To call Barton a chain saw artist would be misleading. He refines his pieces using traditional hand tools, carving and sanding to a high level of finish. But he does use a chain saw. Barton's skill honed in decades of work as a logger and later, from years of work as an artist allows him to slab massive , flawless inch thin sections of stock from snags and long abandoned redwood stumps and roots.
Jim Barton grew up in a little logging community in the Pacific Northwest. His grandfather owned and operated a sawmill thirty years before he was born. His own father did the same. By the time he was a freshman in high school, he was already working part time in a local sawmill pulling lumber on a green chain.
Jim also grew up in Alaska between the age of seven and fourteen. His father was a bush pilot, his mother a water color artist and mother of four children.
After a few years of college he returned to Alaska and fell timber for a number of years. "that's where the money was, you were your own business, you would go out and you'd live or die. There's a danger there, you better be savvy; you better have a good sixth-sense".
Jim has a natural feeling for design and image. "You look at a big old chunk of wood and it weighs ten-thousand pounds and you know something is there, you sense it and it reveals itself". "The biggest, ugliest, orneriest piece of wood always turns out to the be best. there is always a certain amount of disbelief, but it happens that way every frickin' time.
"I don't have any art training; maybe that's a blessing. I don't have any criteria I try to follow other than the raw material itself and the emotional sense of what's hidden in the mass. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't.. with each one I get a little better. There's a sense of what you're looking for. Then there can be that moment of magic, when you hit it, it resonates. Then you move on to something else."
"The beautiful thing is the body. I just go to work. I just put one foot in front of the other, go out and get a piece of wood and go to work. Then it all comes back, your grounded and you're able to put something back into the world".