Meet Sean and Nathan O’Donnell. Identical twins, living on Marco Island, each married with three young children. By trade, the brothers run a painting company, Ace Performance Plus, where they specialize in painting and power washing. But by passion, they mold mahogany into statuesque pieces of art.
Every Wednesday, at the Marco Island Farmers Market the O’Donnell twins set up their booth and listen to the “oohs” and “aahs” coming from those who pass by – but most people stop. They stop to admire the beauty of the wood, the intricacy of the carving – or to ask if the product was made in China.
A sign given to them by a Farmers Market friend hangs above their tent, proudly stating that these designs are NOT made in China. In fact, they are made right here in the mens’ studio/garage in Naples. (It’s hard to call it a “studio” when their main tool is a chainsaw.)
An endangered species of tree, all of Sean and Nathan’s mahogany is “rescued wood.” In order to cut down one of these trees, a special permit is required, and when someoneacquires that permit, whether it be due to root problems or proximity issues, somehow one of the O’Donnell’s is always there. “We just happen to be at the right place at the right time,” says Sean. “By law, the wood has to be removed from the property that day, so if we aren’t there while the tree is being cut down, we miss our opportunity.”
If not for the saving grace of Nathan and Sean, the beautiful mahogany would be turned into mulch. Instead, it is sculpted into dolphins, sea turtles, tarpons and more.
They first use a chainsaw to bring out the initial design. Sanding, chiseling, sanding, more sanding and sanding again brings a finished product. Each piece is as smooth as a baby’s bottom and as shiny as a brand new silver dollar. Sometimes, the men go for a burnt look and use a blow torch, but that’s quite rare. Usually, it’s simply the men, a chainsaw and their wood.
Being their “break-out” year at the Farmers Market, Sean and Nathan have enjoyed their time seeing what’s popular and what’s not. “Sea turtles were our biggest seller thisyear. Between the two of us we made probably 18 to 20 different sea turtle carvings and they’re all gone. Last year, it was dolphins that everyone wanted.”
Nathan learned mostly by watching Sean, but was taught certain techniques by his brother.
Each piece is a different size and a different shape which means each piece ends up becoming something different. “Our style is surrealistic with a borderline animated look to it,” explains Sean. “As we sand and smooth it, the wood starts to do the talking. It takes on a life of its own.”
Take Nathan’s tarpon for example. “It’s probably my favorite piece. I had never made one before but it just sort of happened. I’m pretty proud of it. But honestly, I love all of them, he says. “It’s like they’re all my kids and I’m putting them up for adoption.”
Adopt one of the O’Donnell’s “kids” at the next (and last of the season) Farmers Market on Wednesday, April 24th at Veterans Park.
If you miss the Farmers Market, find the O’Donnell twins and their wood online at www.facebook.com/IslandChainsawArt or call Sean, 239-404-3652 or Nathan, 239-216-2097. For Ace Performance Plus Painting, call 239-394-3621.