Pete Ryan with a carving

Pete Ryan: A carver in his own words

As Hope gears up for 2021 Chainsaw Carving Competition, we look back at a famous carver’s life

Pete Ryan of Hope wrote a short biography in 2013, and his wife has passed it along to The Standard as the 2021 Chainsaw Carving Competition begins.

He said his father worked in a sign shop with friends, hand painting trucks and billboards using gold leaf lettering “of amazing quality, no longer seen today.”

“I remember always doodling with pen and pencil and taught myself to play guitar and harmonica,” he said. He was also attracted to old cars, trucks and motorcycles, “with their custom paint and cool flame jobs.”

“It was part of my life I was losing as I got older,” he said. “I guess I was supposed to carve or do something in the way of arts.”

He got no enjoyment out of manual labour jobs or truck driving. But when he moved here from Toronto in 1974, he saw the big totem poles he recognized their beauty and “old signs of true art.”

He began carving friends’ rifle butts and such, and soon he met Don Colp, who was making a living carving with a chainsaw.

“He inspired me and not long after I was doing the same,” he said. “Time to get serious.”

He signed up for a four-year art course, mostly drawing human figures, painting, doing advertisement and sign design. It gave him the basics he needed to really flourish as an artist.

“I kind of think of an old song recorded by The Guess Who about Albert Flasher, who was a workshop owner,” he said. “When my shop is full of finished carvings it’s cool, and gives me a feeling that I am never lost.”

He said he is happy he was true to himself.

“It is true what they say, work becomes play and I am always looking forward to the day of play,” he said.

He had advice for new carvers: “Learn all you can with future work ahead of you; as industries advance, so must an artist.”

READ MORE: Hope’s biennial, World-Class Chainsaw Carving Competition is here!


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