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by Lesley Wyatt

The Festival of Wood is held at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Gloucestershire, England every year at the end of August.   The weekend before sees the peace and tranquillity of the Arboreteum shattered by the roar of a dozen chainsaws.   Each chainsaw is operated by a sculptor intent on producing a complete sculpture from a huge tree trunk by the end of the following Bank Holiday weekend.  Most of the sculptors know what they will be carving from, but this year, to add even more excitement to the occasion, Mick Burns and Dave Johnson accepted the challenge of not knowing what timber they have been allocated, until the event started.  

The wood for these carvings varies from year to year, but is taken from trees that have been felled because they are damaged, dangerous, diseased or dead.   Because of the huge variety of trees in the Arboreteum, the carvers have many species to choose from - cherry, oak, beech, maple, giant redwood, pine and Douglas fir to name but a few.

On Bank Holiday Monday, these larger-than-life carvings were auctioned off to members of the public who were prepared to bid four figure sums to get the sculpture they wanted.   Proceeds of the auction go to Tree Aid, a charity which works with communities in West Africa to help them achieve self-sufficiency through sustainable use of woodland.

As well as the carving event there were many other things at the Festival.   Nearly 100 stands with woodturning, timber, tools and equipment, hardwood furniture, wooden jewellery, and, of course, pyrography (there were 3 of us, all members of the UKPyros Internet Group), plus many more.   There were demonstrations of Bonsai care from nursery stock to the finished tree, tool sharpening, basket making and wood turning, a Toymakers workshop, several carving classes.   So much was going on over the three days, and I hardly managed to see any of it – we were too busy!!   Oh yes, Jeff was with me, but demonstrating rope making and knot tying.

To visit Westonbirt Arboreteum on-line, click HERE - - To learn more about Tree Aid click HERE

Photo Tour of Westonbirt '07 HERE

Lesley and Jeff Wyatt have been married for 34 years and live in Bedfordshire, England.   She began carving many years ago, mainly carving animals.    She had been "playing around" with pyrography for many years but mainly using it to enhance her wood carvings.    Lesley has now progressed to creating pictures and Celtic knotwork designs, gradually improving her technique as time goes on.

Leslie notes: "We won't be attending the Festival for at least couple of years - sometime this summer we are heading off to Australia to spend a year touring around, followed by 3 or 4 months in New Zealand. So there won't be any more reports until we return to the UK and get back into the swing of things but my intention is to keep a Blog of our travels on our website. I'm hoping to be able to meet up with a few pyrographers and carvers, and Jeff will be trying to catch up with a few of his knotting buddies."

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