Cariboo woodcarver Ken Sheen was surrounded by a holiday wonderland of Santa’s, Grinches, and snowy trees at his vendor’s booth during this year’s Medieval Market.
Back in business after suffering significant setbacks, the carver is a role model for perseverance in the face of adversity.
In April of this year, he lost his entire woodshop and many of his carvings in a devastating fire.
Thankfully, he did have some help in recovering from the uninsured loss of his shop and carving storage.
Neighbours helped out and some started a fundraiser to replace some of his lifetime of tools lost.
He has since rebuilt his woodshop, with people donating time, gravel, and a lot of scavenged materials, and Sheen purchased some tools and had some donated.
Sheen said due to the loss of so many of his tools, which he had accumulated over 20 years of carving, it has been hard to recover completely.
Many of the carving tools he relied on were specialty tools purchased from the United States and Europe, so replacing them has been a challenge.
“Chainsaw carving is basically power carving — you use power dremels, sanders, power gouges, as well as a chainsaw, the more tools, of course, the more you can refine a carving.”
“If you don’t have the tools, the more it’s a little more ‘chainsaw-rough.’”
With COVID creating delays and shortages, especially to anything related to hobbies or do-it-yourself projects, some of the tools he used are difficult to get now.
He recently arranged to purchase some tools from someone who had quit carving, but when the floods happened, the tools became stuck on Vancouver Island.
These are not the first challenges the carver has had to face either.
He also had to repair multiple statues over the years after vandals have damaged or even stolen pieces of his works.
But the setbacks have not stopped the demand for his work.
“I’ve already got people asking me to do some big projects,” he said.
One of the big projects on his list is going to be a replacement for one completed just before it was lost in the devastating fire.
The city of Williams Lake had commissioned a replacement of the cow boss statue of a cowboy which used to overlook the Stampede Grounds.
Sheen had carved the original out of bug-kill pine as part of an initiative by the city.
The pine version had deteriorated and needed replacement, so he was commissioned to carve one from cedar.
The statue had taken him four to five months to complete and it was finished and slated for installation when the fire destroyed his shop and storage, where he had the completed statue.
“They should be getting better … I’ve had lots of practice,” quipped Sheen.“The last one was beautiful. It was such a devastating loss for me.”
The carver continues on despite all of these setbacks, and others he alludes to, saying he can’t wait to start 2022 and put 2021 behind him.
“I never look behind me, I always look forward,” he said. “I’m a strong guy and I just say, ‘okay, next, let’s go.’”
The carver has created other large iconic carvings visible throughout the community, including the mountain racer statue at the “Y” intersection of Highway 20, Highway 97 and Oliver Street.
Sheen took up carving when he was living in Chetwynd, B.C., 20 years ago.
Another carver came to the community and created some chainsaw carvings for the town. They were very popular and so the municipality wanted a local carver to create more.
His wife Sandy, who has since passed away, told him he should give carving a try.
So he took a course in Prince George with John Rogers and spent a summer selling chainsaw carvings of bears off the side of the highway.
“I liked it, it was fun,” he said.
Eventually, he began to go to competitions, where he would meet other carvers and learn more about the craft.
A carver from Ucluelet, Terry McKinnon, offered to mentor Sheen on the ‘finer points’ of carving if he joined McKinnon in Ucluelet.
“He set me on my way and I never looked back.”
Sheen has since become a renowned artist in the Cariboo.
For more information on Ken Sheen’s work, he can be contacted at 250-747-2167 or at www.pinerivercarving.com.