Yorkshire Carver: Meet the Yorkshire art teacher and mountain runner whose wood carvings are winning international recognition

Mountain running for three hours or wood carving for six hours, either way West Yorkshire altitude runner and wood carver Shane Green certainly knows of rather different ways to check out his exhaustion factor. He’s been hard at work producing his latest commissions which went on permanent show at Roundhay Park during Easter.

Shane’s running feats have seen him appear on the podium in Switzerland and Pikes Peak Altitude Marathon in Colorado, but it was his recent podium appearance in Mississippi last year in a United States woodcarving championship that Shane says was particularly special.

“I was very privileged to be invited there and went on to win that competition, my first international success. That’s my greatest competitive achievement in woodcarving so far and through winning big competitions you get looked at more favourably when invitations are sent. I’m currently waiting to hear from three competitions I’ve applied for in the States this summer.

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Shane grew up in Hunslet and now lives on Otley Chevin where he has also run and carved, combining the two at times by carrying some of his carving equipment in a bumbag when he has run. He has been teaching art for 33 years and has been Head of Art at Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley for 26 years, but he’s moved more towards his love of woodcarving in recent years.

Chainsaw carver Shane Green has just completed an eight-piece nature sculpture trail to be sited at Roundhay ParkChainsaw carver Shane Green has just completed an eight-piece nature sculpture trail to be sited at Roundhay Park
Chainsaw carver Shane Green has just completed an eight-piece nature sculpture trail to be sited at Roundhay Park

“I’ve been shuffling the day job with public sculptures and commissions. Yorkshire Carver is my business that runs alongside my education and teaching. I’ve worked with stone, paint, etchings and ceramics previously, but I’m focussed on chainsaw carving now because of the speed, spontaneity and the amount of work you can produce. I just love the beauty of cutting into a block or tree and letting creative images emerge.

“I’ve carved with nearly every wood there is from sycamore to oak, ash, elm, poplar, the full range of woods. The trees I’m carving into are dead and that means I can breathe a kind of new life back into them and recycle them creatively. That’s the beauty in wood carving.

“I’ve worked a lot with big stone sculptures but what I really enjoy about working with trees is that you’re generally working outdoors and there’s no dust. I prefer the fresh air and you can carve in wood much faster than working with stone, especially when you’re using a chainsaw, of which I use a variety of blade sizes.

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“If it’s still in the ground I’ll get scaffolding and platforms around and in place and start my carving from the top. I kind of do a narrative that is appropriate to the location and usually involving people or animals or both. I want the people who are going to see what I’ve done to be able to relate to it and recognise parts of themselves, their history, their culture.

Chainsaw carver Shane GreenChainsaw carver Shane Green
Chainsaw carver Shane Green

Shane carved 18 wood sculptures in parks throughout the capital when the Olympics were held in London in 2012, including a sculpture of the Brownlee triathletes that is now in Bramhope. Another was for Leeds University telling the sustainability story and last year he installed a trail of wood sculptures at Kiplin Hall near Catterick where a footpath around a tarn had been introduced. He’s stepped up his productivity in recent times and has an impressive large sculpture at Tropical World in Leeds and during Easter he has been commissioned for one in Cross Flatts Park in Leeds and one in Sheffield, both of those using trees in the ground and telling stories about the areas.

“I’m often sculpting with ash because of the ash dieback disease that is prevalent at the moment and they’ve killed the tree. That’s when I’ve been approached to do something creative,” says Shane.

“The one in Cross Flatts is six metres high. That’s the trunk. It’s a huge 100-year old tree. The wood is solid. Claudio on Woodhouse Ridge is one of my favourite sculptures. It was a celebration of the arts. Claudio was this young lovely guy who used to do a lot of landscaping, was a hippie, played accordion. His father wanted to do something in his memory and found this tree on the top of the ridge. All of the images I sculpted were to do with Claudio’s life and I included drama, music, painting, theatre, reading.

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Shane’s latest large project has been the set of sculptures he has just had sited permanently at Roundhay Park.

Chainsaw carver Shane Green's workChainsaw carver Shane Green's work
Chainsaw carver Shane Green's work

“I was in Roundhay Park a year ago when I saw all these beech trees that were down. I approached the park and met James Watson and Isobel Smith who work in the Leeds City Council Parks & Countryside and said if they’d like me to, I would like to sculpt them into engaging sculptures and put a trail into the park. They now make up a trail that a lot of walkers use and is situated from the back of the park to the North lake and finishes at the folly.

“They were interested in me recycling these eight trees because they’ve just reintroduced a wildflower meadow and are trying to reintroduce exotic butterflies. I’ve sculpted what are now part of an education footpath in the new exotic butterflies and wildflower meadow.

“They’ve ended up with sixteen sculptures, as I added more. I wanted people to appreciate the art of sculpture. They include a heron, swan, owls, squirrels, pike, fox, robin, badger, bee, dragonfly and lots more. All wildlife related that is in the park.

Shane says the Chevin proved inspirational.

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“I was jogging on the Chevin when I first moved to Otley. I would run with a bum bag that held a mallet and a couple of chisels. It wasn’t the most health and safety conscious thing I’ve ever done but I’d stop and work on the sculptures I was doing up there. I’ve sculpted three trails there.

“Going for a run, stopping to carve and then running back I was fully in tune with nature.