So, you’re standing in front of a big, hulking log in Williams Lake. And you have to turn it into a beautiful bald eagle – tail, feathers, beak, trademark piercing eyes, and all.
Better start cutting…
“Oh man, that was my first time doing an eagle like that,” said Ryan Cook, one of the stars of HGTV’s new series Carver Kings – based out of northern B.C. The show premieres on the network, April 5.
“I actually thought I’d knock the eagle out in like a day, but ate some humble pie right away.”
Cook spends much of the first episode chainsaw-ing, carving, and pecking away, eventually creating a regal eagle for a client in Colorado – although he faced some self-imposed adversity, forgetting to leave enough wood for the bird’s tail feathers.
As one of the young guns in the show’s varied cast, the pressure was on – not just to fulfill the client and a tight five-day deadline, but also to prove himself to his mentors he shares the camera with.
“For each one of us, we want to put our best foot forward,” he said Monday, on the phone and on a break from hacking, sawing, and trimming. “It’s cool, because all of the carvers kind of rose up. If one was down, we’d step in and help. And, let them do it themselves.”
Cook, who’s from Britannia Beach north of Vancouver, migrated to wood carving from acting, falling in love with a career he never really knew about while apprenticing on OLN’s series Saw Dogs.
“I got cast in this role and I had no idea what I was doing, ‘What is this?'” he said. “I was into it. As soon as that camera was off me, I was trying to carve.
“That was it. I was hooked.”
After Saw Dogs was cancelled, Cook stuck with it. He turned pro and has travelled to and competed in Canada, Amsterdam, England, France – “every day, something new, something different,” he said.
He joins the cast of Carver Kings after joining Pioneer Log Homes, a Williams Lake-based company which stars in HGTV’s precursor to Cook’s show, Timber Kings.
“It’s been an awesome adventure,” he said. “I’m just so grateful to have had the experience and to move forward.
“It’s a beautiful medium. It’s immersed by soul so much, that it’s what I live for.”
Cook says the best part of the show, although it hasn’t aired yet, is to have the opportunity to showcase a living and an art form that’s no doubt under-appreciated, even in Canada. He didn’t even know about it until Saw Dogs, after all, and now he’s a professional chainsaw artist.
Think of how many hotels, apartment buildings, or homes you’ve been in somewhere in British Columbia, where wood carvings of animals or something else ‘wild’ line the entrances. And how many times have you really stopped and stared at them, and wondered what went into creating them?
“I love that we got a chance to show people and show the viewers just how much passion all the carvers have,” he said. “You really get to see most of the carvers, all on our show are passionate and they study anatomy and how different things would turn, or their muscles… nuances that people wouldn’t really think to even think about.”
And, yes… the drama and the deadlines and the pressure, that’s all real, he says. At least, this isn’t The Hills.
“As much as I know reality shows, everybody knows that some are fake or scripted or whatever, but our show was real and you’ll see it throughout the whole show,” he said.
“It was real situations and in carving, nothing’s ever perfect… There’s always hiccups and things that happen. It became stressful for sure.”
HGTV Canada will air 14 episodes in Carver Kings‘ first season. They were filmed last fall and winter, from September to December, and Cook remembers their final day of shooting bottomed out at minus-32.
As mentioned above, Cook spends the first episode working for respect among his older mentor, Mark Colp. And the others have 30-or-so years on him.
(For example, take Cook’s bio on HGTV.ca: “Ryan may be a newly minted world champion – but nobody at Pioneer cares. He’ll have to prove himself in the yard, just like everyone else.”)
But the growth, he says, unfolds from start-to-finish.
“My place gets more solidified and the guys start to really accept me,” he said. “I’m piecing myself together as a carver… it was tough, but it was a great, great time.
“I just wanted to be myself and have my real character shine through.”
And the lessons learned in September are already paying off.
“Now, I actually do quite a few eagles.”
Former actor Ryan Cook got his start in the carving business on OLN’s Saw Dogs, and he’s parlayed that into a globe-trotting career and a role in HGTV’s new series, Carver Kings.
The cast of Carver Kings is all smiles on-set in Williams Lake, at Pioneer Log Homes. The show premieres on HGTV on April 5, 2015.
VIDEO: Ryan Cook carves ice in Northern B.C. (Shaw TV Northern BC)