Schenectady County

Tree trunk an outlet for art

Shane Prescott has been carving a tree trunk with a Halloween theme, with a couple skulls, a snake a

His face shield tipped up, work gloves on his hands and a plastic brace around his midsection, Shane Prescott recounted Friday some of the frustrations he’s encountered.

Unable to work more than a couple hours at a time due to injury, Prescott recalled filling sketchbooks with motorcycle designs. Then, deciding they’d never be built, he’d throw the whole sketchbook away.

Prescott then stops mid-story.

A man in a box truck pulls up in front of Prescott’s Watt Street home.

“That’s pretty awesome,” the man tells Prescott. “Mind if I take a picture?”

What the man was referring to was the large chain saw carving in front of Prescott’s home. It’s a carving Prescott did, working no more than two hours at a time over the past several weeks. The carving has a Halloween theme, with a couple skulls, a snake and an insect. And there’s more to come.

Prescott, a 44-year-old married father of two, has been doing his work out in the open, getting approving words from passing motorists, like the truck driver. Others walking by his home at the corner of Watt and Tower Avenue also stop to gauge his progress. It’s that interaction with the neighborhood that Prescott is enjoying most from his work.

“A piece of wood,” Prescott emphasizes. “People are giving the thumbs up, they stop and talk. I have more people stop and talk that I’ve seen go by a thousand times.”

Despite the attention, Prescott said he’ll often try to keep working. Stopping to talk can cut down on carving time, he said.

Prescott has suffered from a work-related back injury since 2002. Years as a master auto technician, working continuously to get jobs done while there was work to be had, took its toll. His back troubles also put him, as he described it, into a funk, leading to his frustrations with his drawings.

He’s undergone three back surgeries since, his most recent coming in 2009. The plastic back brace he wears while he’s carving extends to his right thigh. A relic of one of his surgeries, the brace keeps him honest when he’s working — when one wrong twist could quickly close his limited window to work, he said.

With that limited time, Prescott said he tries to work smart, doing detailed work at the beginning and leaving other work for when he tires.

Artistic streak

The carving idea grew out of his artistic sketching and metalworking background. He sketches motorcycles and metalwork furniture. He’s now working with friend Tom Roy and Roy’s website to perhaps make some of the furniture a reality.

Of Prescott’s carving work, Roy said Friday, “I think it’s a cool thing.”

The carving also grew out of the large tree trunk in his yard. Electric crews cut the tree back to the trunk a few years ago. Rotting, the limbs were hanging dangerously over power lines. The trunk remained upright until recently. Prescott started carving it as it stood. But a crack meant it had to come down. Friends helped him do that.

And then Prescott cranked up his Husqvarna chain saw and went to work. First, one skull emerged. Then another. The snake followed the contour of the wood, avoiding the rotted parts. The snake was to be going after a spider. But the spider didn’t look right, so he turned it into an ant.

The spider mistake is understandable. It is his first chain saw carving.

He’s always worked with his hands, he said. A severe dyslexic, Prescott said he’s better at visualizing things. “If I can think it, I can make it.”

So he’s been able to figure out much of the process, at the same time admitting it’s a rough carving. “I let the rotten wood kind of dictate,” Prescott said. “I let it sing to me, you know what I’m saying?”

And there’s still more wooden canvas to go.

Prescott said his wife of 19 years, Alison, was skeptical at first. But she’s coming around and seeing the vision. The couple have two children, Jake, 17, and Olivia, 13.

Earlier, when Prescott began talking about his creation, a girl stopped by on her way home from the bus stop.

“I can’t wait to see it finished,” she told Prescott.

Prescott responded a little exasperated, “I’ve got a couple more things to add, even.”

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