Fear na Coillte – Will Fogarty is a chainsaw sculptor who is renowned for his amazing sculptures
10 Questions with chainsaw sculptor Will Fogarty also known as Fear na Coillte
By I Love Limerick Correspondent Jade Crowe
Fear na Coilte or Will Fogarty is a renowned nature-themed chainsaw sculptor based in Hospital, Co. Limerick. Fear na Coilte
Will has made an impressive name for himself through working on sculptures with various platforms and county councils. Five of Will’s staff have even featured in RTE’s ‘Epic Irish Journeys’. This was the catalyst behind realising that he could make a very successful career out of his wood carvings. Most recently Will carved a barn owl on the grounds of An Mhodhscoil on O’Connell Avenue.
Staying true to his Irish roots, Will’s carving business name is Fear na Coillte – the man of the woods. We chatted with Will about his life and career
What was your childhood like and where did you grow up?
I had a great childhood. I was born in London in 1960, My parents were the typical Irish family, Mum was a nurse and Dad in Construction, they met and married there in the ’50s.
In the early 70’s we moved back to Ireland and lived in Knocklong for a few years while we built a house in Hospital, Co. Limerick. I am the eldest of seven and had a great childhood. We were a very close family, still are.
Did you have experience with art or wood carving when you were young?
I have no real artistic background. I did woodwork at school and carpentry work with my father’s construction company on weekends and school holidays. I later studied civil engineering at Moylish and now use my engineering background in my carving, I use drawings and gridlines on larger projects.
When did you begin carving sculptures and how were you introduced to it?
I ran a construction company with my brother and when the downturn happened with the economy, I needed to find a way to make a living and I started carving hazel walking sticks. Fear an Coilte
My partner Tonya was a huge inspiration at that time and we both sold our wares at different craft fairs and markets, including the Milk Market in Limerick. While the walking sticks were popular, I figured that I was never going to be able to make a living carving walking sticks. I felt I needed to carve larger pieces. I had heard about chainsaw carving and did a bit of research. 12 chainsaws later I think I might have an obsession.
What was your motivation behind starting such a unique business?
My motivation was simple, I needed a way to make a living. About seven years ago I had the opportunity to move back into the family home in Hospital. This coincided with a storm that knocked a tree at the front of the house and within two weeks of moving in, I had carved an eight-foot dragon from the damaged tree. The dragon ended up in National newspapers and really helped get the business up and running. The dragon is still useful when giving directions, the third house on the right with the big dragon outside.
What are your favourite kind of sculptures to create and why?
I carve lots of native wildlife, but I think my favourite must be Barn Owls, they’re beautiful creatures.
What has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
I have two daughters Kerri and Aisling, they both live and work in Limerick and are a constant source of pride to me.
On the carving side, I’ve been lucky to have been involved in many great projects all over the country, but Donmhall Mór O’Brien that I carved in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick just before the first lockdown and a Knight Hospitaller I carved for my hometown hold a special place.
Have you any upcoming projects in store?
I am currently working for Terryglass Tidy Towns. In the next few months, I will be in Kilfinane, Co. Limerick. I have already carved two Totems for them, One wildlife-themed and one musical themed. They have a third stump, and the plan is to celebrate the towns sporting links. I also have a herd of deer to carve in Mallow Castle for Cork County Council.
What do you love most about your job and what makes it special?
I’ve been blessed to have had some amazing clients and have worked in some beautiful places. Generally, if I’m working in a public place people are always very complimentary and supportive.
Where would you like to see your business heading in the future?
Business is great and it’s a constant surprise to me that people seem to like what I do. My main goal is to improve, the plan is always to try and make the next carving better than the last one.
Looking to the future, I hope to spend more time creating in the workshop rather than on-site. For now, I will continue doing on-site commissions because it means meeting new people and seeing new places.
And lastly, what do you love about Limerick?
What’s not to love about Limerick? Seriously it must be the people. It’s easy to say that, but I genuinely believe Limerick people are special.
I have worked on sculptures in Scoil Ide in Corbally, St Mary’s Cathedral and more recently at An Mhodhscoil and the people passing by have always been so supportive with words of praise or encouragement, I can’t remember a negative comment. Luimneach Abu.