Bringing wood to life

Brian McEneny says he’s inspired to carve sea life because he lives on the coast and because the movement of curved wood works well with the flow of the ocean and its inhabitants. (Photo by Stephanie Blair)

Brian McEneny celebrates 45 years in Seal Rock

An open house will be held this Saturday, June 1, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Brian McEneny Woodcarving Gallery in Seal Rock, the 45th anniversary of Brian McEneny having a woodcarving business and the release of his book.

McEneny wasn’t always a carver — he used to be a professional skier. But after a number of injuries, he had to leave that life behind. After he settled on the coast with his wife, Sue, and obtained a job with Job Corps in 1974, McEneny began spending time with a local woodcarver who taught him how to wield a chainsaw. He explained that it was a change of pace, and one for the better.

“You’re all by yourself and (carving) gives you plenty of time to think about things,” said McEneny, “but you’re focused on the work. Skiing was real gregarious … this is completely just isolated, and it’s just fun.”

That was when he began “carving out a life” — which is also the title of the book he published this year with Dancing Moon Press, a story that chronicles his journey changing careers through McEneny’s poetry and prose. The book also contains more than 350 color images of his sculptures.

Over the last 45 years, McEneny has continued to keep a passion for finding shapes inside of wood and bringing them to the surface.

“I always felt like it was like a little kid, coloring in the coloring book,” said McEneny. “That’s what I’m still doing: drawing and making animals.”

McEneny primarily carves sea life because he draws inspiration from where he lives, which has influenced the materials he uses, as well. The town of Seal Rock and the gallery that he and his wife built in the spring of 1989 hold great significance for the artist. The gallery also serves as McEneny’s working studio, where he creates his sculptures. Over the years, the gallery has evolved from being a single gallery, just for him. Now, three decades after it was built, the gallery also features numerous other artists who work exclusively with wood, as well.

“Over the last 45 years we’ve seen many viable businesses come and go in Newport and south Lincoln County,” said McEneny. “We feel very fortunate we’re still going strong with a business that produces and sells wood sculpture. We want to express our deepest gratitude for all the support that we have received from the local community over the years.”

In that spirit, the McEnenys will be hosting an open house on June 1, which will also celebrate the release of “Carving Out A Life,” by Brian McEneny. Light refreshments will be served from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is located at 10751 NW Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Rock.