Talented chainsaw sculptor Paul Morris has completed the mammoth task of carving a nine feet tall grizzly bear.
Weighing in at three quarters of a ton, the giant creature will take pride of place at the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham where Paul, 59, is a long-standing member of the gardening and maintenance team.
Over the years he’s carved nearly 150 sculptures – mainly of animals, birds and insects – out of naturally fallen timber.
It’s helped him create a charming menagerie, including an owl, a squirrel and a gorilla in Pendine’s 11-acre grounds on Summerhill Road.
But the gigantic grizzly standing upright on its hind legs is by far his biggest and most challenging project to date and has taken a total of more than 60 hours to finish.
Paul turned his hand to carving the bear as a tribute to Franz Kreft, the late father of Pendine Park owner Mario Kreft MBE, who was a world renowned circus lion and bear trainer.
When a sycamore tree fell down in the midst of Storm Arwen in 2021, it provided the perfect opportunity to put the wood to good use.
“It was just a question of waiting for the right piece of wood to come along and when the Storm Arwen hit we sadly lost a number of trees from Pendine grounds, including this massive sycamore. I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be perfect for a grizzly, “said Paul.
He described the process as ‘like therapy’ and said creating it has served to ‘satiate the soul’.
“I guess the modern word for it would be mindfulness,” explained Paul. “It’s definitely time well spent. I could have sat in front of the TV after work but once you make the effort it’s really enjoyable and it’s an amazing feeling to finish something like this.
“I’m really happy with it,” he added.
It’s been more than a decade since Paul made his first sculpture, which came about as a complete accident after he decided to make his wife a birthday present instead of buying her one.
After trying his hand at carving an owl, the result was so impressive, soon all his wife’s friends were asking him to make sculptures for them.
His previous creations have also included some fun projects like a six feet silver surfer figure which he produced specially for a Caribbean style carnival which staff organised to cheer up Pendine Park residents during the pandemic lockdown.
Paul was determined to do justice to the grizzly bear and described completing the colossal sculpture as a lovely moment.
He added: “Bears are proud creatures and I think it’s important that it looks majestic and imposing rather than scary or monster-like.”
Mario is “absolutely delighted” with the finished masterpiece.
He said: “Paul is incredibly talented and our next task is to find a suitable spot in the grounds where this magnificent beast can be seen in all its glory as a focal point, along with his other fantastic carved creations.
“It really is a superb and fitting tribute to my dad so this means a great deal to me.
“I am sure he would have loved this sculpture because he was always very good with animals and kind to them and seemed to make a connection.
“He was the most unassuming guy you could imagine but he took on a different persona in the ring.
“When he got into the ring, he just went into his circus artiste mode as a bear trainer.
“He always seemed big to me but he wasn’t particularly tall – but he was very strong and he had that presence, he had an aura and he looked the part.
“My mother is very much a show woman. She was the daughter of somebody who’d performed in London as a professional dancer.
“She went to a private school in Rhyl and she had dance lessons and ballet lessons and drama lessons and singing lessons and all those things and I think she was always going to be some sort of performer.
“There are some interesting pictures taken of going shopping with my father and my mother and a bear. I’m not sure that they’d have carried out a risk assessment but I don’t think that Health and Safety was in the ascendancy in those days. It was quite amazing.”
Head gardener Andrew Jones is equally impressed with Paul’s dazzling skill with a chainsaw.
He said: “He uses wood from storm damaged or diseased trees we have to cut down.
“Instead of the wood going to waste or just being burned it’s been given a new lease of life and the sculptures really add something new and interesting to our gardens.”