Overcoming obstacles: One-handed artist creates Christmas gifts - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Overcoming obstacles: One-handed artist creates Christmas gifts with chainsaw

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Joe's Kentucky Hardwood Christmas Trees stand out both for the artistry and the artist, who started his craft late in life. Joe's Kentucky Hardwood Christmas Trees stand out both for the artistry and the artist, who started his craft late in life.
Joe Salyers Joe Salyers
John Hassmann John Hassmann

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's the question that plagues many of us this time of year - what to get that hard-to-buy-for person on your list. In a Louisville store, we found a unique present made all the more special by the artist who creates them.

"I'm going to be making some sawdust here in about three or four minutes," said Ashland, Kentucky artist Joe Salyers on a cold morning behind Taste of Kentucky in Middletown.

What he's able to create using a red cedar log and a chainsaw impresses enough people that the store will sell dozens of them this year.

"They're a very popular item, both locally and around the country," said John Hassmann, owner of Taste of Kentucky.

As shoppers rush home with their presents, Joe's Kentucky Hardwood Christmas Trees stand out both for the artistry and the artist, who started his craft late in life.

"You never get too old," Joe said.  "I didn't even start doing this until I was very near 60."

More than a decade later, he wields his tools with ease even though one is missing. Joe lost his left hand in 1968 in a mill accident.

"I've learned to do a whole lot of things that most folks would say well he can't do that with one hand," he said.

Joe learned to be an artist to make a gift for his wife and to show he could do it.

"I feel that god has given all of us the ability to adapt and accomplish everything that we set our heart to accomplish," he said.

In that way, Joe puts a piece of himself into every tree he creates. Each one is marked with his signature and the date he created it.

"They can turn it over ten years from now and say, 'Joe Salyers made that and he made this one in 2013,'" he said.

Joe knows his creations will outlast his career.

"There will come a day, I'll just say, 'Naw, I'm not going to do that anymore,' but I don't know when that is," he said. "I'm 71 and I believe a man ought to work until he's 80 at least, don't you?"

To view the legend behind the Kentucky Hardwood Christmas Tree, click here.

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