Artist Della Meredith Doesn’t Use Brushes. She Uses Chainsaws.
By Karla Wall
Artist Della Meredith of La Porte, Texas, has been an artist most of her life, and she says she “loves all types of art,” but she’s found her niche in wood carving.
Meredith, a native of Pasadena, Texas, stands 5 feet, 2 inches, so upon meeting her you could be forgiven if you pictured her in a small shop in front of a small table working on a two-square-foot block of soft wood with a small chisel and a pen hammer.
But Meredith’s preferred tool is a chain saw — she uses several, in fact. And forget the small block of wood. One of Meredith’s latest projects is right here in Lake Charles — she carved what remained of an old magnolia tree that had stood in front of the home of Rick and Donna Richard on Kirby St. until Hurricane Laura made her memorable appearance. The photo at the left reveals that what remains of the tree now looks like a tiny cottage house. It even depicts magnolia trees in front of it. It’s stained and painted and is a beautiful addition to the downtown neighborhood.
The project took Meredith three days, and she went through four chain saws in completing it, but she says she loved the project and was happy that she could make something beautiful out of the destruction of the Richard’s beloved magnolia.
Connected To The Wood
The Richards’ cottage house carving is just one of the latest in a long line of artwork Meredith has produced with her Echo chainsaws (“I prefer them because they’re reliable and easy to start,” she says). Actually, Meredith has been producing art almost all of her life.
“I have been an artist since I was a child,” she says. “My mother was a mural artist. She is a polio survivor and can’t walk. She taught me to paint at a very young age, and at around age 11 I would accompany her on jobs and help her. I painted the places she couldn’t reach.”
Meredith continued her art education, and as a senior at Pasadena High School she was nominated as most outstanding student in fine arts. She graduated from Sam Houston State University with a bachelor’s in fine arts for studio art, “with an emphasis in three-dimensional design.”
She went on to teach art in Texas’ Humble and Splendora Independent School Districts for eight years. But the urge to have her own business led her to leave teaching and open a shop.
She started out creating traditional art such as paintings, and then went on to sculpting.
“I still love to paint and draw,” she says. But it’s wood carving that’s her true calling. “I enjoy woodworking so much because I feel connected to the wood, much as a potter feels connected to clay,” she says. So she began woodcarving but became frustrated when none of the tools she used seemed to work well enough. Then she thought of chainsaws. And she’d found her calling.
“I love working with wood, I like chainsaws and I love working outside,” she explains.
There are grown men double Meredith’s size who would quake at the thought of using such a dangerous tool, but Meredith says that, though her parents had some misgivings at first, she’s never been nervous about using a chain saw.
“I wear chaps, protective eyewear and ear protection,” she says. “And I know how to use tools. My dad is a mechanic and a carpenter. He taught me how to use tools. I also took higher-level shop courses in college.”
Meredith says her chainsaw of choice is an Echo 361 P. “I’ve tried all the major brands (of saws), but I like Echo best. And the 361 has a special sprocket, carving bar and chain.”
From Stump To Artwork
The process of turning a piece of wood into a work takes at least a few days, she says. Once a project is commissioned (and most of Meredith’s work is commissioned), she “finds a log that will fit the dimensions of the project.” She orders logs from a company in Teague, Texas, and has also used logs that were given to her.
Once she has the log, she spends a bit of time envisioning the finished product or looking up photos of whatever the finished project is to be — she’s done a carving of Houston Texans star JJ Watt, for example, sea turtles, pelicans and tikis.
“I cut it with chainsaws, then grind it out with a grinder, then I use a Dremel for details,” she says. Once carved, the work is sealed and painted, if desired.
Meredith says her favorite projects have been her tiki carvings. “I’ve made some neat sea turtles and sasquatches, too,” she says. “I’ve liked them all. I really don’t have any carvings I regret doing.”
To see more of Meredith’s work, visit her website at dellameredith.com, visit her Facebook page or email email@example.com.