Wood sculptor Ken Packie, the man behind Berkshire Mountain Wood Sculpture, is inspired by nature. His artist statement notes that he uses chainsaws, chisels, and fire to “free his creations from their log.”  

Producer Dave Fraser visited the Berkshires-based artist recently to gain insight into his creative process and work and brings us this story. 


Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Wood sculptor Ken Pakie’s art is inspired by nature. His artist statement notes that he uses chainsaws, chisels, and fire to “free his creations from their log.”

Producer Dave Fraser visited the Berkshires-based artist recently to gain insight into his creative process and work and brings us this story.

Ken Packie, Berkshire Mountain Sculpture: Get ready to work hard. You know, this is not an easy art form.

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: On a chilly November day along Route 8 in Otis, Ken Packie is at work, sculpting creatures from the woods.

Ken Packie: I describe what I do is chainsaw, chisels, and fire.

And I use the chainsaw. I’ll use some power tools. I’ll use chisels and then I burn it. That does two things: it eliminates all the furring from the chainsaw, and it’s much less sanding to do.

And then I’ll also come back with the torch after I burn it and brush that off to create shading or create patterns in the wings of an owl.

Dave Fraser: His obsession with this unique craft started when he saw someone else doing this type of work at a home show, and his journey began.

Ken Packie: For of my senior year of high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, which was fairly common, I think. And so, I did this career testing program and my spatial mathematics was off the charts.

And so, they suggested to my parents I should be an architect. And I took a drafting class and I hated the structure, and the straight lines and I forgot about all that.

But when I saw that guy carving at the Log Home Show, it occurred to me that sculpture is spatial mathematics. And if you couple that with a great imagination, you know, that could be the perfect storm.

Dave Fraser: If you live in southern Berkshire County, chances are you’ve encountered Ken Pakie’s work. In Otis alone, where he lives, there are probably two or three hundred of his lively wildlife wood carvings.

As a three dimensional storyteller, Packie says he strives to capture the fine details as well as the interactive dynamics within his sculptures.

Ken Packie: A lot of people ask if I can see what’s inside the log. I prefer to say I’m seeking, I’m trying to find what’s inside that.

But I start with the heads, especially if I’m doing multiple animals. I want to — and they’re going to be interacting — I want to start with the heads. After my heads are in place, I can shift down to the shoulders, and shift down to the hips, and I can change things as I go.

So, I don’t always have the exact pose in mind. I’m always looking for it.

Dave Fraser: And it’s not always animals that Packie is carving. For his most recent commission, he spent 15 days, over the course of five weeks, transforming an old red oak tree into a lifelike rendering of the Holy Family.

Ken Packie: It was probably one of the most challenging things I did. And I did take a lot of pictures along the way, trying to figure out the drapery and to make this look like a stone sculpture, to try to make it look like a different medium, which is more sanding than I’ve ever done on any other piece to make this look like stone.

Dave Fraser: A lot of the commission work Packie gets includes requests for bears. But whereas other sculptors render wood bears in a cartoonish fashion or what Packie calls square bears, his sculptures employ a very realistic style.

Ken Packie: When I started carving, because of all these square bears I’d seen, I refused to carve bears. And in 2008, I met two extraordinary carvers Jeff Samudosky and Ken Tynan. Jeff Samudosky was the guy I had seen at that Log Home Show, and they knew I was chomping at the bit to go full-time, and they convinced me that bears pay bills.

And so, I wanted to understand the differences between black bears and grizzly bears, and that got me on the journey of thinking of musculature and skeleton and how they move, and that really…carving bears finally really pushed me to start thinking beyond just the picture of what I was looking at and what was underneath and how they act.

It took me probably three years to carve a bear I liked as much as that original black bear, which still sits on my front porch. It’s one thing I’ll never sell.

Dave Fraser: The work Packie does is physically demanding, moving one hundred pound logs several times as he works, battling the elements of Mother Nature, and the mechanics of chainsaws.

Ken Packie: Every log, every carving out here, I move that in its raw form three or four times: getting it in the truck, getting it out of the truck, picking up the trunks that come off of it.

So yeah, this is not just me standing with the chainsaw creating something fast. It’s a lifestyle.