|Mike Madigan observes a carving on the Heritage Tree|
Three talented Newfoundland carvers are combining their skills to preserve history for all Newfoundlanders across the province and outside as they work on the Heritage Tree.
What I like best about working on the tree is knowing the amount of time it will actually stand. It''ll be here long after I'm dead and gone and my children and grandchildren will remember me through the work I did on the tree," says Scott Butt. Butt was born and raised in St. Georges where he makes his home. He started work on the Heritage Tree last year with fellow carver Bernie Benoit. Carver Colin Mahoney joined them a little later.
Butt has been carving for six years and usually works on smaller pieces. Three years ago he completed works for a native centre collection of aboriginal designs shown in St. John's, Corner Brook and Labrador. Most recently he travelled to Belfast, Ireland to work on a nine foot pole carving traditional images. He says his work on the Heritage Tree was responsible for his being selected for that project.
Butt absolutely loves his work and hopes to continue making it a career in St. Georges. Benoit born and raised in Black Duck Brook traces his love of carving back to his earliest childhood and his father''s influence. "My old man worked with wood and I took up carving when I was about 12 or 13 years old, as a hobby," states Benoit. He says his mother died when he was very young leaving him and his dad on their own. A bond of deep friendship and sharing of carving interest arose between them.
For Benoit carving is still a hobby. He has taken time away from his full time occupation of sheet metal construction work to work on the Heritage Tree. He explains he was asked to work on the tree when it was first housed at John Erickson's in Port Au Porte. He is delighted to be one of the carvers.
"This may be the biggest thing I ever do in my life. I always wanted to work on a large piece of wood. It's a big change to the the smaller pieces I worked on," he says. Benoit says working on the Heritage Tree has been a learning experience. "We learned a lot off of this. I'd like to do another one," he states, adding he would like it if the carvers had more autonomy in deciding on the pieces to be included. All the decisions were made by the Heritage Tree committee.
Fellow carver Colin Mahoney agrees that working on the Heritage Tree has been a valuable experience. "I love working on that tree. It''s a sin to see it end," he says. Born and raised in Corner Brook Mahoney now lives in Steady Brook. He attributes his carving and drive for carving and music to his grandfather and father. "My grandfather was a technical man. I spent a lot of time with him growing up. He encouraged me and gave me rewards and was big behind me," he states. Mahoney says he derived his creative side from his father.
Colin Mahoney began carving at age five and was a guest on the Tween Club program as a pre teen talking about his carving. He says at age 20 he decided to make carving a career. "I decided then I'd carve for the rest of my life," he says. But Mahoney says carving is not an easy life. Although rewarding in one way, it is hard in another. Also a singer musician Mahoney says being artistic is not always financially rewarding. It''s the love of his art that keeps him going. "I take what I do very seriously and it''s got to be the best it can be , the most that God gave me the ability to create with these hands," he says.
Mahoney and Benoit work mostly with chisels while Butt also uses power tools wherever he deems it necessary.The quality tools were purchased from Lee Valley Tools Limited. Once the project is completed the tools will be housed within the Interpretation Centre to be built, for all to see and admire.
The carvers have completed 50 images reflecting nearly every part of Newfoundland and Labrador's history from the earliest aboriginal designs to the latter day ones like the Hibernia. A salute to music of Emile Benoit, the discovery of Newfoundland by John Cabot, the scales of justice, whales and squid jigging,the Badger Drive,the Kyle...are among just a few of the completed images.
The carvers expect to be at work doing the last images for another few weeks. Right now visitors to the site of the Heritage Tree are met with scaffolding in place and one or more of the carvers at work on any given day, weather permitting. All three carvers are proud to be connected to this major project and giving their best efforts to see the Tree last for generations to come.
The tree is truly a work of art every Newfoundlander here and away will be proud of!