Catch the Carver Kings at Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute this week

Jacob Frenette sets into a log as he visualises the sculpture within and uses his chainsaw to bring it out.

M’CHIGEENG—Engines are roaring and sawdust is flying at Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute (KTEI) this week as the Carver Kings have rolled into town to work on the school’s medicine garden project until Saturday, January 26, and the public is invited to watch them work and even purchase a carving to take home.

“We have a big project that we’re working on that’s in various stages of completion. So (visitors) will see the detailing process or maybe the blocking process of the carvings,” says Paul Frenette, who makes up one half of the Carver Kings alongside his son Jacob. 

“Throughout the day we’ll usually do what we call quick carves, they’re about a half hour to 45 minutes. You take a raw piece of wood about three feet in length and chop it up, and do a finished carving on that,” says Paul. “It really shows the power and dexterity of a chainsaw.”

The carvings will represent the seven main clans in the area and be placed around the garden which will contain the four medicines of the medicine wheel.

“The clan system is extremely important to Anishinaabe culture, and of course, we also have these great carvers that are not Indigenous and they’re making all these great things for us. It’s a good meld overall of the community. That’s a great thing about that, and they’re willing to help us, willing to listen and talk with us to better understand,” says Corey MacDonald, special projects assistant at KTEI.

Paul and Jacob Frenette have been touring Canada together since the Carver Kings television show ended its run four years ago. photos by Warren Schlote

“Having these clan carvings here with us is really important because I can bring students out if they ever have questions about it and explain what it is. We can actually go out there and have a discussion,” says Mr. MacDonald.

“They’re so willing and open to talk about their techniques and discuss them, and it’s a real two-way street when it comes to that.”

Paul says he has about 18 years of experience carving and would be considered one of the top carvers in Canada. He has been travelling and carving for about 15 years and his son Jacob has participated for the past four years since their show aired.

Carver Kings was a show on Discovery Canada and HGTV in 2015 that followed the Frenettes and other expert chainsaw carvers as they worked on unique projects. Now, the two perform about 20 shows per year, including a stint at this past year’s Haweater Weekend in Little Current.

“We really like the Island, so we definitely want to come back next year,” says Paul.

In addition to the live-action carving, the Carver Kings also have sculptures for sale on site. They accept commission requests for custom-made pieces.

In addition to the pre-made carvings for sale, Paul says they accept commission requests that could either be made while they’re in town or carved back at their Elmira shop and delivered.

“You can come out, if you see something that you like you can pick it up and if not you can still get to watch them carve and you can still have discussions with any of the employees that are around here about our clan system, everything,” says Mr. MacDonald.

If you want to check out the Carver Kings in person as they work on KTEI’s medicine garden, stop by their work area behind the trades building on Highway 551 in M’Chigeeng between 9 am and 6 pm this week.