Earlier this spring, Mark’s wood sculptures were featured in Central Virginia HOME magazine. Read about how Mark approaches his work and creates art.
Wonders in Wood
For wood carver Mark Poleski, being an artisan is truly a full-time job, born from a lifelong love for art of all mediums.
“Early on, I constantly would draw to hone my skills,” says Poleski. “I always wanted to work in 3D, to sculpt in stone or wood.”
Happily, this artisan made his wishes come true, and he now works at the helm of his own wood-carving studio, Sleepy Hollow Art. Drawing on his 20 years of experience as a residential contractor, Poleski offers homeowners custom wood and rockwork, including eagle sculptures, wooden three-dimensional marine portraits, carved pumpkins and—what seems to be his signature motif—wood bear sculptures of all shapes and sizes.
“One day I saw a small chainsaw-carved bear in an antiques store and told myself I should try to carve one. About a year later, I did—and I never stopped.”
Poleski’s art officially took off thanks to a serendipitous project he made for his sister—a large, hand-carved bear that ended up just outside of her Amherst County lawn and garden store. Once customers caught on to the piece, it became something of a small-town sensation and garnered enough interest to give Poleski’s burgeoning business the boost it needed.
“I started to make other animals, and my wife Dana and I decided to officially form our creative venture, Sleepy Hollow Art. We attended the Garlic Festival in Amherst later that year, and started to become better known locally and online,” he explains.
These days, you’ll find Poleski in his studio crafting wood sculptures for clients across the country. He’s mastered refined and rustic styles, not to mention nearly everything else in between. The proof is in his extensive portfolio of work.
“When I first started carving it was challenging to create a bear,” he reminisces. “I felt like I was almost forcing it to take shape. The progression from ‘learning’ to ‘immersion’ has been that now I can better visualize the process and end result. I begin to enjoy the process. It is not forced anymore. It flows. I feel connected to something that helps me see it more easily.”
As with any artisanal adventure, the Poleskis must constantly work to bring awareness to the craft. The technological advancement of our age makes this type of marketing much easier, perhaps, than it did for Poleski’s classic predecessors, but the same principles are still in play—to make and create something timeless and unique, and to share the work with others through word of mouth.
“To me, being an artisan means being able to do what I love all the time. I think a lot about each sculpture, about how to approach it or how to construct a large, complicated piece,” says Poleski. “I feel lucky to be able to do something like this where I can stay in my creative mindset, while at the same time, share my work with others. It gives me a sense of self-worth.”