A different look at dying trees

Two men who opened a wood-carving shop in Oakhurst earlier this year have a different idea for helping eliminate dying trees on private property.

Instead of completely chopping down beloved pines, cedars, and other varieties dying from invasive bark beetles and the drought, why not turn them into sculptures instead?

Nate Lawrence and Brian Allen, two carvers with more than 15 combined years experience in their field, have been completing such work for the past several weeks. After opening their as-yet-unnamed shop in January on Highway 41, across the street from Sweetwater Steakhouse, the two cut down two dead cedars at a home in the area near Dorstan Drive and fashioned the remains into two smiling bears with a welcome sign.

Finished on Tuesday, Aug. 18, the two said the bears are just part of their work.

“You can’t get enough of the bears up here,” Lawrence said. “But I mean we can do anything you want, raccoons, squirrels, eagles, whatever, this is just the cheapest, fastest thing we do. Everybody seems to want a bear, though.”

The sculptors use torching to obtain shadowed effects, which may help prevent oncoming flames. But Lawrence said outside of completely cutting down a tree, there’s little that a carved-out trunk could do, other than reduce its size.

“It’s sort of like taking your roman candle in your front yard down from a full-sized tree to something smaller,” Lawrence said. “But people have a lot of love for these older trees, so they’d rather see them stay in some form, rather than just disappear.”

Allen and Lawrence carve out some 50 to 100 bears a week, alongside custom signs and figures in a wide variety of sizes. They also take jobs in on-site carving and firewood chopping.

Prices and schedules are available by calling Nate Lawrence of Nate’s Kustom Carving at (559) 760-5722, or Brian Allen of (559) 760-7917.