Sunday, September 18, 2011

And so it begins. Gary Wiz Burns' first blog post

Welp, I sit and begin my blog.

I am a self taught wood carver, carving since 1971. I started carving while I was putting myself through college living in Auburn, California were I worked at the towns Recreation Department. I was going to college at Sierra College at the time. I saw a jig saw in a "Fingerhut" mail order catalog. I had never used a power tool before but thought that I could invest in this tool and maybe make Christmas gifts for my friends and family that I couldn't afford to buy. The saw was $19.99 and though it was a lot of money at the time, I felt I could make all of the gifts that I needed using some boards that I had found when I moved into the place I was renting if I bought this saw. I also invested in a little gouge and chisel set for $1.99.

That year I got so much enjoyment out of making those gifts. One of the first things I made was a branched tree within a frame that I gave to my parents that Christmas. From that year on I would think of what I might make for the next Christmas and then in the early Fall I would start to work, carving in the little bit of free time I had, working full time and going to school full time. It was such a wonderful thing to be doing. I had no examples as hand made things weren't a part of my existence up to that time. So each new thing I learned came straight from my heart and still does to this day.

I graduated from Sierra College in 1970 and then Sacramento State College in 1973. I worked in the Activity Planning Dept. at a huge resort called Sea Pines Plantation Co. on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina; an assistant director in a club house for a large adult community in Palo Alto, California; an assistant manager of a dry docked luxury liner turned into a bar and dinner house in Kodiak, Alaska; and a production manager for a small electronic manufacturing co. in Roseville, California. For those first years out of college I dreamed of perhaps being a wood carver full time and working for myself. I just didn't know were or how to start.

I was laid off from the electronic manufacturing co. in February of 1978. Business had gotten slow and the owners were going to restructure and my job wouldn't exist anymore. I began collecting unemployment and as I started looking for another job I realized that this could be my opportunity to try my hand at wood carving full time. Well, I became nearly addicted to making sawdust. I shared an apartment with a friend and set up shop in my bedroom. I had such understanding neighbors and a great room mate. I started finding new tools and ever so slowly acquired new skills. I was very self conscious of my work at first, as I should have been. The first pieces were very crude and very hard to sell. I had no sales skills or real carving skills. I remember laying on my bed one day in that apartment bedroom taking a break. I felt sort of lost at the time and then thought how if I had put myself through college, something that I didn't enjoy at all, I should be able to make a living at wood carving. I just needed to stick with it and carve for my life. I could see that I was learning. I moved around a lot in those first years of carving and met some great people. The people I met led to some great adventures.

I did a trip to Hong Kong, India, Bankok... with a friend I met at a Christmas craft show. Now that was an adventure to talk about at a whole nother time. I spent 8 months carving near Capetown, South Africa with some South African friends I had met at a craft show in California. And I carved and carved and learned so many things in those years.

Then in 1983 I moved to June Lake, California. It is a small village on the east side of the Sierras in California. It had a charming community of 600 people that I fell in love with immediately. I had a son, Cody, with Sallee there and we opened the Tree Wizard Gallery that we ran for 16 years. Sallee and I were together for 17 years and we had some good and some hard times. In the end we needed to part ways. All that time I was very involved with the community joining many of the organizations. I was on the board for the Chamber of Commerce, in the Lions Club, President of two different Arts and Crafts Guilds, and 11 and a half years on the June Lake Fire Dept. that I left being the assistant Fire Chief which I loved dearly. Living at 7700 foot elevation was an amazing experience and made for many challenges and many close relationships. That was a very rewarding time in my life.

My son Cody graduated high school in 2003 and the two of us moved to Cave Junction, Oregon were Cody went to Rogue Community College and got his AA Degree and I went to work at a friends Burl Gallery and wood sales business in Kerby, Oregon. Harvey and Joy Shinerock had been dear friends of mine since 1979. I had come to visit them to get my carving wood and bring carvings to their gallery from the time they moved there in 1988. I new the area well and new the business well and I had a lot of fun, helping run the business and add my touch to their amazing place called "It's a Burl". You can find them online at But in the end I was more interested in carving and less interested in running the busy business theirs had turned into .

I met Susan Russell in 2008 on and we struck up a wonderful relationship. Susan owned a charming little home in Grants Pass, Oregon on 2 1/2 acres. She is the production manager of the oldest live theatre in the state of Oregon were she directs plays, builds sets, and holds things together with her shear will. She is always busy building and doing wonderful projects for the theatre and around our property. We share interest in growing our own food and living a life in the country.

So this is were I am right now. I carve 5 days a week and we work our property, put up food for the winter, and share ours lives with some wonderful people in this amazing community of Grants Pass. It just couldn't get better than this for me. And I sell most of my carvings online now so I can be home most of the time. I am loving it.

My online shop is on the site. It is the world's largest arts and crafts and vintage selling venue. My shop is It has been very exciting for me to build my sales business on this site. I have met some amazing people. Etsy is a world wide community of artists and craft people. I am a member of "wood carvers of etsy" that is the world's largest collection of wood carvers from around the world. You can google wood carvers of etsy to check them out.

Welp, that is all for now. My blog will evolve as time goes on I am sure.
I will be writing about my life in the country with Susan and about things I have learned and am learning about carving and life in general. Do come see my work in my etsy shop. And you can contact me at any time on my etsy shop by clicking contact or emailing me at

I welcome anyone to become a member of my blog and share my joy of being alive on this planet we call Earth, flying through space together.

All the best for now
Talk to you soon


AKA: Gary Burns
The Tree Wizard

No comments:

Post a Comment