Story By Hannah Goldfinger
Photos Contributed By Orr Park
While a forest full of faces might sound creepy, Tinglewood Forest is anything but. Tinglewood Forest is the creative project and art of Tim Tingle.
Tinglewood Forest has a more official name — Orr Park — and it is located in Montevallo, Alabama. What’s unique about the park? It is full of faces on the trees — carved into the dead wood of cedar trees.
“It’s land donated by Dr. Orr to the city and it had a lot of huge cedar trees on it, some of them probably 300 years old,” Tingle said. “It’s my art gallery, I guess you could say, because the city has given me permission to carve anything at any time.”
Orr Park was full of live, beautiful cedar trees before a fire devastated the park, leaving dead wood.
Tingle said that he decided to carve something new into the dead wood — and the project began.
“Back in ’93, I was a laid-off coal miner and they had an ice storm that broke off a lot of the cedar trees so I went over there to see if I could help clean it up and maybe get a few of the logs to carve on but the workers there were reluctant to let me do that because they said that Dr. Orr had specified that no one was to cut down the cedar trees. Which, these weren’t cut down, these were messed up by the storm.
“They told me to go to the city. Well, I didn’t go to the city. I just waited until they left and I came back in with my tools and I carved a horse head on a stump and just left it there.”
When there was no response, Tingle said that he went back to the park and chose an upright tree that had a dead portion and carved a face into it.
“And again I didn’t get caught, so I did a third one, and then a fourth one, after I did the sixth one, however, I got caught,” he said.
But, the city wasn’t angry, and they didn’t arrest Tingle, like he said he was worried about.
“Finally, the city of Montevallo called and said, ‘Mr. Tingle, you realize, of course, you didn’t have permission to hack on our cedar trees,’” he said. “‘The city council has stated … they said you can continue as long as you don’t do anything obscene or cut on the live wood.’”
The city thought the project was a cool thing, said Courtney Bennett, executive director of Montevallo Main Street. They saw the tourism opportunities, too.
So, Tingle continued carving.
“He does so now in a public and celebrated way, he doesn’t have to do it in the middle of the night anymore,” Bennett said.
Two years later, there were 17 carvings in the park, and that’s when it became popular online, Tingle said.
“There were people from all over the United States, if they were passing through Alabama, they would stop off in Montevallo to see Orr Park,” Tingle said. “So it was greatly improving the park because people were coming there in droves. And so the city had to really clean it up and make a nice park out of it.”
After this, the city decided to name part of the park after Tingle — Tinglewood Park.
“I’ve done 62 carvings down there over the years,” he said. “Some of them have been destroyed by storms, so there’s 53 down there right now.”
He’s still carving — it’s an active project. Tingle said he aims for two or three a year.
“I just look at the tree and if anything speaks to me, I go with it,” he said. “Or sometimes I’ll start carving one thing and then halfway through I’ll say, ‘woah, that looks like something other than what I intended so I just go that way.”
Tingle and his wife spend the rest of their time participating in art shows, about 30 a year.
The city also now hosts its own art show in Orr Park, too.
“To me, Orr Park is a beautiful, natural oasis right beside our downtown and I just personally think it’s a really magical place,” Bennett said. “Not only because of its natural beauty and Shoal Creek running through it — which is a great place to splash around and cool off a little bit — but mostly because of the 53 carved trees that Tim Tingle has carved throughout the park.”
Tinglewood Festival was held in September and there will be the Montevallo Arts Fest in the spring.
“Tingelwood Festival is an all-wood-working event and this [was] the fifth year that we’ve hosted it,” Bennett said. “We invite woodworking artist vendors from around the region to set up booths and in addition to that we have chainsaw carvers, and we [had] five different chainsaw carvers from throughout the Southeast create pieces that people can purchase at the events.”
Tingle participates too, with miniatures of the carved trees.
“There are miniature tree carvings, just like the ones in the park, only about 8 to 10 inches tall,” he said.
During the festival, Tingle also hosts a whittling contest, Bennett said.
The next show will be the Montevallo Arts Fest on the third Saturday in April.
Find more information on Orr Park or Tingelwood Forest www.cityofmontevallo.com/OrrPark.aspx.