WEBSTER, Ky. (FOX 56) – For the past ten years, Abby Peterson has been quietly making a name for himself among some of the world’s top artists. Well, actually not so quietly.
He often has to cover his eyes and ears when he makes art using a chainsaw, but he’s able to tune out the noise.
“It’s very therapeutic,” Peterson said. “When you’re carving, it’s hard to think about anything except what you’re doing.”
This Breckinridge County native said he found his career when the chips were down. During a low point in his life, he prayed for guidance while cutting timber.
“There was a stump there and something said, ‘Carve a bear head.’ So, I carved a bear head.”
And the rest is history. A man offered him $200 for that bear head, even though Peterson thought it was worthless. So, he began to make more, giving some away and selling others for $20 or $30 until he got better at it. It paid off. Recently, he sold a wooden bear for $10,000.
Now carving is Peterson’s full-time job and he operates the “Wood Life Sculpture Studio” out of a workshop behind his house. He likes to say, “the wood life, is the good life.”
“There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than carving wood.”
Peterson carves images of all types of animals, as well as Native Americans, Cowboys, Bigfoot, and bugs. He also helped make the World’s Largest Smokey Bear, on display in South Dakota. But he sells more bears than anything.
He keeps one of his original bears on a shelf in his workshop just so he can see how far he’s come.
“I tell all the guys who want to carve, you gotta carve a thousand ugly bears first, then you eventually get to a good-looking bear,” he said.
In the winter, he conducts workshops for other would-be carvers, bringing in some of the world’s top instructors to help. When new classes are announced on his Facebook page, they fill quickly.
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It’s not uncommon for a log to split or a cut to go the wrong way, but Peterson said he finishes every sculpture he starts.
“We don’t make mistakes,” he jokes. “If you make a bad cut, it’s really just a design enhancement.”
In June of 2022, Peterson was invited to take part in the Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Competition in British Columbia.
“I was just thrilled to get the phone call,” he said.
Over the course of four days, he turned an eight-foot log into a leaping elk and won the top prize as well as the “people’s choice” award. So, this Kentucky carver can truly be called the best in the world.
“I would do it for free. I’m really blessed to be able to make a living out of it,” he said.
For Peterson, any log holds hidden figures, waiting to be released.
He said, “It’s really a beautiful thing to take a piece of wood that’s almost worthless and turn it into something somebody’s going to enjoy for years to come.”