Gintas carving in Con Smith Park

Giving trees a second life

A tree sculpture artist has been carving in the county town since last Monday and will continue until the end of this week.

It’s not hard to find Gintas upon arrival to Con Smith Park, just follow the chainsaw grind and the spectator’s gaze, gawping in his direction. He is cordoned off from the world by red protective barriers and a pair of ear muffs, both a safety measure which doesn’t quite stop Gintas from chatting to the park’s regulars. The Lithuanian native sets his chainsaw down, slides his earmuffs around his neck and pulls his gloves off upon sight of a tripod and camera approaching.

“You must be Gintas,” the Celt enquires.


The response comes in a thick, self-assured accent.

The sun belts down on Wednesday morning. The heron, otter, fish, owls and hands with ‘Make A Wish’ inscribed above them carved into the white grains of ash cause you to squint when looking at them. It doesn’t stop one from admiring Gintas Poderys’ work.

The “twenty years Donegal man” reveals carving is not in his family, nor does he live in a rural area to garner inspiration for his true to life nature carvings.

His imagination gained the approval of the Cavan Tidy Towns Committee, who recruited Gintas following an assessment by horticulturalist Bernie McGovern, which revealed that Cavan’s vast majority of ash trees in public spaces have fallen victim to dieback.

The disease would mean the trees could be liable to fall, causing a safety hazard for the town, according to Cavan Tidy Towns Committee Secretary Paul Lynch. This, coupled with increasing storms, meant the trees in the area are becoming a risk.

“They’re going to die and become a health and safety issue,” he explained.

“Gutted” when they heard the trees would have to be taken down, Paul said the committee were “banging heads” wondering what they could do to give the trees a new life.

Rather than cutting them down and chopping them up for firewood, the committee decided to make the most of a bad situation. They reduced the trees to a two metre stump and thus created a blank canvas of sorts for a sculptor.

Having seen the quality of his work on social media, the Tidy Towns team contacted Gintas.

“In essence, these trees are getting a second life,” Paul says. A quick look at Gintas’ profile will tell you that as a carver, he is supremely gifted. From donkeys to buddhas to all forms of wildlife, his work can be found in public spaces all over Ireland.

Travelling all the way from Letterkenny, Gintas worked in the tree surgery business before leaving it for health reasons. However, Gintas couldn’t quite put his chainsaw down, missing the chain-grinding-bark hum. Putting his forestry grade chainsaw training to use, he began sculpting six years ago, landing himself sculpture contracts country-wide from Barberstown Castle in Kildare to Foxford in Mayo, Sligo, Belfast and now Cavan.

“It was a tiny hobby, and then more chainsaws, more tools.

“It was too big to be a hobby so I’m registered as an artist and I’m working full time at that,” he said, revealing that he can’t draw a sketch on a piece of paper but has been blessed with a “3D imagination”.

Gintas carved under glorious weather in Con Smith Park last Wednesday as spectators admired the animals taking shape before them. He works on various types of pieces, from wildlife to more sentimental, memorial pieces. In Cavan, his work was preventing the spread of ash dieback.

“To not spread that disease [ash dieback] they are supposed to be cut down,” Gintas said.

“Instead of cutting the tree completely down, you can give it a second life, you can do sculptures and that will stay for some time.

“People enjoy [them], kids enjoy [them],” he said.

He himself also enjoys the process.

“Before I was looking to trees like that as just firewood,” he said, referencing to the golden-brown ash stump before him.

“Now I can grab even a tiny lump [of wood] and make something.”

Gintas spent last week carving two tree stumps in Con Smith Park, one which fell in the wind and another which had ash dieback. This week, he is carving another five along the Drumalee Manor Road between Drumalee and St Patrick’s College. What shape these sculptures will take remains a secret, strictly kept by Gintas and Tidy Town’s Committee Secretary Paul Lynch.

“There’s going to be a little bit of a historical surprise,” Paul revealed of the trees between Drumalee and St Pat’s.

“I’m not going to tell you what it is, but there’ll be a little bit of a local history lesson.”

The committee have not seen sketches of how the work will turn out but have complete trust in Gintas’ imagination.

“We’re letting him work, and these beautiful nature creations are coming out of these trees.

“We have full faith in this man.

“This man is a genius and he enjoys it, if you go out to Con Smith Park at the moment and look at him, he is smiling with a chainsaw.”