Mark Hand, Patch Staff
Chainsaw artist Andrew Mallon, well known for his sculptures across Northern Virginia, said his carvings bring smiles to people’s faces.
NORTHERN VIRGINIA — Local artist Andrew Mallon spends most of his time outside working on chainsaw sculptures in city parks and people’s yards. The outdoor work means the COVID-19 pandemic has not harmed his chainsaw sculpture business.
In fact, the renowned artist is currently booked up with jobs through the summer. Among his upcoming projects are sculptures in Fairfax City and Arlington. “If anything, business has picked up during COVID-19,” Mallon said.
About nine years ago, Mallon, a carpenter by trade, decided to take up chainsaw carving. Mallon, who already had the artistic talent, took a two-day class in Pennsylvania on chainsaw carving, which gave him the knowledge he needed to do intricate sculptures.
Mallon only works on trees that are diseased, damaged by lightning, or are scheduled for removal by a city parks department.
Since turning chainsaw sculptures into a full-time business, the Falls Church-based artist has been widely featured across the Washington, D.C., area, from stories about his work on Fox 5 DC and in newspaper articles.
In Falls Church, Mallon recently completed a project in Big Chimneys Park, behind the Bowl America and adjacent to the Harris Teeter. The park had been closed for renovations and reopened in early March.
Mallon used his chainsaw on an old oak tree that would have been removed entirely. The city contracted with him to do the work, leaving a 14-foot stump for Mallon to design his sculpture. He decided to make the oak tree look like a chimney, with different animals carved into the tree. Mallon said it took him about six days to complete the Big Chimneys Park project.
In 2018, the city reached out to Mallon about doing carvings on tree stumps in Cherry Hill Park, located in the middle of Falls Church.
The Cherry Hill Park carvings have foxes, bunnies and hawks. The city learned about Mallon’s work through the intricate sculpture he completed in Oak Grove Park near Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington.
Mallon works mostly on residential projects. But business is also strong at area parks. In early April, he will begin work on a tree sculpture at Ratcliffe Park in Fairfax City behind the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center.
The tree in Ratcliffe Park was a beloved Sycamore under which generations of kids had played, according to Megan DuBois, cultural arts manager for Fairfax City Parks and Recreation. “Everyone was very sad when it died,” she said.
Cathy Salgado, director of Parks and Recreation for the Fairfax City, asked DuBois to look into creative ways to preserve the tree. “We did a search of chainsaw artists from Northern Virginia, and came across [Mallon’s] site. We liked his work and reached out for a proposal.”
The Fairfax City Commission on the Arts as well as the mayor and city council ultimately approved the proposal.
“We thought about cutting it down, but leaving the stump so kids could look at the rings of the tree but felt Mallon’s sculpture was the best option for the community,” DuBois said.
This summer, Mallon is scheduled to do chainsaw sculptures on three stumps trees near the community center in Arlington’s Lyon Park, a community-owned park in the county.
Mallon, who grew up in Arlington, said he usually brings about five chainsaws to a project, depending on the level of detail of the work. After he completes a carving, he adds wood sealer to the sculpture. He then returns in a year to add more wood sealer and then comes back every other year to apply additional sealer.
One of Mallon’s favorite works is his design on a tulip poplar at Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale. The tree had suffered two lightning strikes.
Since the base of the tree was undamaged, the nature center’s staff arranged for Mallon to do a sculpture on the 10-foot stump. Mallon created a sketch of a collection of critters that enjoyed the tree over its 128-year lifespan.
For his work in parks, Mallon said one of the major themes he often incorporates is the animals common to the area.
When he started the chainsaw sculpting business about nine years, Mallon said he had only two chainsaws. He now has a collection of 10 chainsaws, giving him a nice selection from which to pick to bring to each project.
Mallon, who has carved at least 50 tree stumps across Northern Virginia, said his carvings bring smiles to people’s faces. “The community always really loves them,” he said. “People walking by will thank me for my work.”
Mallon appreciates the positive response from the community. “It doesn’t feel like a job to me,” he said.