Chainsaw artist carves a spot in Oak Harbor

Chainsaw woodcarver Lynn Backus demonstrates and sell her art at Skagit Farmer Supply in Oak Harbor - Rebecca Olson / Whidbey News-Times
Chainsaw woodcarver Lynn Backus demonstrates and sell her art at Skagit Farmer Supply in Oak Harbor
— image credit: Rebecca Olson / Whidbey News-Times

When Lynn Backus wields a chainsaw, the result is eye-catching art, from murals and chairs to signs and bears.

Backus and her brother, Steve Backus, will sell their art at Skagit Farmer Supply in Oak Harbor and perform weekly demonstrations.

With saws of all sizes, from large chainsaws for general shaping to detail saws the size of pencils, Lynn transforms wood into relief and murals, her favorite art to create. She also enjoys making chairs.

The Backuses travel to homes to carve stumps as an alternative to having them removed. They also do custom orders.

“It’s hard work,” Lynn said, adding that she works all day long, seven days a week to make a living with her art.

Her favorite part of her work is, “That it makes people smile,” Lynn said, smiling. “Trying to get people to smile these days is kind of hard.”

It’s those smiles that encourage her to keep working hard, Lynn said.

Lynn grew up in Clinton. She and her brothers were introduced to the saw at young ages. Their mother, Judy McVay, was one of the first female chainsaw carvers and passed her talents along to her children.

Lynn, who has been carving fulltime for 25 years, also taught her own children, Maria, 16, and Alex, 21, who still carve today and sell their art alongside their mother.

Lynn’s brothers also passed along the art to their children.

“There’s a lot of carvers who start carving because they saw others carving. I guess it’s self-driven. You can’t be lazy if you’re going to make a living at it,” Lynn said.

Chainsaw woodcarving only became an appreciated art in the past 10 years, Lynn said. When she was learning it as a child, Lynn said the response she received from others was, “Chainsaw massacre.”

During the summer and fall, Lynn carves at the Dugualla Bay produce stand. She and brother Steve generally team up and split the work. Another  brother, Boaz, also sells his work and is one of the top-selling chainsaw artists, Lynn said.

The family often attends carving competitions at which carvers are given a theme and so many hours to complete the art. Alex was 9 when he carved in his first competition and won an award for being the youngest carver, Lynn said.

To purchase art ranging from a bear toilet paper holder to fish plaques, or just to see something worth smiling about, visit the Backuses at Skagit Farmer Supply, located at 31686 Highway 20 in Oak Harbor. For the demonstration schedule, call 675-2277.


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