Michael Von Schroth knows his wood, and he should, he’s had a very intimate relationship with it for over 20 years. And listening to him expound on the subject is pure delight, he is friendly, knowledgeable, and generous. And passionate. “You gotta know you’re tree.”
Michael is the chain-saw artist set-up outside the consignment boutique, Something Old, Something New, 207 Collier Blvd.. He got his start in Melbourne, Florida, carving Polynesian-style tikis, somewhat akin to North American totem poles. “Originally, everything was carved by hand, the chain saw was just for cutting the palm trees. Then one day, I picked up the saw, made a few passes, and it was as though a light came on in my head. For basic structure, a day and a half work was cut to 4 hours.“
From Melbourne, he was picked up by Lowe’s home improvement stores, and plied his craft at store openings in 49 of 50 states. “They never did send me to Hawaii.
“In competition I can complete a Pelican in 41/2 minutes,” he says, adding with a grin, “and I’m willing to take any challenger,” bigger grin, “with cash.”
He’s quick to explain the difference between that and his fine-art carving. Itstarts with the selecting and reading the wood, mostly black walnut, cypress, and cedar. The subject is coaxed first in blocked shapes with the chainsaw, then flushed with grinders, and finally tamed with sanders and polishers. “All my tools are sculpting tools, the grinders give traits you won’t get from just sanding, like the ripple of muscle, or the twist of a neck. Everything I do adds something to creating an individual – unique among all others.”
I asked him what he does when not carving wood. “I think about carving wood.” And now he’s fired-up again., “The first dolphin I ever carved I carved in a dream. I’m a very vivid dreamer. I dreamt every cut, every curve. When I woke, I went in search of my dolphin.”
Michael speaks wistfully of having a gallery solely for the purpose of being able to do finer work, work too fragile to haul around. But in his heart he loves being outdoors interacting with the passers-by. “I’m so grateful to the City of Marco Island for giving me this permit. A lot of places make it really difficult – or just impossible. This has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to comingback next year.”
So does Debbie Hornsby, owner of Something Old, Something New. “I was a bit leery when first approached about hosting Michael, but we quickly developed a great working relationship. He’s so personable, and so talented, in fact, when he’s not here people come in the store looking for him. We really appreciate having him here.”
Michael can be found at Something Old, Something New, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 8:30 – 6:00. If your lucky, you can also meet his wife Melanie, who wields a mighty talented chainsaw herself. Contact them at cedar email@example.com.
Speaking of ‘outside the gallery’… I’d like to invite you all to my 8th annual fine art exhibition at Little Bar Restaurant in beautiful uptown Goodland. Share a mango mimosa and an assortment of creative treats while checking out my latest collection, Florida: Up Close and Personal. World-famous 2-day reception is Sat. & Sun., April 9 & 10, 1-4 pm. Paintings will stay on display until April15.
Tara O’Neill, a lifelong artist, has been an area resident since 1967. She holds Bachelors Degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida, and currently has a studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. Contact her through www.taraogallery.com.