Pat McVay works on touching up his woodcarving titled “Deluged” in front of the post office in Clinton. He is among 20 artists at this weekend’s Woodpalooza, a free show by the Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Pat McVay works on touching up his woodcarving titled “Deluged” in front of the post office in Clinton. He is among 20 artists at this weekend’s Woodpalooza, a free show by the Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Meet the man behind the junk mail statue at the post office

Woodpalooza on Whidbey Island is an annual Labor Day event where artists come out of the woodwork.

CLINTON — Many people grumble about junk mail, then get on with their lives.

Not Pat McVay. He took a chain saw to it.

What’s up with that?

It’s pretty much how the dude deals with everything.

He wields a chain saw with the finesse of an artist using a paint brush.

His woodcarving of a man opening his mail box and getting knocked over by a deluge of junk mail is a fixture in front of the post office in Clinton.

“I tried to make it look like mail is coming out and not only burying the guy but strangling him too. It makes people laugh,” McVay said.

“The postmasters say, ‘We get thousands of items, more than you do in your mailbox.’ I guess it pays the bills at the post office.”

Art helps pay the bills for McVay, 68, who is married with a 15-year-old son.

Chances are you’ve seen or sat on a McVay.

He did the Bigfoot holding a cellphone at a Langley arcade and the 12-foot bat-shaped bench with a giant baseball in South Whidbey Community Park. The sea otter bench at the Seattle Aquarium is also his. About 200 of his carvings of fishermen, diners, waiters, gangsters and movie stars are on Seattle’s Piers 57 and 59. His work is in parks, plazas and eateries from California to Canada.

Around the island, McVay is just another guy in a ball cap and cargo shorts. He drives a banged up white 1993 Toyota pickup with the ART sign on top and 250,000 miles on the odometer. He got it more than 20 years ago in a sculpture trade with a flower-shop owner named Kate who would later become his wife.

Pat McVay brushes off old paint from his woodcarving in Clinton. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Pat McVay brushes off old paint from his woodcarving in Clinton. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“There’s still some remnants of ’60s flower hippie stickers on it,” he said.

You can meet McVay and about 20 other artists at this weekend’s Woodpalooza by the Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild. The free show is Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with a reception 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley.

But to see the junk mail statue, titled “Deluged,” you have to go to the Clinton post office. It’s up the road from the ferry dock, across from Cozy’s Roadhouse and Dairy Queen. What better excuse to grab a beer or a Blizzard?

“If it was lighter I’d take it to Woodpalooza,” McVay said. With the stump and flagstone base, the sculpture weighs about 750 pounds.

McVay made it 10 years ago for a show in Bellevue that focused on recycling, then displayed it in a park there.

“I moved it to the Clinton post office because a lot of local people thought it would be a great location and they were going to raise money. They wanted to spearhead it to get public art in Clinton, but the group fell apart.”

That was five years ago.

“Since then I think everyone has forgotten that it is for sale. They probably think the community owns it and it’s public art,” he said.

The asking price is $10,000, but McVay will take $5,000 if it’s for public view.

“It would be nice if someone bought it and left it there,” he said. “I like having things in context. It tells the story better.”

A chain saw is one of more than a dozen tools he uses, including sanders and chisels.

Pat McVay touches up his woodcarving in front of the post office in Clinton. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Pat McVay touches up his woodcarving in front of the post office in Clinton. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Still, some see him as a lumberjack artist of sorts. “I tell people about all the different tools I use, then they say, ‘Yeah, he does it all with a chain saw.’ ”

McVay’s brother, sister and other family members are chain saw artists. His nephew, Steve Backus, has a block-long lineup of carved characters in front of his compound on Glendale Road in Clinton. Backus was featured in a “We’re a lot like you. A little different” Pemco Insurance commercial.

Many large-scale carvings by McVay are from already downed trees. The postal sculpture is from a Lebanese cedar damaged in a winter storm.

“The tree service guy took it down and called me and asked if I wanted it,” he said.

That’s where he gets a lot of wood, and he shares it with other woodworkers in the guild. “Some people make instruments, some make boats, build furniture,” he said.

Why so many woodcarvers on Whidbey?

“It’s not only woodworkers. It’s artists in general. People have shops down back roads everywhere here — glass blowers, painters, bronze people,” he said.

“It’s a supportive community for the arts and people that are creating things. People roll up their sleeves and do things here.”

Clinton resident Carole Falleen, a real estate broker, doesn’t mind digging through her mail boxes both at home and at the post office.

“Once in a while there is a treasure deal in that junk mail,” she said.

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

Talk to us

More in Local News

Staff are evaluating two more light rail alternatives for the Everett Link extension. One would follow Interstate 5 north of 128th Street SW to the Everett Mall and back to the freeway. Another would go west of 128th Street SW to Highway 99 and north to Casino Road. (Sound Transit)
Snohomish County leaders reject light rail routes bypassing Paine Field

Those options weren’t what voters approved — and would be like “butchering” the plan, the Snohomish County executive said.

A Sound Transit train arrives at Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. (Sue Misao / Herald file) May 2019
Should light rail skip Paine Field and Boeing? We asked, you answered

More than 300 Herald readers responded to an online poll. Here are the results.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Highway 9 work could disrupt travel through Lake Stevens

Construction is set for roundabouts on South Lake Stevens Road and one at North Davies Road and Vernon Road.

Lynnwood City Council members, from left: Jim Smith, Shirley Sutton, Shannon Sessions, Josh Binda, George Hurst, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, and Patrick Decker. (City of Lynnwood)
No penalty for Lynnwood council member’s ‘underinformed’ views on racism

The City Council didn’t censure Jim Smith after a report found he discriminated against a Black city employee.

All ears: Mukilteo couple provides surgery for kids born without ears

Dr. Prabhat and Trish Bhama are part of a HUGS volunteer team providing treatment for microtia in Guatemala.

(Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - US Forest Service)
U.S. 2 reopens east of Index as Bolt Creek wildfire moves north

The highway was blocked off earlier this week as the fire spread.

People gather outside of the new Northwest Carpenters Institute building prior to a grand opening celebration Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022, in Burlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Building a workforce: Northwest Carpenters expand training center

About 160 Snohomish County tradespeople take the apprentice classes in Burlington center. There’s ample room to grow.

A Coast Guard cutter searches for a crashed chartered floatplane near Mutiny Bay Monday afternoon in Freeland, Washington on September 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
5 more bodies recovered from floatplane crash off Whidbey

About 80% of the plane, including the engine, was recovered using remotely operated vessels.

Conceptual rendering for a future section of Smokey Point Boulevard between 174th Place NE and 200th Street NE. (City of Arlington)
Plan seeks to transform Smokey Point Blvd. into ‘neighborhood corridor’

City officials hope roundabouts, sidewalks and more will turn 2 miles of busy road into a neighborhood street.

Most Read