What made mailman Ramel Rollins decide to finally knock at the carver’s door was a long-building interest in the fate of the third large piece of wood in the yard, the one whose identity has yet to materialize.
“My girls have been waiting to see what’s going to happen,” says Rollins, whose route is across the street from Mogren’s home. Telling Fauston, 13, and Remi, 9, that “you’ve got to see these hunks of wood,” Rollins has brought his daughters around a few times, not wanting to miss the transformation.
Mogren says people “fairly regularly stop by,” because her display pieces catch their eyes and because chain saw carving is “big, noisy and dangerous” and commands attention.
Cheryl Black Jones, a bank employee who lives nearby in Emerson Hills, is considering commissioning a sculpture for her yard after stopping to chat with the carver. As a pen-and-ink artist herself, she says, “I understand composition and spatial relationships, and I liked what I saw. It’s very unique.”
Also somewhat unusual is the safety getup a chain saw carver wears: hard hat with mesh face mask, chaps and gloves. Mogren uses three sizes of chain saws to create her masterpieces.
Assuming a stance for chain saw carving is a bit like preparing for karate, Mogren says while demonstrating her pose. Carvers’ legs and feet should be aligned with their shoulders, and knees should be bent to avoid pinched nerves or sore muscles, she explains. Stand so you’re centered, not hunched or stooped over, she advises. The vibration of the tool, which has an asymmetric design and therefore is not balanced between a carver’s hands, can do a number on your body if you’re not in good shape, she says.
“I play racquetball with my family on Sundays, and since taking up chain saw carving my game has improved. I even beat my husband, Stacy, and our son at a game of cutthroat a month or so ago,” she says. As she’s become underweight, thanks to the rigors of chain saw carving, she says she has also become more agile.
Viewing her work
Mogren’s biggest exposition of sculptures in one place may be in the 19-acre forest at Camp Ilchester, located in northeastern Ellicott City.
At the campground, which is owned and operated by the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, she carved for free on six oak stumps still rooted in the ground “to practice,” she says. She later designed and executed a 7-foot-tall totem pole, also bound to the earth, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting in April 2012.
Don Correll, a fellow Scout leader, had suggested Mogren be commissioned to create the wood sculpture to mark the centennial.
“I have seen the work of a lot of chain saw carvers, and Evelyn’s is far more detailed than most,” says Correll, a former Columbia resident who now lives on the Carroll County side of Sykesville.
What he loves about this particular marriage of artist to project is Mogren’s involvement in Scouting and the fact that she’s a woman illuminating the mission of the Girl Scouts through her artistry in a male-dominated art form.
Billy Heinbuch, GSCM ranger and nature specialist, agrees. After giving a tour of her sculptures, he commented that it costs about as much to hire workers to grind a tree stump as it does to have a chain saw carver transform it into art.
“What she does is so realistic that I almost want to cut down trees for her to work on — almost — I hate to cut down any tree,” he says. “But Don (Correll) plopped this woman into my life for a reason, and I really appreciate all she’s done for the Girl Scouts. Everybody loves her work.”
Heinbuch has already handpicked the stump where Mogren will next carve Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, a fictional creature that speaks on behalf of trees in a cautionary tale that pits the environment against corporate greed. It’s a perfect match for the mission of the camp.
“I can’t wait for her to do this,” says Heinbuch. “It’s one of my favorite books, and (the message) applies to what we believe here.”
Mogren feels she was preparing for this style of art long before she even knew it existed.
“You know when you’re really happy how you get this big bubbling feeling inside?” Mogren asks. “That’s what chain saw carving is to me.”