Everything starts with sculpture for chainsaw event organizer

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Libby artist Ron Adamson works on the leg for a moose he is carving that will appear to be at a full run coming out of the trunk of a tree, at his home along the Kootenai River Jan. 25. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

Almost everything you touch, it had to be sculpted first.

Standing in his studio — a wooden platform that extends over the bank of the Kootenai River — and surrounded by the unassembled parts of a large moose he is carving one piece at a time, local sculptor Ron Adamson said that sculpture is everywhere.

From belt buckles and buttons to the cars we drive, so much that people lay their hands on every day began as a sculpture.

“I think we’re just, we’re born sculptors — we make mud pies when we’re little kids…” he said while describing the shape of his motivation for bringing a chainsaw sculpting event to southern Lincoln County.

Adamson talked about the first chainsaw carvers, such as a logger who took a log and chainsaw and made something out of one with the other.

“You take a guy who’s a little artistic, maybe some time on his hands — he made a bear or whatever he did,” Adamson said.

The imagined artist isn’t far from Adamson himself, who first started out intending to be a painter.

“I never thought of myself as a sculptor when I was younger,” he said. “I wanted to be a painter, and I couldn’t do that working in a lumber mill, but I could sit there and carve, during the slack times.”

For several years, Adamson had dreamed of bringing a chainsaw carving event to Libby, but when that dream came about, so did some controversy and disagreement.

Adamson stopped short of adding accusation to the fire. But, he said he feels that having what has come to be known as “Ron Adamson’s ‘The Libby Chainsaw Event’” in July will help to remove any similar problems in the future.

Additionally, it will allow people who aren’t around later in the year to take part or observe as the artists — both local and international — work chunks of wood into artwork.

“I think two events is good,” he said.

While he is working with others to plan and develop his chainsaw carving event which will take place from July 4 to July 7, Adamson said he does not expect it to change significantly in tone from the one he held last September along Highway 2 in Libby.

He has had interest from as far as Russia, but Adamson said he sees the event as primarily about local people and local artists.

Adamson’s studio is just outside the house that his father built, and which Adamson bought back when he returned to the area. There is connection between art and home all around him there.

“I think the Cabinet Mountains had a lot to do with me as a little kid wanting to be a painter, because I used to look at those mountains and I would think in my head, ‘How would I paint that?’” he said.


Last year, Adamson’s event drew sculptors such as Julie Zimmerman from Lolo, Montana. She said she started carving small bears with a chainsaw when the man who carved the bears she sold at her flower shop retired.

Three years later, carving with the group of artists Adamson had brought together, she said she was nervous about coming up to Libby and carving in public among so many talented artists.

Yet, she said that everyone she met was nice, and the other carvers were eager to share tools, tips and techniques. She said it was like, “One big, family, group.”

“They just accepted me right in, like one of them,” she said.

By the time the event was done, Zimmerman said she was already excited at the prospect of returning.

Adamson said he wants to maintain that kind of inviting atmosphere and the camaraderie that the carvers enjoyed.

“She’s disappointed she won’t be able to make it over the 4th this year,” Adamson said of Zimmerman.

But he does have at least one carver who has expressed interest and appears to be fairly new to carving, he said.

“And I want him to feel comfortable there, not intimidated,” he said. “I think for the people who were here last year, all of them told me at the end of the show that they would do it again. And that, I thought was nice.”

That was a show that was put together in only a couple weeks, so Adamson hopes to only improve on the experience this year.

For one, there will be more space at the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Louisiana Avenue, he said. Yet, they will still be easily visible from Highway 2 for passersby to take notice and check out.

They are planning to have more food vendors, and also build on the other types of vendors who were there last year.

Adamson said that his goal is to have about 10 carvers at the event.

“At this point I’ve got about six carvers that will be here,” Adamson said. “I don’t think I want more than 15.”

He has also talked with the City of Troy about having a float in Troy’s July 4th parade. However, he said they still haven’t decided if they will start carving before the parade, or begin the show after they return from the parade.

Ron Adamson’s “The Libby Chainsaw Event” is scheduled to run from Thursday, July 4 through Saturday, July 7 in the parking lot area at the intersection of Lincoln Boulevard and Louisiana Avenue.

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