Sculpting for fun turned into a profession for Ben Sparks, master sculptor and owner of Bornagain Chainsaw Sculpting and Gallery in Fort Gibson.
For more than a decade, Sparks has used a chainsaw to create art from wood and recycled items.
“I enjoy the freedom of making pieces that reflect myself and those around me,” Sparks said.
Inspiration comes from, “God, family, nature and history.”
In the past 12 years, he has created and sold almost 4,000 pieces. One recently completed work is an eagle collage, just off STate Highway 82, about 200 yards behind the Log Store.
A favorite piece, standing 11 feet tall in his front yard, is called, “Reach.” It is valued at $15,000.
“The angel and God are reaching for each other’s hand,” Sparks said.
Sparks envisioned the design about four years ago, but it took three years to find a tree truck with three branches in the center. Once the wood was collected, it was a two-week process to complete the work.
“I just sort of camped out for two weeks and drank a lot of tea,” said Sparks.
He used his truck to reach the tallest parts of the sculpture.
Bear cub stumps are quick, easy pieces, taking about seven minutes to carve and costing $40-$50.
Also standing in his yard for delivery is a tooth totem made with three teeth, a custom piece for a dentist.
Sparks said the wood often tells him what it wants to become.
“If a log has no character and it’s just straight; it’s not always very interesting. But if it has limbs or is twisted, something will jump out at you,” he said.
Much work is custom, and people often have a tree in mind. Though he has carved on site, he prefers to cut from the stump and reset the piece.
“Stumps will rot after five or 10 years, so when that happens, a person can remove their investment,” he said.
Sparks has inspiration to go with his talent.
“I am a devout Christian who credits God for all my talent and success,” he said.
A Fort Gibson High School graduate, Sparks has been most influenced by family and teachers.
“I’m self-taught, blessed with a talent when I needed it,” Sparks said. “My mom [Joyce Sparks] has the ‘artsy gene,’ and my papa, ‘Doc Jacobs’, made silver-turquoise jewelry, and that is where I get my Cherokee heritage.”
Two art teachers also influenced Sparks.
“Mr. Rogers of Keys and Mrs. [Carol] Corley of Fort Gibson gave me great basic skills and encouragement,” he said. “When I started elementary school at Fort Gibson in the fourth grade, Carol Corley was the high school art teacher. She started with me then, and till I graduated. She greatly influenced my art skills, was so kind and a great Christian lady. Mr. Rogers first introduced me to sculpting with clay – dinosaurs, if I remember – in first grade.”
Along with chainsaw art, Sparks has also enjoyed making museum quality hand sculptures and mixed media recycled art.
He has earned several awards from The Five Civilized Tribes museum – including first place in sculpting, twice.
Encouragement to students or others considering art as a career, second career or hobby is “do the art you love, and use the skills God gave you. Art flows and cannot be forced.”
Art is also a cultural expression.
“Art reflects where we are, have been, and where we’re going,” Sparks said. “It will tell of the variations of our culture.”
The chainsaw pieces are available by commission. His wife, Kellie, is shop manager.
“She helps with sales, sanding and sealing, and keeping the kids out of my hair sometimes,” he said.