Allen Stichler featured in the Hull Daily Mail, January 2014.
OUT of the bark of an old beech tree, enchanting creatures are springing to life.
While gnomes, fairies and elves might be confined to the storybooks for some, they are a rich source of inspiration to tree carver Allen Stichler, 43.
The fantastic creatures have made their way to Harland Way, Cottingham, as part of his latest masterpiece and are causing quite a stir.
“The family said they had always wanted fairies at the bottom of their garden,” said Allen, about his latest project.
“It is something they have dreamed of, but, as it is right next to the road, it is getting a lot of attention from people passing by.”
A self-taught tree carver, Allen, of Manor Road, Hull, has been etching out the magical creatures from the 10ft stump for two weeks.
It is the latest in a string of his weird and wonderful projects, which he has made a successful career out of over the past five years.
He said: “It is really nice to have people taking an interest and talking about it.
“A lot of people don’t get the chance to watch tree carving close-up and see the trunk changing every day.
“I especially like the reaction of the schoolchildren. They are coming past in their hundreds and all of them are commenting on it.”
Although Allen studied art at the University of Hull, he spent 20 years working as a warehouse manager on Sutton Fields Industrial Estate.
Then, five years ago he was made redundant from his “normal job” and decided to use his artistic talents to carve out not just wood but a career too.
Under the guidance of Hull’s most famous tree carver, Jackie Ward Lomax, he taught himself all he needed to know and now creates one-off pieces of art for people across the country.
“I met Jackie completely by chance as I was passing down the Avenues,” said Allen.
“She was up a tree and we started chatting. She told me she was getting too old to be climbing up trees and she passed on some contacts to me. That still continues to this day.
“She really took me under her wing. I call her my fairy godmother.”
Since launching his career, Allen’s work has been displayed in the main garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.
He also runs workshops for people with learning disabilities and runs garden workshops in schools.
After his Harland Way piece is complete, he will create an African animal-themed piece from large oak panels for someone in Bath before moving on to carving a pygmy goat for a friend in Hull.
He has carved everything from the smallest blocks of wood to mammoth tree trunks, from Laurel and Hardy characters to Chinese birth symbols.
He even managed to conquer his fear of heights in the name of art and has no desire to return to his old, humdrum life.
He said: “It is a fantastic career. I love the variety of people I meet from job to job. They are all completely different and I have ended up being friends with most of them.
“Every day is different and I get to work in such a great environment – I even get squirrels coming up to see what I’m doing.”
But true to his artist heart, his biggest kicks come out of creating one-of-a-kind pieces that are made to be admired.
“I visit the customer with a vague idea then I draw it up,” he said.
“I keep doing that until they’re happy.
“Everything is done by hand, nothing is just done willy-nilly and they are completely unique to the person I am doing it for.
“This is a skill that has been going for hundreds of years and I am very proud to be a part of that.”
Original Hull tree carver Jackie Ward Lomax, pictured, has retired from working on tree stumps in the Avenues, west Hull.
She was responsible for seven of the creations, from unicorns to Oscar-winning film directors, carved over several years and still catching the attention of passers-by.
Jackie said: “I haven’t taught Allen anything, he already knew it all. His work is thoughtful and sensitive, it always has a lovely finish and looks gorgeous.
“I met Allen while I was carving down the Avenues and he showed me some of his work.
“I thought, ‘Oh my word, this tree is my last one I am going to do’.
“I was getting tired and I knew Allen could carry it on. He is a genuinely kind man, he communicates so well with anyone he works for.
“I am quite happy to hand over the baton to him.”