Heartwood Galleries

"All the Rage: Turning Dead Wood Into Custom Artwork"

Brandon Messex creates bears, eagles, wizards and abstract pieces for Valley residences.

By Christie Chalmers
Staff writer


A Gardnerville man's Chainsaw Rage is giving new life to old trees around the Carson Valley. Though the name of his business doesn't seem to fit the sweet-faced bears, wizard, crane- fish combination and other abstract carvings that are starting to show up in the area, Brandon Messex thinks he's found a niche.

"It's slowly but surely picking up,"said the 28-year-old former Marine. "If you name it, I can carve it. There's been nothing I can't do so far." Motorists on Gilman Avenue may have noticed the eagle-bear combination that bears Messex's phone number rooted in the lawn of a duplex on the south side of the road near Cottonwood Slough. He moved to the area from North Carolina a month ago, and Messex says he's done a handful of carvings since then.

He's hoping to turn the craft into a full-time job. He spent Wednesday at a house on Foothill Road, turning one tree stump into a bear and another into a crane clutching a fish. Both sculptures were completed in a day. "Toward to the end it goes really fast,"said gardnerville resident Chris Gableman, who was helping Messex. "Once you know what it is, you can see it easier."

The wings of the Foothill road crane emerged after 20 minutes of carving and chipping, and what had been one remaining branch morphed into a faceless head on a long neck. Messex determined the design with little more than a directive for "nothing gory" from the home's owner, Priscilla Hartwell. "She didn't want anything gory but it would have made a nice Grim Reaper," he said, laughing. Hartwell was pleased with the work."What a way to preserve a tree," she said.

A photo album full of Messex's work includes pink wooden flamingos, gnomes, all kinds of animals, totem poles, masks, even a whiskey bottle. The flamingos were in high demand in Florida where Messex also previously worked.

"A real popular one is mermaids with no shirt on," Messex noted. "A lot of doctors order that one for their backyard pools. I made one and the guy didn't pick it up, so I had it in front of my shop (in Florida)," he mused. "We started getting complaints. I had to put a swimsuit top on her."

Messex has no formal training and first picked up a chainsaw in 1997, after deciding he could do what a rather rude carver was doing. "Everybody asks, 'did you ever do this before?'" said Messex. "It's funny. Everything I didn't ever try to learn kind of came into the picture here."


^ Back To Top ^