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Nebraska man carves damaged trees into art after storms

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Passersby can’t get enough of the new addition to Ellyn Grant’s Dundee home, carved out of what remained of a 100-year-old tree this summer.

The carving was created by Omaha artist Fritz Hand, using a chainsaw.

“What do you do with an eleven foot high stump? Well, you carve it. Old tree, new art,” said Dundee homeowner Ellyn Grant.

Grant realized the beautiful tree, likely planted when the house was built in 1919, had grown so large that it posed a danger to her house. But when she began looking into having it taken out, it was apparent the size of the tree made it difficult to get it trimmed down to the ground. So she began looking for an artist who could do something with what was standing, and found Hand on Facebook.

“Ellyn had me come over, and she didn’t really have any criteria for me,” Hand said. “So I just picked something that fit this particular tree.”

Grant said it wasn’t that simple a process, impressed as she watched him decide what was waiting inside the wood.

“Fritz spent about a half hour walking around the tree, looking at it, thinking, before he said, ‘OK, I’m thinking maybe a Wood Spirit.’ And I said, yes, that’s exactly right, I approve.”

“It’s already there,” Hand said. “All I gotta do is expose it.”

The neighborhood seems to approve, as well. Since Fritz put the finishing touches on the art in early September, her front yard is getting some pleasant attention.

“Photographs, spending half an hour talking to him,” Grant said, describing what some onlookers have been doing. “The other day I had a boy maybe ten years old sitting there drawing it. Oh yeah, everybody (saying), ‘Oh my gosh look at that!’”

A lifelong artist, the 48-year-old Hand has been working with chainsaw art for the last four or five years, and recently was looking to, pardon the pun, branch out into larger projects. He got the idea for working on a fallen or damaged tree while walking in his neighborhood with his girlfriend.

“After all the storms we had here, I know there’s a lot of trees ten feet tall that need to be done, where people don’t know what to do with them,” Hand said. “It gives (the trees) a chance to be looked at again, is the way I see it.”

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