Boaz Backus

Born in the fall of 1965 at Grays Harbor County Hospital in Aberdeen, Boaz Backus was four when his parents split. Beginning in 1970, Boaz and older siblings Steve and Lynn lived with single mom, Judy, who supported her brood as a chainsaw carving artist and raised horses on acreage in Humptulips.

A fearless kid, Boaz was plagued by Humptulips’ bullies who loved picking on his “hippie artist” woodcarving family simply because they didn’t really fit the logger paradigm. This simple act of early harassment fueled his lifelong dedication to educating the public about chainsaw art and helping carvers earn a living while gaining recognition for doing what they love.

Sometimes the best things in life begin with donuts

Always a go-getter, Boaz sold his first carving at age six and launched his first solo venture, a grassroots donut stand, shortly after. With minimal investment, he purchased a 12-ct box of donuts at the Humptulips Grocery, set up shop, and sold them individually to neighborhood kids (including the bullies) for a profit. Reinvesting the proceeds, Boaz hired his first employee (best friend Danny) and quickly expanded the enterprise into operating garage sales, all before the ripe ol’ age of eight.

In 1975, just prior to third grade, Judy and the kids joined her siblings, Pat, Mike, and Eileen McVay on Whidbey Island when their dream of opening an expanded family carving business came to fruition. From that point on, Boaz lived in a house on the grounds of Whidbey Island Nursery and McVay Woodcarvings, an eclectic venue that included a shop, nursery, aviary, and woodcarving operation with 11 employees; run by the McVay siblings. Together they manufactured and sold furniture, signs, and art to stores and to the public.

By the end of fifth grade, Boaz was thriving on the island and was well into his latest venture; rescuing, fixing, and finishing carvings pulled from the McVay woodcarving scrap pile. Armed with a skillset that spanned the gamut from gathering wood to carving, finishing, painting, selling, setting up booths, and delivering and installing sold pieces, he was well equipped for success. He’d work at the family shop, fixing the scrap pieces and when he had ample inventory, Judy would drop him off at the parking lot of small island grocery store where he’d set up and spend the day working his magic.

(L to R) Boaz Backus, Mike McVay, Steve Backus Monroe, WA Fair 1984

Be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change

Throughout high school Boaz continued to impress. Not just with his entrepreneurial prowess but also with his strong desire to help others. For example, in ninth grade he was elected freshman class president, an opportunity he embraced with gusto despite being the youngest student body president in the school’s history. During his tenure, he orchestrated fundraisers that bought new uniforms for every sports team and set school fundraising records that still exist today. His methods were ultimately adopted by Washington State schools as best practices. At this time, he also began announcing at assemblies where he learned to work a crowd, a skill-set he expanded as he grew interested in politics, raised money for civic-minded kids to visit Washington DC, and registered more youth voters than anyone had before.

For the few years following graduation, Boaz traveled; spending a couple months touring Europe and multiple trips to Washington DC to further his education in politics. One trip, to New York with brother Steve, proved pivotal for the history of chainsaw carving events but all of these experiences expanded Boaz’s world view of art, history, and culture and grew his lifelong appreciation for art collecting. In fact, Boaz has an extensive collection of museum worthy carvings including many first pieces acquired from famous carvers, before they were known. His collection also includes work bought or traded for with artists from all over the world who attended shows, festivals, and art fairs Boaz worked.

Squeezed in and around his travels, Boaz secured an announcer gig at the Island County Fair that lasted a decade (1984 – 1994) and helped prepared him for a future as the most successful and influential chainsaw carving auctioneer in the world.

Boaz Backus has sold more chainsaw carvings than anyone on earth

At age 24, Boaz opened his first business; Northwest Arts Management, a hole-in-the-wall shop on old Hwy 99 in Edmonds. There he represented 117 carvers, including himself, and 87 Native American carvers; buying and selling their work, and lining up custom jobs and carving events. Within two years, his operation outgrew the Edmonds location and he moved to a space in Lynwood, quadruple the size.

Ocean City Marketplace

In 1992, after four years in business an economic downturn sent Boaz back to Whidbey where he reopened the family business as McVay Woodcarving Farm. Three years later, in 1995, while on a trip to the beach, he purchased a corner property on WA-109 at Ocean City. A blank slate to begin with, Boaz salvaged wood from the nearby Aloha Mill, a place he was familiar with from the Humptulips days, to build the shop and other buildings. “The Corner,” as it’s still affectionately called today was Boaz’s shop and carving venue for twelve years (1995 – 2007). Operated by Ivan and Mona Haas, longtime family friends since 2008, the corner is much the same today as Boaz left it; complete with carvings for sale and longstanding events he started and still auctioneers.

carving or starving on the Washington coast

Let the fun begin

Early carving events were simply competitions with little audience participation. Winners were judged by a panel of experts and typically won a purse and/or prizes but there were no auctions.

This changed at Westport in ’93 when Boaz and brother Steve tried a quick carve and auction combination; something they experimented with the previous year while in New York. The result changed carving competitions from that point forward by giving Boaz a stage from which he used his public speaking talents to educate buyers, entertain the crowd, and generate income for all the carvers, not just the top competitors.

The auctioneering secret sauce

Setting the bar high, Boaz is known the world over for netting more revenue per event than any other woodcarving auctioneer. As a result, when carving events took root in regions outside of Washington, Boaz was called upon to travel extensively within North America and overseas to either auctioneer or mentor budding auctioneers. His methods have been adopted by many and believe it or not, Japan’s version of Boaz is nicknamed “Boaz-Two.”

We all know that what Boaz does is not simple but if you ask him, it’s a simple combination of remembering and acknowledging people in the audience, dressing and behaving professionally, story and joke telling, and creating an atmosphere where buyers feel comfortable and informed to make purchasing decisions. And of course, his signature opening tribute to veterans along with the customary moment of silence that kicks-off each auction isn’t just for show. Boaz truly, wholeheartedly believes that anyone who serves our country is a hero and deserves respect. So, it’s not just one thing, its many things big and small, done intentionally, spontaneously, and authentically.

Where is Boaz now?

Still carving and auctioneering, Boaz moved his operations to Eastern Washington in 2009 and travels often throughout the year to attend carving events and shows all over the country.