NORTH CANTON  The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders taking art classes at North Canon Middle School got to see art in action last Wednesday. Art teacher John Huston invited a chainsaw artist and carver to visit and demonstrate his talents to around 150 students.

Matt Smith of Wakeman, used a chainsaw to carve an eagle, a raccoon and a Viking head out of a wooden log. Huston said Smith is one of several artists he is planning to bring to the school for the students to observe and to learn about working artists.

"We can talk and learn about art in the classroom but it’s nice to show the students art in action," Huston said. "It’s also nice that the artist is donating all three of the carvings he’s working on today to us so that we can raffle them to raise money for art projects"

Smith starts with a log from a tree, visualizes a form in the wood and cuts away parts he believes won’t fit the final carving. He said the students will later paint each of the carvings in art class.

Smith said while he enjoyed art classes when he was in school, he never thought he would be a professional artist. He owned and operated a tree trimming service company when his new profession came about because of a thunderstorm.

"I had a tree fall during a storm at my house over 15 years ago and I looked at the stump and thought I would try to carve something out of it," Smith said. 

He carved the broken tree into a bear. Smith said that several people tried to buy the carving before it got stolen from his yard.

"I thought that it must have been a pretty good carving for so many people to want it. I began to think I could do more carvings and sell them. I eventually sold my tree service business and started carving fulltime," Smith said.

Smith keeps his skills and talents sharpened by going to a special event in Ridgeway, Pa., called Chainsaw Carvers Rendezvous once a year for a week filled with carving seminars. He also does a lot of work for charities and donates carvings for fundraising.

Seventh-grade art students got to watch Smith carve the eagle, sixth-graders watched the raccoon carving and the eighth-graders were surprised with a Viking head carving.