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Local chainsaw carver creates adorable bear donated to the Festival of Trees

Exploring the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation's Festival of Trees at the Civic Centre that includes beautifully decorated trees, people will notice chainsaw carvings of adorable animals, one in particular, is Luther the bear.

Exploring the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation’s Festival of Trees at the Civic Centre that showcases beautifully decorated trees, people will notice chainsaw carvings of adorable woodland animals. One in particular, is Luther the bear.

Luther is 20-year-old Isabel Stratton’s creation and he is tucked away in the corner of the display for the Great North Christmas movie that was filmed in Prince George last year. Luther is one of the many treasures under the tree that is auctioned off as part of the fundraising efforts for the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation.

Stratton donated Luther to the very worthy cause, where donations go directly towards equipment needed at the University Hospital of Northern BC.

“I love the Festival of Trees and I love the initiative because it’s so community based,” Stratton said.

To see the event come together was wonderful for Stratton.

“It was really special and I felt honoured to be able to give something to the community,” she added.

Stratton started using her chainsaw to create unique art at the age of 15.

Wildlife is her favourite subject and earlier pieces she’s created include eagles, owls and bears.

Stratton grew up drawing and always striving to perfect her technique in getting the most realistic wildlife images for her depictions.

Her more playful side can be seen in her recent cartoon-like snowmen that she draws on poplar discs from her backyard using pencil crayon.

She started selling ornaments featuring wildlife when she was about 12 years old at the school where her mom Sarah teaches Kindergarten.

Stratton got interested in chainsaw carving when she discovered a show on television called Carver Kings.

“I just thought it was so cool and I wanted to try,” Stratton said. “We ended up stopping during a family trip at a little carver shop between Quesnel and Williams Lake. It ended up belonging to one of the Carver Kings so we went in and met him - it was Ken Sheen - I told him that I would love, love, love to try and I asked him ‘how do you start with something like this?’ and he ended up bringing us back to his shop and he showed us his saws.”

Sheen told Stratton he would like to teach her and give her some tips but because they lived so far away from each other he told her to look up Prince George chainsaw carver John Rogers and that’s who provided her with tips and a lesson, which was a gift from her parents for her 15th birthday.

Soon after she got all the safety gear and her first chainsaw and now she has two - an Echo with a 16-inch bar on it and the smaller one is a Stihl with a 12-inch bar on it. She’s hoping to get a bigger one soon.

Stratton creates her chainsaw pieces in what she calls her Carver Corner in the backyard of her family’s home.

Mostly she’s been able to get her cedar pieces from family in the Kootenays and recently she invested in a load of cedar from the Pioneer Log Homes company in Williams Lake - like the Western Red Cedar with which Luther was created. (Students of Pioneer Log Homes also donated carvings of woodland animals to the Festival of Trees that can be found near the entrance/exit of the event.)

Stratton’s process to create her pieces starts out pretty much with the same steps and then the magic happens.

“All my carvings turn out so different - it’s so neat to see their personalities come through in the end,” Stratton said. “But it’s not really until he has the basic shape in his face - and it’s really interesting actually - some carvers say they see the piece hiding in the log and they are trying to bring it out - but in the beginning I do just see the log and it’s not until after a few cuts in that I am starting to bring him out and bring him to life.”

Stratton’s whole family is creative. Dad Len builds tables and helps with the benches Stratton makes, Mom Sarah comes up with creative activities for her family and Kindergarten students and younger sister Ella is a wonderful piano player, Stratton said.

“So everyone in my family is definitely creative in a different way,” she added.

Stratton is not only creatively talented but also is a UNBC biomedical student in her third year of study with the ultimate goal of becoming a dentist, which will require another four years in school - hopefully at UBC - after she completes her four-year undergraduate degree at the local university.

To get a glimpse of her work, visit the Festival of Trees at the Civic Centre until Dec. 5.

To reach Stratton, visit her Instagram @isabels_carvings and Facebook page Isabel Stratton or email her at isabelstratton@outlook.com.