Carving out a niche

A dead tree on East Ann is transformed into totem of native animals

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  • One angle just doesn't do it justice -- you really need to walk around the tree to see all of its critters. (Photo by Linda Fields)

  • One angle just doesn't do it justice -- you really need to walk around the tree to see all of its critters. (Photo by Linda Fields)

  • One angle just doesn't do it justice -- you really need to walk around the tree to see all of its critters. (Photo by Linda Fields)

By Linda Fields

— Have you seen the wood carving on East Ann Street? If you have, you wouldn’t easily forget it.

A dead tree on the property near the intersection with East 3rd Street has been carved magnificently into a totem pole of animals, birds and reptiles. The work was crafted by Walter Sansone, whose Gallery Works in Branchville has been on Route 206 for about a dozen years.

The intricate piece took almost a month, and was created for a customer he identified as “Bill,” who already has Sansone’s work on his other properties.

“I was on another job for him in December and bounced back and forth between the two locations," Sansone recalled. "He basically told me to do what I wanted.”

Sansone said his style is to carve “a bunch of native animals into the tree.” This particular project, he said, includes “two bears, two eagles, four ducks, an opossum, two squirrels, a fox, a blue heron, a woodpecker, a cardinal, two turtles, a frog and a snake."

He then added: “I think I got them all.”

The cost? "About twelve thousand dollars," he said.

Sansone is 34 and has been carving full time since the age of 19. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Hartford. His wife, Carolyn, also has a fine arts degree from the same university and does mural painting for Gallery Works.

Sansone told The Courier that his carvings are well known in the Denville and Summerville areas of New Jersey.

“I basically call them ‘on-site’ carvings," he said. "We pick a tree on the site and carve it.”

In our area, residents may have seen his 28-foot carving at Airport Park.

Wood isn’t his only medium. Sansone also works with metals, and has designed the abstract aluminum gate at the entrance to the Monticello Motor Club.

Still he admits, “I love wood because you could do something big and relatively inexpensive."

For more information on Sansone’s work, visit

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