It is not unusual for musicians to take on a day job in order to help support their love of music, but few of them do it the way local singer/songwriter and country and western fiddler Doug Moreland does: with a chainsaw.
Texas-born Moreland uses chainsaws to create finely detailed sculptures from wood. He works and sells his art in Manchaca from Cattlelacs Chainsaw Art Gallery, named after his vintage Cadillac that is equipped with a giant pair of bull’s horns on the front.
Moreland started the gallery in 2003, admittedly without much of a business plan. He intended to redesign old Cadillac cars, but along the road, chainsaw art took over.
“I saw some friends of mine out in New Mexico carving. They let me borrow a saw and said, ‘Try it,’” Moreland said. “I was already kind of an artist anyway, but I realized, ‘Hey, I can do this with that tool.’”
Before he completed his first piece, a buyer was already lined up and after quickly selling his second piece, friends encouraged him to make a business out of it. Moreland set up shop on some of his grandmother’s land south of Austin where, when not on tour, he spends most of his time carving wood with a power tool.
Most of Moreland’s pieces are special orders, and the land functions more as a workspace and mini-museum than an actual retail store. Two of the studio walls are covered with touring memorabilia and trinkets he has collected over the years. The shop also doubles as a recording studio for Moreland, who recorded his latest album ,“Barnstormer,” there.
Moreland said he does not cut down trees to create his art. The material for his work is recycled, such as driftwood collected after Hurricane Ike or tree trunks salvaged from a business in south Austin. Some of the trunks form a giant 15-foot tall circle on the Cattlelacs property he refers to as “Woodhenge.”
Moreland starts each piece by using a chainsaw to create the shape and basic features. Sometimes it is a two-foot tall armadillo; other times, it is a larger-than-life statue of Uncle Sam. Then, he adds more detail with smaller power tools. Finally, each piece is sanded and stained. Each project takes anywhere from five minutes to 30 hours to complete, depending on the size and detail.
“I use chainsaws because they are fast. If you have an idea, you can make it in minutes,” Moreland said. “But with speed, there is also room for more mistakes.”
The Cattlelacs Chainsaw Art Gallery is open from September through December. After that, Moreland takes time to relax before hitting the road to tour again in the spring and summer. Even though he loves the thrill of being on tour, Moreland said he is happy to call south Austin home.
“I’ve been all over and of all the places I’ve been, this is the best place to live and work,” Moreland said. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, not even north Austin. I only want to be south.”
Cattlelacs Chainsaw Art Gallery, 12301 Lowden Lane, Manchaca, 280-2530, www.dougmoreland.com