The northwest corner of Baseline and County Line Road has some new tenants. The little shack sitting just off the road is surrounded by meticulous woodcarvings of eagles, turtles, lions, elephants, swans, and more eagles. Wood shavings cover the grass, and a stack of wood sits just behind the shack. On any given day, three men can be found manning the shack, unloading wood, or assaulting the sculptures with a chainsaw. There isn’t a name for the organization, but there is a ringleader, or master, for the small carvers guild: Bongo Love.T
Love started carving stone in his home country of Zimbabwe. Coming from the Shona Tribe, which is known for its extravagant carvings, Love started carving at age eight. He would wait for his grandfather, who was also a sculptor, to leave and start using his tools and carving his stones, which didn’t sit well with his grandfather.
“He gave me my own pieces and said to me, ‘this is your own piece. Don’t carve mine,” Love said.
As he got older, Love moved on to carving boss stone and wood, but with no power tools. He couldn’t afford tools, so he innovated and took the metal out of his shoes, sharpened them and took to the wood. He did this until he moved to Colorado in 2000.
Once he moved here, Love focused on music as a remedy of his homesickness. Back in Zimbabwe, Love got his name from playing bongos. At age 10 people started calling him Bongo Love and the name stuck. It wasn’t until 2005, when he could afford the tools that he started carving again.
As he adjusted to the cultural differences in carving he stumbled upon a chainsaw carving competition in Craig, Colorado. He confidently entered the contest, but walked away without the title.
“That was the first time I carved with a chainsaw, and I was afraid of it,” Love said. “I had a hard time with my small chainsaw, and I just wanted to finish my piece.”
After his first competition, he knew he wanted to better himself. He started carving with chainsaw, entering competitions, and winning. Often times placing in the top five at national and international competitions. Love has developed a name for himself.
Love attributes most of his accomplishments and his journey to the spirit. The spirit brought him out to Colorado. The spirit keeps him constantly moving from place to place. The spirit introduced him to his guild of carvers that spend their days on the corner of Baseline and County Line Road.
One of those men is New York Native Stephen Lyons. Lyons came to Colorado for a snowboarding trip last Thanksgiving and never left. Five minutes in the state, Lyons met Love and tried to sell him one of his pieces. Of course Love declined, but offered him a job instead.
“My weekend trip turned into a permanent one,” Lyons said. “I sold my stuff and have no plans of going back.”
Lyons alongside Blacka Loki from South Sudan are Love’s apprentices. Armed with a chainsaw, protective glasses and inspiration the three work together producing about five new pieces a day. And they sell almost as quickly. Priced anywhere from $100 to $500, “there’s something in anyone’s price range,” Lyons said.
The trio doesn’t know how long they will take up residence on the corner, but move wherever the spirit takes them. But one thing is for sure, anyone who walks up to the little shack, they are willing to make a deal.
As they sat on small wooden stumps an older, soft-spoken gentlemen asked them about prices and every question was answered with, “for you I will make you a deal.”
“We want to make everyone feel welcome, and work with them on what they want,” Lyons said. “We’re in the business of having fun and making people happy.”