Alissa Bartling

Alissa Bartling has always been an artistic person but in high school she saw a chainsaw artist at Riverboat Days and she was hooked. It wasn’t immediate that she started taking a chainsaw to pieces of wood but it definitely peaked her interest; made her want a chainsaw so she could take one to a piece of wood. Life moved on. Alissa went to college, met and married her husband Chris, works as the Marketing Coordinator for Security Bank. And then a few years ago, her husband Chris bought her a chainsaw.

Alissa worked slow at first, getting to understand the chainsaw and how to work with it in such detail. She started with practice projects and just kept working at it until she was making Christmas gifts. From there she started making things for donations to the Cedar Catholic school gala and name logs. As she’s progressed, so have her projects and so has the interest in her work. Alissa has gone from smaller projects to working on larger ones, such as a large sculpture she did for a horse barn. At the time of the writing of this article, Alissa is working on characters, a pig for one. And she is also working on a Cardinal log for the Legion Riders that features an eagle, which is a part of their logo. But the sky is the limit for Alissa, she does on-sight projects and sometimes videotapes them. “Sometimes it amazes people a little that I’m a woman doing this.”

Alissa said that she “needs the ability to work with her hands.” It’s a drive she has and sometimes she gets lost in making a piece because she’ll carve until it’s right. “It’s a mental release.” She gets to be creative in her job as a Marketing Coordinator and Graphic Designer but it wasn’t enough physical work for her to find that escape. Alissa used to run marathons but is no longer able to do that, and she needed something she could channel some of that energy into; something positive. Like she could when she was running; when she feels overwhelmed she can grab her headphones and saw. “It’s freeing. An escape. I’m happiest when I am creating things with my hands. I enjoy a challenge.”

To ask Alissa which project has been her favorite so far, she’d give you an easy answer. “All of my projects are my favorite. People love it as much as you do.” Each piece is handcrafted for someone with careful planning and the end result makes both the client and the artist happy, so each piece is something new to love. “They are all different and unique…you’re turning firewood into an art piece.” Though, there is one piece that comes to mind if she really thinks about it. A walnut bear, that her and her kids call “huggy bear.” It was her second carving and was originally meant to be a donation for the school gala but she couldn’t part with it and did a trade for something else. It now sits in front of her house.

Alissa has worked with walnut, pine, and hackberry. Pine is a softer wood. It’s easier and really good for things that will be indoors. Walnut is hard and it takes a lot of upper body strength. Hackberry is harder but Alissa really enjoys working with it. It’s harder as it dries but it’s really durable for things that will be outdoors.

After watching one of Alissa’s videos, it’s definitely a process. You have to select the right type of log for your project. Make small cuts with the chainsaw to start building. Alissa then uses a blowtorch and paint to get the right coloring. The detail Alissa is able to get in her pieces is outstanding.

Alissa’s husband Chris is very supportive; especially when he’s the one who helped her achieve her goal of creating art with a chainsaw. But he will sharpen her blades for her and helps out so she has time to carve. Which is helpful because it can take Alissa a few hours, depending on the size of the project. Alissa’s two kids are also supportive and think it’s fun. Sometimes they will join her while she carves.

For more information or to contact Alissa for a piece of your own, you can find her on Facebook; ALB Designs.