Online Monthly Teddy Bear Magazine
Let the chips fall where they may!
Feature Article by Terry & Doris Michaud                            August 2011

There is little question that the most popular material used in teddy bear making is mohair, but if we did a thorough search, I am sure we would discover that teddy bears have been made from every material known to man, including plush, glass, plastic, paper mâché, recycled fabrics and even chocolate! (Not sure if I am ready to bite into a chocolate teddy).

The bears we want to feature this month are carved from wood.

We tend to think that teddies have been around a long time (over a hundred years, in fact) but when it comes to bears carved from wood, we can go back to the early 1800's when the carving industry got its start in Brienz, Switzerland. The work of their incredible artisans is known as Black Forest carving, and the same skilled craftsmen can be found in Germany today and are labeled as Black Forest carvers.

Regardless of which country the work originated in, it is highly sought by collectors today. While their work covers a variety of subjects including cuckoo clocks, furniture, decorative pieces and many domestic and wild animals, the bear remains at or near the top of the list of popular carvings.

New collectors should be prepared for some sticker shock, as Black Forest carvings dating to the 19th or early 20th century can command prices in the four figure range, depending on size and condition.

Two dealers based in the U.S.A. who specialize in antique Black Forest carvings are Daniel's Antiques in Aspen, Colorado and Leatherwood Antiques in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

We are happy to report that the Black Forest carvers from days gone by have passed along their skills and talents to craftsmen who carry on the tradition today. You can see some of the contemporary Black Forest carvings by clicking on the link.

This 19 inch Black Forest piano stool was crafted in the late 19th century. 



This is an example of a contemporary Black Forest carving.  It was produced in Germany recently.



An amazing Black Forest carved tobacco jar circa 1900 from Daniel's Antiques. Might want to use it for candy; bear shaped of course!"

Here is a chainsaw sculptor that drew an admiring crowd at an "Art in the Park" festival in Canada.


A 3 foot tall fishing bear by R.L. Blair.
Chainsaw sculptor R.L. Blair (above) hails from Oceano, California and has been sculpting in wood for the past 35 years. He has worked in a variety of art forms including paintings, steel, glass and stone, but prefers working in wood. Blair only uses salvaged and recycled logs, mostly fallen redwood trees that were cut over 100 years ago.

A charming bear created from recycled pulp wood! There is an art gallery called Wooden Feather, located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina that offers a unique collection of wood carvings by both local and nationally recognized artists and crafts people. 

It was here that we discovered a most unusual bear that is made of recycled pulp wood. Since recycling is near and dear to us, we thought it would be nice to include this bear too.

Chainsaw Artist Dusty Foster does a series of  "welcome" bears in various sizes and groupings. 




Known as the First Chainsaw Artist, Ray Murphy accomplishes another first using only a chainsaw and no carving tools.

During The World's Number One Chainsaw Sawyer Art Stage Show, Ray sawed 14 numbers on a tooth pick. This a first time for this to happen in the world.

Ray sawed 12 numbers on a tooth pick in 5 previous shows and 13 for two shows in a row.

On July 23,2007 Ray sawed 14 numbers on a toothpick!

Ray has been practicing this feat for over fifteen years and advertises doing 10 numbers on a toothpick.

He is also known for his bear and wildlife carvings. Ray says "It's beyond my wildest dreams".

Chainsaw artist Ray "Mountain Man" Murphy -  carved the entire alphabet on a pencil with a chainsaw! Truly amazing.

Everyone knows bears love to fish, and this Willis creation even has his own canoe!

Brian Willis began his carving career hand carving duck and goose decoys in 1988, graduating to using a chainsaw for larger pieces in 2004. He and his wife Tracy live in Granite City, Illinois and he has taught his wife the art of carving.

Their delightful work can be seen at fairs, festivals and special events throughout the central and southern Illinois area.


A creative carving by the Pratts of bears in a log.

What a spectacular yard piece!

