WINTHROP — A menagerie of Maine wildlife is emerging from the woods on Green Street.
Well, emerging from wood, anyway.
Chainsaw carver Josh Landry has been working for two weeks to transform the trunk of a maple tree that had to be cut down in Donna Cheney’s front yard.
Where once a large branch shaded the driveway but seemed likely to snap off, a bear cub now reaches for a dangling beehive. Two eagles perch overhead, and eventually Cheney will be able to look out her front window and see a doe and fawn looking back from the base of the trunk.
Cheney is delighted that Landry is giving new life to the 150-year-old tree that she hated having to cut down. The branch overhanging the driveway was anchored with two wires to the top of the tree, which was rotting.
“I agonized all winter long, what can I do to save that tree?” Cheney said. “I didn’t want a hole there.”
Shopping at L.L. Bean, Cheney saw a large stump that had been carved into a bear and decided to seek out someone who could do something similar with her tree.
Landry, 28, said he started chainsaw carving 13 years ago, inspired by a carver he saw in his hometown of North Anson. He often carves at events to put on a show, creating sculptures from small stumps or blocks of wood in 45 minutes to an hour.
“It’s nice to do these tree jobs because I get to slow down and use my imagination and really bring it to life,” Landry said.
Landry is not like some sculptors or carvers who let the shape and grain of their material dictate what emerges. He goes in with a design fully plotted out.
“I tell the tree what’s going to be carved,” he said.
Cheney initially requested a safari theme — she loves giraffes — but changed her mind when it snowed one day. She thought the warm-weather animals would be out of place and decided she wanted Maine wildlife featured instead.
She also commissioned a 7-foot giraffe statue from Landry to keep inside her home.
Landry works with seven different saws. He starts with the largest ones to block out rough shapes, then moves to progressively smaller saws to add detail. The smallest, with a guide bar less than a foot long, is useful for tasks like articulating a bear’s toes and carving feathers.
When Landry was working last week, green spray paint and black marker that Landry had used to sketch his design onto the trunk was still visible in some patches where he hadn’t started cutting yet. One of the eagles had some of its feathers outlined, but other animals were still just blocks only suggestive of their final form.
Cheney said she’s been taking pictures every day to record his progress, and she’s happier with it by the day. Landry showed her how he planned to bolt a chunk of wood back onto the tree to form the head of a fox looking outward toward the street.
The final steps of the project include oiling the wood, airbrush-painting it and preserving it.
Word of the ongoing carving project has spread through Winthrop. People coming into Cheney’s Main Street shop, Cheney Jewelers, ask her about it, and a steady stream of drivers are taking detours down narrow, one-way Green Street to track Landry’s progress.
“They’re in awe of his talent and his vision,” Cheney said. “It’s bumper to bumper cars driving by here. I never expected people to go out of their way.”
A moment later, a woman driving by in a silver SUV slowed and rolled down her window.
“That’s beautiful,” she said.