Chainsaws fire up at story pole

Tyler Strauslin finishes off a an eagle near the top of the Keizer’s first story pole in front of the Keizer Civic Center.

Former Keizer mayor Lore Christopher expected to have the first of two story poles, located in front of the Keizer Civic Center, completed six months after the idea was presented to her. 

It took six years. 

“I stand by Jerry McGee who said a project will be executed when it is ripe. I was just unclear about the ripening timeline,” Christopher said. 

Christopher said the original idea for the story poles came from Public Works Director Bill Lawyer when the two trees reached their end-of-life and had to be topped. Lawyer thought turning the remaining stumps into works of art would make a unique addition to the civic center campus.

In the intervening six years, Christopher remained one of the true believers in the project fending off suggestions to cut down the stumps entirely as mayor and then as a member of the Keizer Public Arts Commission. 

“It feels wonderful to show the public we were serious all along,” Christopher said. “Every time we execute one of these projects, it makes a statement about the community. We are a highly successful city and when we commit to something it happens.”

On Thursday, July 11, Kevin and Tyler Strauslin of Oregon 3D Art and Chainsaw Sculptures began working. 

The first pole will feature the forementioned flags and eagle, trees, mountains, a goose, a beaver, reeds, rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, a school of golden shiners and a largemouth bass in a water scene. Resting atop the pole will be the school bell from the old Keizer schoolhouse. The bell was made in 1923 in Ohio by the C.S. Bell company. 

“Originally we were going to have it carved into the pole but, when we found out it would fit on top, we decided to do that. Keizer has so few historical artifacts and we wanted to put it out where the public can see it,” Christopher said. 

Kevin Stauslin burns details into an Oregon state flag. 

Last week, Tyler started work carving an eagle into the south side of the pole, Kevin worked on a set of flags on the north side of the pole. 

Kevin got his start in chainsaw art about 10 years ago. After retiring from his drywall business, he began experimenting with sculptures made from drywall mud. Soon he was selling his work in a gallery and another member approached him with an opportunity to work with chainsaws. 

“He looked at my first piece and said I was a natural. I went to work part-time for him,” Kevin said. 

A few years later, he took over his friend’s business. Tyler joined him after graduating from high school early. 

Kevin said the most difficult part of creating the poles is getting the scaffolding set up and secure and then it’s a matter of taking one’s time.

“Once the wood is gone, you can’t put it back,” Kevin said. “These are some nice, big trees, but they are going to be a lot of work.”

Christopher is hoping that completing the first pole will spur public interest and investment in completing the second one. The cost of the first one is $10,000 and the second one is expected to be in the same range.