Paul Sivell... Chainsaw Wood Carver Extraordinaire
Keep your eyes peeled as you travel around the Island and you will come across Paul Sivell’s Green Men peering out from former tree stumps. There is a tall one in Seaview looking over the fence of a private house, and another welcomes you at the entrance to East Dene in Bonchurch, but there are many more.
There’s a huge carving of two dolphins and a mermaid on Egypt Hill in Cowes, a Seahorse in the grounds of St Mary’s Hospital and a signal man with semaphore flags in Parkhurst Forest. At Ventnor Rugby Club on the Whitwell Road a huge arm holds a rugby ball aloft, sculpted from one of the huge trees that were felled from the roadside.
Then there’s the enormous carving of a bull at Brading, emerging from a large tree stump beside the bull-ring where these beasts were tied for baiting in bygone years. And just where the railway line crosses the Ashey Road are three owls carved from a former tree trunk.
“I’ve done about a thousand carvings since I started and my thing is Green Men."
Possibly the most famous of his carvings is the hare and two magpies sitting on top of a log on a large grassy corner in Arreton. Several years ago the hare was unceremoniously sawn from the log and an Islandwide appeal was launched to find the culprit and the severed hare. Eventually it was discovered on the top of Culver Cliff.
“I think they must have dumped it because it got too hot. Now it has a metal bar through it!” said Paul.
“I’ve done many hares as a result of the theft,” he added. “I’ve done hundreds of red squirrels, hares and owls – they’re the three most common ones.
“The most difficult one was a life size horse in a garden in Bowcombe, but I like a challenge – I like to do new things.
“I do a lot of private commissions and I did a religious one in Chicago. When I did that one I was interviewed by three newspapers and someone saw it in a magazine and it led to me making one in the Hollywood Hills. It was for the actor who plays Sgt Lupo in Law and Order (Jeremy Sisto), and of a stylized man and woman coming out of a tree. But they were away filming in New York when I was making it.
“My most common working media are condemned, dead or dying trees and around half of them are in situ. The majority of my work is site specific with themes that are inspired by nature, local traditions and mythology,” he explained.
“Nearly all my work is done with power tools, although I consider myself to be an environmental artist as I recycle trees that would often otherwise end up in landfill. When I first started on a piece that I did near Sainsbury’s in Newport people kept coming up to me, thinking I was doing a bad tree surgery job. But now most people recognise me and my work.”
See more of Paul and his work at www.thecarvedtree.co.uk