by Karen Farley
photo by Karen Farley
Local chainsaw artist Chris Trotter grew up on the south side of Indianapolis, but his heart has always been in Nashville, Indiana.
“My grandparents took me to Nashville for the first time when I was five,” Trotter says. “We went many times over the years, and one day I saw a carver and was intrigued.”
Grandparents Donald and Margie Sullivan opened up a world of imagination for Trotter, but his older brother Steven had an even greater influence on the young boy as he watched his brother work on art projects in high school. Currently a major in The U.S. Army, Steven attended Heron Art School and though Trotter never attended an art college, he often wondered if he might have the same abilities as his brother.
After high school, Trotter became an interior trim carpenter and eventually started his own business. He feels his experience as a carpenter has helped him become a better carver. He continued to carve as a hobby, while working in the business.
“When I hit twenty-five, I thought it would be nice to be down in Brown County,” he says.
He started working on small projects in his garage, and for the next ten years carved on the side to make extra money. Though his heart was in woodcarving, he continued to build his carpentry business.
When the housing market crashed, he decided to take a chance and bring his carvings to Nashville.
A self-taught artist, Trotter admits it has been a struggle, but believes in his craft and is determined to help the town of Nashville and the art community.
“I am stubborn and believe that this is my purpose and I won’t give up,” he smiles. “I hope that someday my brother will join me and this could be a family business.”
Four years ago, he gathered all of his tools and opened Wooden Wonders in Nashville. The shop is located behind the Brown County Playhouse in Antique Alley. He started out with adding some imported goods and then realized that he needed to offer hand-made art to attract customers.
“I think people look at things differently when they know it is hand-made and respect me more as an artist,” Trotter says. “Over time, I keep trying new things and feel I have gotten better with my carving.”
A likeness of his daughter and son sit on the counter of the shop. He also carves animals and other items requested by his customers. His life-size carving of a horse is a main attraction in the alley behind his shop.
“People stop by and take pictures in front of the horse,” he says.
Recently, Trotter added apprentice Jeff Garland to help in the shop. Garland is a woodworker and has been friends with Trotter for many years.
Chainsaw carving is not a new art form. It has been recognized for over fifty years.
According to Wikipedia, the oldest chainsaw artist records go back to the 1950s, which include artists Ray Murphy and Ken Kaiser. In 1952 Ray Murphy used his father’s chainsaw to carve his name into a piece of wood.
The art has evolved over the years and today there are many different chainsaw blades used in carving. The blades are known as “guide bars,” and help the artist create detail in the wood. Competitions are held all over the world and there are guilds for chainsaw artists.
Though Trotter attracts visitors to his shop, he continues to improve his skills and hopes to someday open a larger shop in Nashville. He also plans to bring wood carving competitions similar to French Lick to Brown County.
Bear Hollow Wood Carvers in French Lick are leaders in the chainsaw carving industry. Trotter hopes to be added as a leader in the industry and put Nashville on the map. He also plans to do more tree carvings and offer demonstrations at corporate events.
“What I do is really good entertainment for visitors to Nashville,” he says. “It will also bring more people to Brown County and help the other stores.”
Father of three children, Ariel, Christopher and Elijah, Trotter is a modest, hard-working and determined young artist. His wife Trish is supportive and sometimes comes along on trips to Nashville. His unique shop is filled with wonders made from wood and entices passersby to step into a world of unusual and creative masterpieces found only in Nashville Indiana.
Trotter takes custom orders throughout the year and accepts Christmas orders until October 31. Along with many requests for items to decorate man caves, he receives orders for personalized walking sticks, benches, and replicas of pets.
When he isn’t busy outside carving, Trotter can be reached at (317) 384-4091.Visit his website at <www.woodenwonders.net>. He is also has a Facebook page—look for Wooden Wonders Nashville.