Walter Keller – Focus on Local Artists – Issue #21

January 2013

Walter Keller

Walter Keller

Walter Keller emigrated from Switzerland in 1967 and he now lives in Elma. In 1996, after years as a logger, forester, forest fire fighter, log builder and log building instructor, he discovered chainsaw carving. Totally self-taught, he has been self-employed as an artist since 2000 and has been teaching chainsaw carving courses since 2009.

Keller’s various careers gave him an appreciation for his medium – the natural tree trunk. Incorporating the natural features of logs or driftwood into his pieces, he has progressed from chainsaw carver to wood sculptor, and combines the saw’s bold strokes with the intricacies of hand tools.

Although he specializes in life-size forest animals, he sometimes sculpts free hand, to release the spirit of the wood into the world, creating whimsical creatures from stumps with intact roots, tree crowns, witch’s brooms, and forked trunks.

His pieces vary, according to the wood’s size and properties, and he even carves standing trunks. He scavenges from tree removal services, clear cut operations and land clearing sites.

In 2005, Keller’s partner, Alexa Hoerster, took up carving. Together they expanded their repertoire, integrating wood sculpture into buildings. They now carve beams, fireplace mantles, doors, cabinets, stair cases, furniture, and bowls, with styles ranging from traditional to contemporary, fanciful to disciplined, filigree to monumental.

Today, ninety-five percent of their work is commissioned, making it hard to find time to explore new subjects or techniques.

First Nations’ art has influenced Keller’s perception of nature. He finds inspiration in local forests and kayak trips throughout Manitoba, and from explorations across Canada and Europe. He takes frequent trips to Europe to reconnect with family and fulfill carving commissions.

Keller has demonstrated his techniques on occasions such as Canada Day, Red River Ex, various fairs, and competitions in Switzerland and Canada. A founding member of the Eastern Manitoba Artists Coop, he has exhibited work at the Manitoba Art Expo and Eastern Manitoba Art Exhibition.

In 2004, he was featured in CTV’s “Manitoba Moments.” Recently, he was interviewed by a professional videographer for a TV program, showcasing Manitoba artists.


Kelleer’s website is