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Chain saws carve logs into unique artwork

Helen event pits carving masters in a rip-roaring competition

POSTED: June 2, 2011 12:30 a.m.
/For Get Out

Master chain saw carvers will compete and display their works at this weekend's Buzz in the Blueridge Chainsaw Carving Extravaganza near Helen.

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Combining the speed and sound of motocross with the skill and accuracy of a brain surgeon. That's how the Buzz in the Blueridge Chainsaw Carving Extravaganza has been described.

Chain saw artist and event promoter Mal "MalHatter" McEwen first organized the event in 2009, and it remains the only event of its kind in the Northeast Georgia mountains, according to McEwen.

"I realized that there were no carving competitions in the area. I've always told other carvers about how beautiful Georgia is, and we decided to get it organized," McEwen said.

Buzz in the Blueridge is an art competition of sorts. Chain saw-wielding artists compete for three day in two different categories.

In the Masterpiece competition, artists work for a total of 20 hours on single pieces judged by a five-person panel.

"The artists get to keep their masterpiece works. They can decide to sell it if they want. It's only fair, and they are the ones who know the true value of the pieces," McEwen said.

Additionally, there are daily quick-carve sessions in which artists have one hour to complete a work. Judging is based on the value received at auction immediately following the carving.

"This year we have 16 of the best carvers from all over the country coming to compete," McEwen said, pointing out that 14 men and two women are coming from as far as Idaho, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

"Chain saw art is the hottest, fastest most dangerous art form. You have to be part athlete, part artist and part entertainer. It's very physical and demanding," McEwen said.

A unique feature at this year's event is that some of the wood that will be used is coming from the tornado-ravaged area around Lake Burton.

"It's making a silver lining out of a dark cloud, to be able to turn tragedy into art. We'll be able to make something really nice out of something really tragic," McEwen said.

The Buzz will take place at the Habersham Winery on Ga. Highway 75 in Helen. Events are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

General admission tickets are $10, and can be purchased at the winery. Auctions for the quick carve pieces begin at $75.



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