Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Human Interest

Tree stump, chain saw artists combine for a lasting lesson

ST. PETERSBURG

As the tree service stripped the limbs from the 80-year-old laurel oak at her day care, Rose Samuels couldn't stand the idea of losing the tree that had shaded the playground at Rosie's Playschool II at 4500 38th Ave. N since she bought the school nine years ago.

But the tree was dying and would be a safety risk.

"I cried when it was coming down," Samuels said. Before removing the remaining 20-foot-tall stump, the tree service gave her another option. He knew a guy, a chain saw carver, who could transform the trunk into a giant sculpture.

"I'm into art anyway and I just figured how cool it would be to have a piece of art on my playground," Samuels said.

The idea lay idle for months until Samuels ran into Wes Wing, the owner of Tiki Mondo, at an art show. The two struck a deal: For $800, far less than the home and landscape artist would normally charge, Wing would bring out a team to create the piece.

Samuels saw a second opportunity in the project. Though the school is classified as a day care, what draws many of the working parents to Samuels' two locations is her focus on education, several parents and guardians of the students said. Stump Day became the cap on a week of environmentally themed lessons and activities, with family and friends invited to watch the sculpture come to life.

"We're trying to be a little greener," Samuels said. "We're teaching our children about planting, about recycling, about all that good stuff."

The tree, next to a little community garden, will be coated in sealant so the children can use it as a permanent, washable painting project — a symbol of reusing and recycling.

Recently, as children played in a drum circle, Hula-Hooped, dashed around the playground and munched on hot dogs as their parents and guardians chatted, five carvers, aided by ladders and a bucket truck, took chain saws to the tree. Within hours Phil Nottoli of Phil's Tree Service, perched in an extended bucket, roughed out a dolphin leaping from the top of the trunk. It was soon followed by the first third of a tiki totem following the natural curve of the tree and a relief of a fish surrounded by a sunburst.

Chain saw carvers are fast. With special carving blades they removed bark and cut out the design they saw within the natural shapes of the wood. The air filled with sawdust and the artists were covered by wood chips sent flying from their blades. On occasion they stepped back, taking stock while maybe smoking a cigarette, checking oil and gas, before continuing to transfer their vision into wood.

Wing said the work would require a few days to complete the carving, grinding, sanding and finishing. The elevation and the amount of bark affects the process.

The work can be surprisingly delicate, as Dave Flori of Treefrog Carving knows, creating cedar bowls with the aid of a pottery wheel.

"I never could draw or anything, but I wanted to be an artist," said Justin Schlafley, one of the Tiki Mondo carvers. Chain saw carving started as a hobby. Schlafley also does window tinting, but he hopes to make it his full-time job.

"This started as a hobby, but people started buying from us, so we went into business," said Thomas Cain, the third Tiki Mondo carver working on the tree.

And business is getting good, Wing said. He and his carvers get orders to build Polynesian themed "man caves," tiki bars and lawn decorations.

As many of the families left for the day, Samuels, for the first time, got a chance to really sit back and watch the artists carve.

"Oh my God! How cool is this?" she said. "I mean, I can visualize things, but this . . ."

"It makes my heart smile."

     
         
Comments
I went through 'Jeopardy!' auditions in Tampa, and I have a few questions

I went through 'Jeopardy!' auditions in Tampa, and I have a few questions

TAMPA — What’s it like to audition for Jeopardy!? What kind of questions are you asked? What realms of trivia must you master? How deep into your life should you expect producers to dig? Can you keep your cool with the buzzer in your han...
Published: 05/18/18
Police: T.I. arrested outside his gated community in Atlanta

Police: T.I. arrested outside his gated community in Atlanta

Rapper T.I. was arrested in Georgia while trying to enter the gated community where he lives without a key, according to reports.T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., was charged with public drunkenness, simple assault and disorderly conduct ...
Published: 05/16/18
Yanny or Laurel: What do you hear?

Yanny or Laurel: What do you hear?

The next great internet debate is upon us, but this one requires your ears instead of your eyes.Do you hear Laurel or Yanni?That’s the defining question for the internet today as a four-second Twitter post went viral, attracting the attention of peop...
Published: 05/16/18
Pauley Perrette claims she endured ‘multiple physical attacks’ on ‘NCIS’: ‘Nothing is worth your safety’

Pauley Perrette claims she endured ‘multiple physical attacks’ on ‘NCIS’: ‘Nothing is worth your safety’

Pauley Perrette left the long-running CBS forensic show NCIS after 15 seasons last week under what was originally presented as a professional decision. On Twitter, however, she told a different story."I refused to go low, that’s why I’ve never told p...
Published: 05/15/18
Flags, farewells and Florida: Lynyrd Skynyrd goes deep on their controversial history

Flags, farewells and Florida: Lynyrd Skynyrd goes deep on their controversial history

ATLANTA — Johnny Van Zant swings his arms out wide, chopping the music to a halt. "Hold on, hold on, hold on," he says, turning to face the rest of Lynyrd Skynyrd. "Right there, it falls apart." The singer meets guitarists Gary Rossington and...
Updated one month ago
Neville Brothers saxophonist Charles Neville dead at 79

Neville Brothers saxophonist Charles Neville dead at 79

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans-born saxophone player Charles Neville has died at age 79. His career dated back to the 1950s and included gigs backing up B.B. King among others. But he was best known for three decades of performances with his siblings Aaro...
Updated one month ago
Meet the man who wrote ‘Conjunction Junction’ and other ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ songs that stick in your head

Meet the man who wrote ‘Conjunction Junction’ and other ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ songs that stick in your head

Anyone whose childhood began in or after the early 1970s probably knows at least one or two Schoolhouse Rock! songs, the ones that taught children multiplication tables, civics lessons and basic grammar. In fact, reading that sentence probably has yo...
Updated one month ago