The Ashland Beacon
A few years ago, Ashland resident Travis Williams took a trip to Gatlinburg. While there, he became intrigued by the chainsaw artists that he saw carving bears and other things out of logs. He told his wife, “that’s something that I would like to try.” It wasn’t long before he got his chance. A few months later, he had to cut down a dead tree that was in his yard. He dragged the trunk around to his work area and tried to carve a bear out of it. Williams admitted that this first attempt “looked pretty pitiful” but he was still hooked.
Williams said that he started going around looking for wood and collecting logs so that he could try more carvings. As he got better, he would send them to his mother. Williams himself didn’t have a Facebook profile but his mother did. So she would post his work on social media. When people started becoming interested in his work, she encouraged him to open up his own Facebook page and start showing people what he could do.
Williams started taking orders for custom carvings and branching out into more detailed work. Shortly after he first started, he took an order for his first human figure, a work inspired by the Alice in Wonderland statue that stands in Central Park in New York City. Williams explained that his bears are still the most requested item but he loves that he is able to do all kinds of different carvings. In his free time, he tries to “carve something that I’ve never carved before” and he tries to choose things that “challenge me artistically.”
Williams’ favorite thing that he has ever carved is the life-size statue of Randall McCoy that he made for Pikeville Tourism. It sits at the McCoy homeplace in Pikeville and he feels that it is the “biggest, most important thing that I’ve done.” Williams admits that he spent more time on that statue than he has on anything else that he’s ever carved.
Williams explained that anything that he did not like “went from where I was carving it straight into the firepit.” Luckily, there have not been very many that he has had to burn, because most of the time he is able to salvage the wood for something else or fix what he did not like to begin with.
For the first couple of years, the money from every piece that was sold would be put right back into the business. Williams said that “chainsaws aren’t cheap” and he also had to have a lot of other equipment like dremels, grinders, and bits.
Now, Williams can take the money he makes from the pieces that he sells to enable him to give more pieces away for charitable causes. He gives away about half of the work he does because he is not going to “make a living off of it,” and doesn’t not want to. He does all of his carving around his regular full-time job.
Williams provides the trophy nearly every month to the CARES trivia event
at Blazer’s. He is also working with the Ashland Foundation for Children with Disabilities to provide some of the wooden elements that will be in the Central Park Sensory Garden, and provides a large carving each year for the Festival of Trees and Trains at the Paramount Arts Center. He has several other charities that he will also be donating his works of art to so that they can auction them off to make money for their organizations.
Williams offered that, even for those that cannot contribute financially, there is always a way to help your community by “donating your time and volunteering.” He feels that “giving back to your community is important.”