Woodworkers show off art that calls to be handled and used

LANGLEY — Pat it. Stroke it. Sit your butt down on it.

Sculptor Pat McVay wants you to do more than just look at his art.

“Some people may have a sign that says ‘Do Not Touch,’” the Clinton artist said. “Mine’s the opposite: Please climb all over it. I like people to interact with it.”

His wooden creations beg for it, whether it’s the 7-foot-tall baseball mitt chair in South Whidbey Community Park or a statue of a gangster holding out his derby hat as an ashtray at the Seattle waterfront pier.

McVay, 64, has done hundreds of pieces in his 40 years armed with a saw.

He is among 20 artists at this weekend’s “Woodpalooza” by Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild. Carvers, boat builders and musical instrument makers will be on hand to show off their unique skills.

The free, three-day event is a chance to meet the artists and try to figure out what makes them tick.

“Most of the world doesn’t know we exist,” guild spokesman Gary A. Leake said.

Woodworking is often a solitary practice, with the artists holed up in studios with hunks of wood and power tools.

Yeah, even their families can take their amazing talents for granted.

“My son’s friends come over and they say, ‘Wow, your dad does this?’ And they want to know all about it and he says, ‘Let’s go play video games,’” McVay said. “Same thing from my wife. Oh, just another sculpture.”

His themes are flowers and birds, sports and fishermen.

“I like to challenge myself with different styles,” he said. “Every day I have to make something. That’s the curse of self-employment. And it’s something I really love.”

A brother, sister and nephew are also chain-saw artists, each with a different style.

“After I use a chain saw, then I use smaller saw, then a smaller saw, then a sander, then I get out a little chisel and other tools,” McVay said. “All the wood I use is salvage. Wood that blew down in storms or from the road department widening the road.”

About 200 of his carvings of fishermen, diners, waiters, gangsters and movie stars are on Seattle’s Pier 57. Several are atop the roof hauling fish into a boat. The sea otter bench at Seattle Aquarium is also his doing.

His work is in parks and plazas from California to Canada.

McVay captures his subjects in a moment and puts an animated spin into their next step, bite or swing. A sculpture of man dining at a table wipes his face with a napkin. Two statues in a wine garden gossip. The life-sized carving of Babe Ruth is posed ready to slam a ball, right down to the action wrinkles in his uniform.

A man thrown backward by a tsunami of junkmail from a mailbox is a whimsical favorite in Clinton. It’s by the post office.

McVay’s art can take a serious turn. In the South Whidbey park is Jesse’s Memorial Chair in memory of a teen killed in a car wreck. At the chair legs is a cat and soccer ball.

“He had a funny cat and he loved to read and he brought his ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ chair to school to do his book report,” McVay said. “I did a life-sized portrait of his chair and it overlooks where he played.”

By the baseball dugout is a bat 12 feet long and a ball 3 feet round that McVay gave the park in 2007.

“I cut my wrist accidentally with a very aggressive sander about eight years ago and it went all the way to the bone,” he said. “I couldn’t work for six months and almost lost my hand. The community threw a big benefit for me and it paid over half my medical expenses. And it picked my spirits up so much as a gift back I donated that to the park.”

The giant mitt has been on loan to the park for two years.

“It’s modeled after the mitt I used in high school and college. See how it’s all beat up?” McVay said. “You see bats with dents in them and balls with strings hanging out. That was the idea. I left tool marks on them. I wanted it to be distressed already. It’s like beat-up sports equipment that you’d see laying around in a park.”

McVay is uprooting the mitt to take to “Woodpalooza” to show and maybe sell. Asking price: $5,000.

Some fans might be hoping it doesn’t sell.

“It’s been a great addition to the park,” said Tom Fallon, park district facilities supervisor. “During the all-star season, kids from all the other areas we play just love it. They’re always taking pictures of it.”

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

If you go

“Woodpalooza” is noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with a reception 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, Zech Hall, 565 Camano Ave., Langley.

Admission is free.

For more information: www.woodpalooza.com.

More in Life

Mukilteo’s Hani Hani scores with the police chief

The Japanese restaurant serves dishes (poke, ramen, grill) inspired by the Hawaiian islands.

‘Coco’ is another eye-popping home run for Pixar/Disney

The animated movie’s a lively, touching tale of honoring family, following dreams.

Beer of the Week: Scuttlebutt’s Barrel-aged Belgian Winter

Made in 2013, the dark strong ale was stowed away in barrels. The brewery tests one each year.

‘Love, Chaos and Dinner’ an Teatro ZinZanni’s original show

The “Parsian cabaret” is a superb circus dinner theater operation in Marymoor Park through April 29.

Heavy Hollywood headlines: Robert Horton’s movies preview

In the midst of all the sexual-misconduct allegations, the holiday film season offers some relief.

Denzel Washington’s remarkable performance isn’t helped by plot

The actor is convincing as an awkward, eccentric lawyer, but unconvincing contrivances pile up.

‘The Breadwinner’ animation is strong, but its story is stilted

The Cartoon Saloon film never lets you forget that you’re here to learn an important lesson.

Pianist Kaitlyn Gia Lee, 10, of Mill Creek, will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major on Nov. 26 with the Everett Philharmonic Orchestra.
Young pianist to perform Mozart with Everett Philharmonic

Kaitlyn Gia Lee, 10, of Mill Creek, will play the piano at the Music for the Imagination concert.

Liz Oyama as Belle, Jimmi Cook as Gaston and John Han as Lefou star in the Edmonds Driftwood Players production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” opening Nov. 24. Magic Photo
In Driftwood’s ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ Belle has girl-power bend

Edmonds Driftwood Players presents Disney’s adaptation of the fair tale Nov. 24 through Dec. 17.

Most Read