Each year, chainsaw artist and wood sculptor Peter Leadbeater adds three artworks to Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire, U.K. at the request of Leicestershire County Council. Initially in 2012 he was commissioned to carve three pieces for the site during a one-year stay. The response to the project was so positive that he has been asked to stay on, with his own work area next to a small hut a short walk from Beacon Hill’s lower parking area. When he’s not busy carving elsewhere, he can be found here, creatively wielding various sizes of chainsaw and other heavy duty tools and instruments.
From wooded areas to open meadows to rocky outcrops, Beacon Hill is a Green Flag award-winning park, and as the site of an ancient Iron Age settlement, it contains some of the oldest fossils in the world. It also has a great view from the second highest summit in Leicestershire — not to mention Leadbeater’s original, bespoke sculptures. The park hosts an annual Wood Fair, for people interested in anything and everything to do with wood, so clearly Leadbeater is in his natural element here.
His first two Beacon Hill sculptures were based on the natural leaves and seeds of the area and of the geology and history of the park. The third was based on a tale from local regional history: A wealthy heiress named Lady Agnes had fled from a robber baron who intended to marry her. Exhausted, she came across the Beacon Hill settlement, wherein a hermit restored her to health with holy water.
Leadbeater was trained in the elegant art of fashioning intricate wooden sculptures whilst wielding a chainsaw in his years spent working on the weekends with a wood carver. During his apprenticeship, he mainly created abstract art — though for the last dozen or so years he has branched out into both naturalistic and abstract artworks. He loves using heavy tools, often at some height and in the great outdoors:
“It’s the height, the element of danger and working with enormous pieces of wood,” Leadbeater said. “I love to stop periodically, look around and enjoy the view. Really it’s the challenge of trying to make something as exciting and interesting as I can from a big piece of wood.”
Peter likes to work with oak, especially for siting outdoors, as it has long life and is stable. It’s also familiar to everyone as a timber. The work is physically demanding and requires mastery of powerful, strong and heavy tools. One of his major bugbears, however, is not the need to master challenging working methods, but the possibility of sourcing poor materials, buying a seemingly suitable tree trunk, and finding out halfway through a carving that it’s rotten in the middle. Leadbeater is available for public and private commissions and is skilled in carving both indoor and outdoor furniture. He particularly loves his work outdoors:
“It’s lovely to be able to look up and see blue sky,” he said. “There are good and bad days, but most of the year I get to be outside and to do what I want to do so it’s wonderful really.”