Guiding the chainsaw in Pat Doyle’s creations

Find Doyle Carving Niche next to the brick building at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

By Kate Hayden,

If a county fair is a celebration of all things hand-raised, hand-made or community-based, then a chainsaw carver is the perfect artist to feature: carvings with a sense of humor and sentimentality, created out of the leftovers of a fallen or chopped tree.

Based out of Floyd, artist Pat Doyle is putting his tools on display for visitors at the Floyd County Fair as he transforms several pieces of wood into critters and signs of all kinds. By Sunday, Doyle’s handiwork will be available for the 3 p.m. auction, with proceeds going to support the new Youth Enrichment Center.

In the 1980s, before he picked up a chainsaw, Doyle was looking for a hobby — something to distract him outside of his career as a substance abuse counselor.

“I quit drinking and quit smoking, and I needed something to do, so I started to run,” Doyle said.

After a few years and some trouble with his knees, Doyle was introduced to hand carving by a friend. Soon the two upgraded from knives and chisels to chainsaws on a joint project. From there, Doyle started experimenting with carving bears, and his skills slowly grew.

“People started to request things, and I started going to town festivals, set up and carve a few things,” Doyle said.

Doyle and his wife Sonne opened the coffee shop ‘Critters n Beans’ in Osage — “she was going to sell coffee, and I was going to sit in the back and whittle and drink her coffee” — but as his chainsaw carvings grew in popularity, the couple sold the coffee shop and opened Doyle Carving Niche as a full-time business. Now, Doyle has been carving full-time for 15 years, and Sonne manages the business and showroom.

“It’s been quite a ride. I’ve just been blessed in so many ways,” Doyle said.

Those visiting Doyle’s tent might see a variety of creatures emerge from his chainsaw — “it’s not a secret, [but] I haven’t decided,” Doyle said Thursday.

On Wednesday, Doyle had already begun carving a ribbon in honor of organ donation, inspired by Logan Luft’s family after the teenager passed away in an accident earlier this month. Doyle also plans to create a bear and an eagle — “things people expect from chainsaw carvers” — but he does like to create items that are unexpected, he said.

“Bears are fun, because you can humanize them, give them characteristics. That’s what I try to do with a number of things,” Doyle said. “If it’s something that people can look at and bring a smile to their face, that’s gratifying.”

Doyle travels across Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas for around 10 fairs and festivals each year, but he also creates custom pieces for clients. Some may just be seeking a little bit of humor to include in the landscape — but some pieces are deeply personal memorials to families.

Doyle spent five days this spring creating a family memorial in honor of a great-grandmother who saved the family farm. The woman lost her husband and the family land during the Great Depression, Doyle said, and through persistence, bought back the family farm, which remains with her descendants.

With creative freedom from the family, Doyle created a 15-foot totem that includes a portrait of the woman, her son, and topped the entire design with an eagle.

“The farm has been now in the family for 130 years, but it’s because of that woman’s determination,” Doyle said.

“It’s gratifying when you meet the expectation that the customer has … This exceeded their expectations. That’s even better,” Doyle said. “We’d been talking for eight months planning this whole thing, and right before I started, I sat down with them at the base of the tree and said, ‘this project is bigger than me.'”

At the base, Doyle prayed with the family for safety, persistence and clarity — “and things just came,” Doyle said.

“I didn’t start carving until I was 45 years old. I didn’t plan on doing this when I was a kid,” Doyle said. “God has guided me and given me these opportunities, and I just am so blessed.”