Wood dust blew in the wind as Mike Ayers cranked up his chainsaw and carved feathers into a large tree trunk at Twiddle Dee Farms.
For the artist, also known as “Mountain Mike,” it’s his favorite tool. After spending several hours Monday at the farm on U.S. 421, just south of Clinton, Ayers created a masterpiece that made owner Carla Peterson smile. The features includes an Indian Princess, dreamcatcher, horses, owl, deer and a dove flying with olive branches to represent peace.
“Taking something from nature and turning it into something is kind of neat,” Ayers said about bringing his talent to Sampson County. “Instead of letting this tree go to firewood or sit out in the field and rot, we turned it into a piece of artwork.”
With a background in art, he’s been carving with chainsaws for seven years and is an international speed carver who competes in different countries around the world. In January and February, he plans to take his talents to Australia. Ayers operates Whetstone Woodworks, a shop in Maggie Valley.
The oak tree died more than a decade ago, when it was closer to Peterson’s home. It was later moved closer near a path leading to the farm. With the assistance of a backhoe owner, the 12-foot trunk was placed upright, but she didn’t know it was upside down. Peterson searched for an artist to carve it, but she was unsuccessful until she discovered Ayers by watching Tar Heel Traveler, a WRAL documentary series hosted by Scott Mason. Ayers just happened to be in eastern North Carolina for the Seaboard Festival in Hamlet.
“Timing is everything,” Peterson said with a chuckle. “His work is very refined and it’s so detailed. You can see the sparkle in the eyes.”
There was more decay than what she anticipated. Peterson thought the project was not going to happen, but Ayers reassured her that his creativity would turn the wood into a masterpiece.
“You can see the results and it’s absolutely beautiful,” she said.
Peterson said she wanted something to reflect the purpose of Twiddle Dee Farms — a place for women to relax and enjoy farm life. The farm also includes the Belle Grace Guest House and allows visitors to enjoy overnight lodging. One of the original ideas for the wood carving was a coyote.
“I said no, because I raise sheep,” Peterson said with a humor. “I don’t want a fox either.”
The final result was art that not only pays homage to women, but animals such as birds, owls, deer and rabbits.
“All of those animals are welcome on the farm,” she said.
With the Indian Princess, the work also honors the Native American culture in eastern North Carolina. Peterson said she feels lucky to be the first in Sampson County to work with Ayers.
“It’s going to be the cornerstone of the farm,” she said about the design near the entrance. “I wanted something that was eye-catching and unique. This whole farm has been laid out for women’s appreciation in particular. I wanted something that women can connect with. He gave me exactly what I wanted.”