‘Adds a little beauty’: Mysterious wood carving pops up along highway in Shirley

'Adds a little beauty': Mysterious wood carving pops up along highway in Shirley

Shirley residents and those passing through are amazed at a new wood carving that mysteriously popped up along Highway 14 west of Sooke.

“Most amazing thing I’ve seen for a long time,” said Lyle Murphy, who lives in Shirley and spotted the carving while driving home one day.

Murphy told Michael Estey what he saw, and Estey had to see it for himself. Then he logged onto Facebook and posted a photo, and people were stumped about who did it.

Found near Kirby Creek, the carving is on the left side of the highway Port Renfrew-bound.

“A new magic mountain man,” laughed Murphy.

It turns out it was Ryan Cook, a well-known carver who turned professional in 2013 at the Campbell River Carving Competition, where he took first place.

Now he’s left his mark on the South Island.

“I just was looking as we were coming down into Shirley, and I saw that stump, and it was kind of an eyesore,” Cook told CHEK News. “And it’s such a nice spot there, and I just thought to myself, how cool would it be to have a big face up there?”

Cook’s from Vancouver, is based in Squamish and often visits Vancouver Island. He’s gotten so good at carving that he’s branched out to TV, starring in shows on HGTV and Netflix, including “Carver Kings” and “Saw Dogs.”

But it’s the thrill of it all that he loves most.

“It’s kind of fun because you don’t know if you’re allowed to do it, or you’re not allowed to do it. It’s been well received. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people in Shirley, which is awesome,” exclaimed Cook.

“Not something I could ever do, that’s for sure. But I certainly admire them and hope more people do them,” said Murphy.

“A little attraction…”

So a few weeks ago, Cook got his tools out of his trunk and gave the eight-foot-tall stump a facelift. It only took him an hour and a half, and he’s calling it The Spirit of Shirley.

“A little attraction on the side of the road,” said Estey, who also lives in Shirley. “It adds a little beauty and interest.”

“As an artist, you’re commissioned and told what to do. When I get a chance to do something for myself and for everyone to enjoy, it makes me love the art form in itself,” said Cook. “It’s an amazing thing.”

He takes inspiration from a lesson learned in Squamish, and now he’s reminiscing about the beauty of Shirley.

“I learned that when a tree is dead, and in the Squamish Nation culture, they believe that when you breathe onto the wood, you’re bringing it back to life. For me, that really resonated as a sculpture, and now when I looked at that piece, that tree really needs something,” he added.

“Shirley is such an inspirational spot. I love the food there, the people there, that whole drive is stunning.

“I knew I had to do it.”

READ ALSO: Saanichton man commissions tree carving in honour of late wife

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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