“People’s trees can be kind of like their pets,” Scoggins said. “They care about them a lot and hate to see it completely gone. But if they can keep a stump part, we come in and try to make a piece of art out of it and you get to enjoy it for a lot more years.”
The rings on the water oak tree in front of the Lucedale library indicate it had been there for about 70 years. The city had to cut it down last month after closing the courtyard as dying limbs began to fall.
One of the George County crew members that helped with the removal said he had a cousin that did art out of tree stumps. City Hall got in touch with Scoggins a few days later with the design idea in mind.
“We knew we wanted to have something done with it that was unique to Lucedale,” Mayor Doug Lee said. “He’s got a lot of great work displayed all over and we were lucky enough to get him here. It takes a lot of talent and he’s moving real quick with it.”
The crew left about 10 feet for Scoggins to use as a canvas beginning Monday morning. The final details should be wrapped up by Wednesday afternoon.
Scoggins lives in Laurel, Miss. but has traveled all over the world to carve. His art is on display in Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Japan and all corners of the U.S. He will travel to Germany in the coming months with his wife, Michelle, to vie for another first place finish at an international chainsaw carving competition.
Like most of his pieces, he is going off a rough draft image in his head, no written drawings or notes to reference.
“A lot of people say you see it in the wood, but I walk up to a piece of wood and 95% of the time, I see a stick of wood,” Scoggins said. “The hard part is getting started but once you make a couple of cuts, you can start seeing some shape go in there and that just kind of forces your next move.”
Most of the carving is done with a regular chainsaw, but his work trailer includes saws with a carving bar, angle grinders and a few other tools to get the fine detail.
Scoggins is mostly self-taught since he started whittling as a boy. His wife bought him a carving bar to try it with a chainsaw for Father’s Day about 21 years ago. Six months later, he left his job as a tow boat captain on the Mississippi River and started running Artistry in Wood with his wife full-time.
Art students from the middle and high schools came throughout the process to watch Scoggins in action at the library and ask questions. He hopes it encourages others to pursue their passions.
“God’s gift isn’t the ability to carve or draw, it’s the bug. If he gives you that bug, you have to do the work to figure the rest of it out,” he said. “I’ve been blessed. I just hope it puts a smile on their face. When people smile at your work, that’s the greatest compliment you can get.”
Pieces of the tree are being saved for other projects, like a history display with the tree rings. Mayor Lee also snagged a wedge to carve out a placard for his desk.
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