So, a couple months ago, my husband and I were driving around Northville, minding our own business (okay, not really—we were gawking at big, beautiful, expensive houses), when we turned down a suburban cul-de-sac and saw the craziest, most wonderful sight ever. There, smack dab in the middle of someone’s front yard, was a tall, wooden sculpture that looked something like a bird from a Dr. Seuss book. My initial reaction? Very cool, but completely random to place in your front yard. I snapped a quick picture, then slowly realized just as my husband turned the car around and said exactly what I didn't notice in the first place: it wasn't a statue—it was a tree stump. Someone cut a huge Dr. Seuss-bird-stork-thing into a tree stump and it was awesome. What a great idea, to make art out of something that otherwise would take boatloads of stress and manpower to dig up. My kind of thinking.
And guess what? A street or two over, there were more. Dogs, bears, mountain men . . . all artistically chiseled out of lumber-turned-too-tall.
So, who did it? I originally guessed that whoever lived at the first house was just handy with a chainsaw and a knife. Upon seeing these things at a couple other locations, however, I began to think that the neighbors were either really good buddies, or someone in the area was making a killing off of re-purposing these eyesores we call stumps.
I did a Google search to see what I could find, and the only thing that looked similar was an image search thumbnail that linked to a few photos of a statue in a Northville dog park. Same style, it appeared. Made of wood, so same material. Same artist? Not sure, but I would think that anything of the contrary would be an incredibly big coincidence.
After some helpful Facebook responses from Michigan residents and some assistance from my Virginia-residing mother (who promptly found help via the city of Northville's website), I quickly found information about the artist in question. So, who's the man behind the wood-carving magic?**
Meet Shawn Mulville: Family man, missionary, tree sculptor. Formerly based in Livonia, Mulville created several sculptures around the metro Detroit area before recently moving to Alaska. He has left quite an impressive portfolio of work around the area. In addition to Northville, Mulville's pieces can be viewed in various areas in Livonia, Farmington Hills, Bloomfield Township and Sterling Heights. I have not yet visited these locations, but you can bet they're now on my list of places to see when I'm out-and-about.
For more photos and information on Shawn Mulville and his fabulous tree artwork, you can visit www.treesculptor.com.* In the meantime, I'd like to know if you've seen any of these bad boys around town or if you know of any other cool artwork floating around out there. Who knows—your sightings may help me plan my next excursion!
*Special thanks to Fred Shadko for providing information on the whereabouts of these pieces. And another special thanks to my mom, who likes to contact town organizations to help her daughter find answers to ever-evolving questions.
**Editor's Note: Since the publication of this post, new information emerged that revealed the artist of the blue heron sculpture to be Scott Kuefler of Carvings by Scott. More of his work can be found at www.carvingsbyscott.com .