggs said. He prefers to make custom pieces because he wants them to each be meaningful, so he does not plan to open any kind of retail business.

Though the art was intended to revive the appearance of the seemingly dead tree, somehow, the repurposed tree now shows new signs of life.

Visiting his work this week, Biggs was astounded to see a green leaf sprouting from the side of what everyone thought was a dead stump. Sticky sap dripped from the owl’s body.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Biggs said.

Johnson’s front yard isn’t the only place people can see Biggs’ art work, which includes drawings, carvings and paintings.A five-foot-tall wooden carved hand, decorates nearby hair salon, Rock Candy.

James: 919-553-7234

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