Along with hockey, poutine, and an abundance of space, chainsaw carving is as iconically Canadian as it is possible to be. Fernie recently welcomed a special new talent in the form of Chainsaw Artist, Michael A. Penny.
Like many artists, Michael Penny began his working life in and around the kitchen tackling everything from haute cuisine to bartending, in locations across Canada from Montreal to BC. The late-night shenanigans of the service industry didn’t suit family life, so he trained at a cabinet-making school in Vancouver and began a new life as a woodworker. Creativity was never far away, and he also spent time as an actor, painter, poet, playwright, and musician. 2011 brought major life changes.
In the process of closing a cabinet making business that Michael ran with his wife Isabel, he met woodcarver Ralph Ireland. Although Ralph died that same year, he had left an indelible mark on the new artist, and his influence was profound. Through observation and practice, Michael was inspired and found a new direction for his woodworking skills. Ralph’s tools of the trade were the chisel and the mallet, a natural place for any woodcarver to begin. It was later, under the guidance of carvers Pierre Turgeon and Neil Cox that Michael discovered chainsaw carving, and just a few months later he was at Carvapalooza with 37 other chainsaw carvers for a 4-day-long event in southern Ontario. He was hooked.
Six months later, Michael, and his wife and children Isaac and Gabriela, moved across the country from his hometown of Rawdon, Quebec, to Calgary. The new urban home proved inhospitable for noisy machine-carving however, and along with a shortage of raw materials and suitable space, Michael was compelled to temporarily hang up his chainsaw.
After just two and a half years, it was clear that the metropolitan environment simply did not suit the family and they packed up and resettled in Fernie in June, 2015. Michael now spends his working life carving and looks forward to a future full of chainsaws, creativity, and plenty of family time skiing, playing hockey, and enjoying life in Fernie.
Visit Michael’s working studio at 1439 MacDonald Ave on Hwy #3 in West Fernie.
Open most days and by appointment. 250-423-0552