01403 878 026
01903 892 899

Chainsaw Sculpture Artist Gil Parham

Chainsaw sculptor Gil Parham

Published: 1st August 2021


You may have spotted a badger, an owl, or perhaps even a wizard by the side of the A272 near Billingshurst.
For the past two-and-a-half years, wood carving artist Gil Parham has been based there, selling her creations to passers-by.Some are simple designs, made quickly by “speed carving” with a chainsaw. Others have been carefully crafted over many days by one of the south’s leading female carvers. AAH met Gil to find out more about her passion and future ambitions…


From the roadside, you only see a small selection of Gil’s best-selling carvings, such as mushrooms and wildlife. They’re presented in a little display on the Coneyhurst Road, just before the railway bridge, with wood chippings from past projects used to make the terrain flatter, so carvings can stand upright.

Most people drive straight by, but those taking the time to stop will perhaps find Gil carving wizards, dragons and other figures from the mythical realm. Or maybe a ball in a cube, one of her more unusual offerings.Gil has also assisted in the creation of The Gruffalo Trail at Dean Heritage Centre, which features a carved mouse, owl, fox, snake and of course Gruffalo from author Julia Donaldson’s children’s book. More locally, she carved a griffin into a tree at the front of Muntham House School in Barns Green. 

Gil says: ‘The work I have here sometimes inspires people’s imagination and they commission me to carve something unique. I remember one job reminded me of the album cover of Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboys. It turns out the customer was a huge Elton John fan! But the biggest carving I’ve done was in Portugal, where I was part of a team that transformed a 25-foot eucalyptus tree in the Parque de Monserrate.”

This is an example of why wood carvers need a range of different sized chainsaws. Bigger guide bars are used for cutting away large sections of the original timber block, and this is normally the most physically demanding part of the process. Medium-size bars are used to chip away more wood to form the basic shape, with smaller chainsaws used for finishing touches, or what Gil calls “doodling.”

“Doodling is where you add details,” she says. “Sometimes, I don’t have a plan for this part of the process and I doodle with the chainsaw, in the same way you might doodle with a pen and paper while on the phone. Working from blocks is hard work, but it’s the doodling that gives me the most pleasure as an artist.”


Gil needs to be selective about timber, as some woods are better than others for carving, while prices can vary greatly.Willow is one to avoid, as it’s difficult to work with from an artistic point of view. However, western red cedar works well, as does pine and oak, while sequoia is used for lighter carvings. 

Gil said: “People don’t look after the carvings, so if you use the wrong wood, it'll quickly rot. I need to consider practical elements too. I make characters such as Badger and Moley that you can easily lift as they’re made of sequoia. If they were oak, people would struggle to lift them.”

“Some woods cost more than others, but all timber has become much more expensive over the past year. I’m paying three times more now and my prices need to reflect that. That’s why I tend to have two price points. Some sculptures are small and don’t take much time, so the price reflects that. Other highly detailed pieces, like the seahorse cost more, because of the materials and the amount of time it takes to make them.” 

“People don’t always appreciate the effort behind them. With some carvings, I sand right down to the grain to bring out the contours of the wood. And the price isn’t just dictated by the cost of timber, but also the fuel for powering the chainsaw, and the Danish oils used for finishing.”


Gil’s journey began when she assisted Nansi Hemming. Nansi is a leading chainsaw artist and often showcases her skills at rural events, farming fairs and country shows. But Gil didn’t learn the art of chainsaw carving herself for a long time. 

“It wasn’t until I was 40 that I picked up a chainsaw,” she says. “If you’d have told me when I was 39 that I’d become a renowned chainsaw carver, I would have thought you were from another planet. I thought carving was a magic that fell out of other people's hands.”
Gil’s first step was to earn a diploma in chainsaw operation and maintenance at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire. She attended the course with five men, and was one of just two to pass the course. “I was instantly very good with a chainsaw,” she says. “I still look back at some of my early carvings with pride.”


Gil’s focus is on improving the current display near Billingshurst. Along with her family, she hopes to create a bigger gallery and workshop on the site, hosting furniture-making workshops and potentially educational courses too. Gil also intends to take part in chainsaw carving competitions at major forestry events. Typically, these seecompetitors spending two days making a complete piece while also taking part in “speed carving” events for the crowd. 

“There’s a whole world of chainsaw carving competition out there,” says Gil. “They are immense fun but very exhausting. I learn so much in just a few days at an APF event(Association of Professional Foresters) as they’re attended by some fantastic artists, all with their own style. There are more women carvers than there used to be, but we’re still greatly outnumbered. It is one of the few hobbies or sports though where we can compete with men on an even keel.”

“However, I’m not ready to compete against the best yet. Nansi is the Queen of Carvers in the UK. I’ve got a huge amount of respect for her and she belongs in the top tier. I’m not there yet, but I will be! There’s much more to come and I feel I'm improving with every piece.”

Further information email gilnfez65@gmail.com

Tel: 07436 920030 / 01594 543952

Facebook: woodside sculptors - Gil Parham