Arnold artist is a cut above

April 16, 2003 11:00 pm

By ERIN MAYES

As a dyslexic student at Hazel Fischer Elementary School in Arnold, Andy Enzi never got to participate in arts and crafts.

He had a difficult time learning to read, so he was placed in special classes.

No one ever put a crayon or a paintbrush or a lump of clay in his hands.

But they did give him a chain saw.

Starting his junior year at Sonora High School, Enzi picked up the saw and started chopping down trees for a living.

He worked as a logger in the foothills for 15 years. Then, one fateful Super Bowl Sunday — as the team he rooted for was losing miserably — he stepped into the garage, fired up his saw and made a coffee table for his brother.

Not much later, he used his saw to carve a statue of a Native American for his father.

His brother and his father still own their Enzi originals, and they won't let him touch them up, as much as he begs. The 40-year-old has honed his skills in the nine years since he took up the carving saw, and seeing imperfections in his past work is torture.

What started as a hobby soon became a profession that is more lucrative than logging, much to Enzi's surprise.

"It's going unexpectedly well," he said. "All I had was pure desire. I wanted to do it more than anything. I wanted to create.

"I carved something at a fair one day, and a lady came by and said, ‘Son, that's your way of giving birth.' And I said, ‘I guess it is my way of giving birth.' "

Upside-down carving

Also surprising, perhaps, is that Enzi's dyslexia has played a vital role in his occupation.

"Don't ever give me directions left or right. It's all backwards to me," he said, then revealing a little-known secret. "A lot of my faces I'll carve upside down."

Enzi said it's easier for him to visualize a face upside down and create it that way. Of course, this means getting up on a ladder so he can lean down over the piece to see it from an up-ended viewpoint.

During the summer, Enzi works at a lot of fairs, but he never carves upside-down in front of people because it's so involved.

"A lot of times, at a fairground, I'll get in there when nobody's there, like 6 a.m. I'll do the eyes and stuff that's real critical," he said. Having those reference points makes it easier later in the day to carve right-side-up.