For this month, the Winnipeg River Arts Council highlights a previously featured artist, chainsaw carver Jim Niedermayer. Born and raised in Powerview-Pine Falls, he currently resides in Silver Falls.
Niedermayer learned how to carve on his own. His father, a talented knife-maker and woodcarver, gave him a book on the subject and he worked at it for about six months. But he already knew how to handle a chainsaw. For years, he harvested wild rice from remote lakes. Any lumber he needed at his camp had to be made on the spot so he learned how to rip logs into boards freehand.
When he makes a carving, he uses full safety gear: pants, glasses, ear protection, steel toe boots, gloves, and respirator mask. Contrary to what some folks may feel when they pick up a chainsaw, Niedermayer said, “It’s actually calming for me, making something new out of a log, giving something a second chance, beyond the tree’s life.”
During the past few years, he has earned a growing profile in the chainsaw carving community. His work is scattered across most provinces, either from competing or being hired to create a work of art out of a tree stump in someone’s yard. He has even carved trees in a city park.
Wherever he goes, he serves as a mentor for new chainsaw artists and enjoys meeting carvers. He said, “They are like family. Even though we are competing, we help each other.”
Niedermayer has done demonstrations at many schools and festivals. This February, he will be appearing at the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, alongside some of the top cavers from across Canada. Over the past eight years, he has participated in numerous competitions. One of the more memorable events was the Canadian Chainsaw Competition, held in London, Ontario. He won a fifth place, out of twelve of Canada’s top carvers.
His advice to anyone interested in getting into this kind of art – “Do not quit. There will be times when you think you reached your limits but just hang on and things get better. Chainsaw carving has it all, sport, art, and entertainment. The best thing is to go out and watch an event and you will learn a lot.”