We met on a sunny afternoon, at his property in the old farming part of Logatec, a growing town about 30 minutes’ drive from Ljubljana. Various old but maintained farmhouses, cottages and barns can be found in this part of town by the local stream, that once also served as a public bathing site.
On the left bank of the stream one can find many interesting carved sculptures, most of them arranged on a sunny corner by the public road leading to the nearby supermarkets.
Around the corner of a quaint old farmhouse there is a yard with two sets of outdoor seating arrangements, fitting in perfectly in a rustic style of wood and stone. Here I was warmly welcomed by our interviewee, Gregor Tršar, and presented with a choice of either sitting in the sun or shade.
Before I ask about the sculptures, did you make all these benches and tables yourself?
Yes, I made these myself.
If I wanted one, would you make it for me?
I certainly would.
This space where we are now is a sort of osmica, many people come to hang out, many things happen here. I will show you the insides later.
Can I call you an artist?
I would consider myself more like a village weirdo of some sort, regardless of the negative connotation. I don’t push people off my property or forbid them from walking on my grass. I like to see people stop by and children playing around the sculptures.
Older people take a rest on their way from the store and families go out with some goal in their mind, like “let’s go see the bears”.
The sculptures by the side of the road seem like a great contribution to the town. They also reflect a great sense of humour, like the mama bear with an assault rifle...
I decided to make the bear family when they were adopting new legislation about culling bears. I’m not attempting to interfere with any expert opinion, but the bears, just like people like to keep their offspring safe. Since hunters are always the ones carrying rifles, I decided to equip mama bear with one for a change.
The display also changes through time, I remember once seeing a witch who crashed into a pole on her flight through the town here…
That was about three years ago. Not entirely a wood carved sculpture, but more like a holiday display.
Once I also placed a bench by the road with a bear sitting at one end, so that a visitor was kept company. It’s more interesting if things change over time.
There are also some sculptures I made for other people. For example, an ant (SLO: mravlja) for Mr. Mravlje.
Would you like to see some before and after photos?
I’d love to. Where were they taken?
This is at my friend’s, Diht’nga [a nickname meaning gasket] from Hotedršica. Do you know him? This is at his place.
How did you start chainsaw sculpturing?
Two people were responsible for that. One is my colleague Darko Kmetec from Lovrenc in Pohorje. I have a forest there and we collaborated in business. However, through our working together I could see this man had developed many talents in private. He would, for example, see some tree roots and think of creating an interesting chair with them.
The other influential figure in the development of my hobby is Vlado Cencel, the president of the society of chainsaw sculptors. I met him at an event in Postojna.
Are you a member of this society?
Yes, I am. We have a speed carving championship every year at Lavrič’ hut in Gračišče by Stična. Wonderful place, such a good energy. You get 60 minutes to carve something out of a piece of wood, then a team of judges decides the winner.
I ran out of time this year. The important thing, however, is not to win but to take part.
Photo: Gregor Tršar, personal archive
Have you ever won?
I have. I gave the winning sculpture to the chef. He cooked for us all weekend. Whom else should one give a gift, but the one who prepares your food?
What was the first piece you ever made with a chainsaw?
About ten years ago it all started with this little eagle. My daughter was laughing at me, but I finished it, and it’s staying here. I’d would never give this one away.
(A visitor shows up by in the middle of our conversation. They greet each other and the visitor is told we are having an interview. He introduces himself: the new president of the Pensioners’ Society of Logatec.)
He [the visitor] helped me make wine. The wine of Logatec.
Wine of Logatec?
Would you like to try it? It's made from that vine over there that grows up the barn.
Is it Isabella?
(visitor) No, it has smaller grapes. Isabella needs to be mixed with other grapes for the wine to taste good.
It tastes great! How did you make it?
I made wine must and he made it into wine.
- [Visitor] I told him how to do it.
I put must into a big bottle (SLO: flaškon), added a bit of sugar, I also bought a vent peg, which lets the air out but not in. Wine clears itself this way.
- [Visitor] It’s strong, 12.5 % alcohol.
I noticed a cute pit latrine toilet in the back of the barn, is it functional?
This is not a toilet to be used.
Once we were joking how we should make a toilet on the platform above the stream. Friends then got me this as a gift for my 50th birthday.
Do not try to use that toilet! Photo: Neža Loštrek
We then put it on the platform above the stream, no hole was made in the platform, of course, but it did look as if it had one. You could see it from the bridge and some ladies, not realising it was a joke, were quite appalled: “how could such a thing even be allowed!?” they wondered.
End of the pier relief Photo: Gregor Tršar, personal archive
There is a “thinker” standing on that platform now. People tend to stop at the bridge and look at the stream, so he’s there looking back at them.
Photo: Neža Loštrek
Let me show you the chainsaw museum I keep inside.
Yes. A person dies and their chainsaw remains.
Photo: Neža Loštrek
What's that little piece of wood on the wall that says, “remove in case of war”. What's behind it?
Remove it and you'll see.
I better wait for the war first.
That's the right answer. (laughs)
I’m guessing nothing’s behind that piece of wood but the wall, but I hope we never need to find out.
Another practice piece for the speed carving competition. Only part of it survived the test of time and it now helps to warn visitors away from the toilet. Photo: Gregor Tršar, personal archive
A joke that only works in Slovenian. Photo: Gregor Tršar, personal archive
Happy hands Photo: Gregor Tršar, personal archive