If you follow the starfish, you will find the photo opp, wood shop and bed and breakfast.
Since 2008, New Brunswick’s highways have been peppered with colour-coded signs with distinct symbols that lead the curious to curated scenic drives. The Acadian Coastal Drive is represented by red signs with starfish icons, meant to represent the Acadian culture and their joie de vivre. And while the ideal road trip along the Acadian Coastal Drive would take at least a weekend to experience – but a truly immersive visit could take a week – there are some stops along the way that tourists, travellers and New Brunswickers alike can drive to and explore in just a single afternoon.
One of those spots is an adorable, kitschy wood shop slash antique store built with the remains of an old ship in Bouctouche, NB. It was the working studio of a renowned wood carving artist nicknamed the Woodchuck, and is also connected to a beautiful bed and breakfast.
The ocean-side “Wood Chip Dreadnought” studio is an elaborately decorated structure. The studio has a kitschy and rusted Coca Cola sign and animal skull on the exterior, along with the mannequin-like mounted maiden. Most interestingly, the bow and stern of a Spanish galleon protrudes from the exterior walls.
The old ship-building hybrid operates as a retail establishment known as Woodchuck Carvings or “Wood Chip’s Whatnots Classy Collectibles and Antiques.” It sells detailed woodcarvings handcrafted by the late Charles Bernard. The town of Bouctouche even lists his studio as a tourist attraction worth seeing.
“An excellent story teller, this self taught artist, with a personal touch and unique style, brings life to his carvings,” the website says in its description of the Woodchip Dreadnought.
Bernard was also the subject of a documentary called Woodchuck, directed by filmmaker Kathy Gildart. Bernard had led an interesting life. He had, at one time, been a biker gang member before finding wood carving and settling down to focus on his Wood Chip Dreadnought carving studio in Bouctouche Bay. He was open about his time robbing banks and serving time in prison in his early life, and made a point to be an active and supportive part of his community in later life – sharing the beauty of wood carving art and story telling with anyone who stopped by his studio space. His love for art and story was seen until the very end – he even hand-carved detailed illustrations reflecting moments from his life to his coffin before he died.
Bernard may have passed in August 2017 but the quirky structure of his Wood Chip Dreadnought remains nestled by the bay just off the Acadian Coastal Drive, ready for photo opportunities and any woodcarving, kitsch or Bouctouche Bay lovers. Bed and breakfast guests to the Woodchuck home continue to this day to visit the workshop. Just like the detailed illustrations he hand-carved to his own coffin, Bernard’s folk art studio – the Wood Chip Dreadnought – tells the story of a life well-lived. One that was hard, rough but still worthy of salvage and able to to be carved into something beautiful for others to enjoy.
If you miss the starfish signs that guide, don’t worry. You can also find Woodchuck Carvings at 1554 Route 475 in Baie de Bouctouche, NB.