Rick and Judy Pratt are chainsaw carvers from Corfu, New York, just outside of Buffalo. They have been carving for the past 10 years. Rick is a former Tree Surgeon and discovered the art of chainsaw carving at a Lumberjack competition. Their major carving pieces are custom ordered stump carvings, typically carved right on the customer's home property. They also do a series of shows along the Eastern coast. The Pratts work includes a variety of wildlife such as Indians, Mountain Men, Soldiers and other figures.


This charming bear on a bridge  by Toby J just makes you want to put a pond in your yard to accommodate it!

Toby J's work is actually a family affair. He and his wife Dawn, their son, daughter and her husband all work in the family business in Aurora, Oregon that includes chainsaw art, along with handcrafted log furniture and home decor. 

As with most chainsaw sculptors, they use reclaimed lumber and trees that have been harvested as a result of land management and urban tree removal.


A miniature bear bench that dates to 1890.  18 inches tall, 24 inches wide.  Daniel's Antiques


Sculptor Westberg's bear has a unique sign that reads "Welcome" on one side, and "Go Away!" on the reverse side, for those days  when you don't want visitors!

Chainsaw artist David Westberg lives with his wife and two children in Monroe, Washington, with is studio in nearby Bothell. 

He operates under the name Rainy Day Bears and has been carving and sculpting for the past 23 years. 

David creates his pieces from cedar and redwood, and every item is finished with a minimum of 3 coats and varnish to provide years of enjoyment, indoors or out. 


OK, so now you are convinced that you want to try your hand at chainsaw carving. 

Did you know that there is actually a school where you can learn the basics? 

It's the Wisconsin School of Chainsaw Carving, reportedly the only one of its kind in the USA! The school is located in Hayward, in Northwest Wisconsin and is operated by Brian Johnson. 

You can get details of their class schedule from their web site .

An eye-catching sculpture of a cub bear in a tree with Mama at the base - a project from the Wisconsin carving school.


Raikes bears are instantly identified by their striking faces. This example dates to 1985

We would be remiss if we did not include a mention of one of our favorite bear artists who works in wood. 

Robert Raikes began sculpting wood dolls in the 1970s, then Introduced his incredible teddy bears with their unique wood faces in 1985.

Originally all hand made by the artist, the interest was so great that they had to turn to a manufacturer to keep up with the demand.

We had the pleasure of attending a number of shows where Raikes was a featured artist, and in addition to his sculpting talents, he was one of those rare individuals that it was a joy to meet and be around.

Examples of Raikes' wonderful bears can be found in collections around the world today.


Bears&Buds' Collector-Member Darlene D, from Michigan had a dead tree carved into a bear that graces her back yard.

She said by doing this she didn't have to 'loose' the tree, sort of speaking, and could carry on with her bear collecting!


Randy Boni, is commissioned by commercial, public, and private property owners around the country to sculpt dying or damaged trees into high profile landmarks. Using primarily a chainsaw, Boni is regarded as one of the most proficient chainsaw artist in the country. Boni has always depended on wood for his livelihood and has a deep respect for trees, conservatism, proper forest management, and safeguarding nature, not destroying it. "If a tree is dying or has to be taken down, I feel I'm preserving some remembrance of the tree with my carvings," he stated.


Using chainsaws for art

Artists use all sorts of medium and tools. Jim Phillips does amazing work with trees and a chainsaw.

His sculptures are amazing and so is his story.

See how he changed an entire town after a devastating hurricane

Click on his photo to watch the video

OK, let's break out the chainsaws, hammer and chisels, (and in my case, a large box of band-aids) and get to work on a carved bear.  Or, maybe it would be easier to leave that work to those with the proper credentials and lay out a few dollars to buy a carved wood bear for your home or yard.


Terry & Doris Michaud


Members since March 2009

There are many talented chainsaw artists across the world and we featured just a very few here.


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Artists, become a Member of Bears&Buds today! Advertise FREE! Password will take you to the B2B section loaded with selling, making and how-to ideas.


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